What does the future hold for in-store payments?

Retailers are continually looking to find new ways in which they can entice customers and expand their offering by increasing their payment systems capabilities to deliver convenience to the customer

The recent news that Marks and Spencer (M&S) has launched a ‘Mobile, Pay, Go’ service which allows customers to pay for items using a mobile app is a perfect example of this and means that all major grocery stores now allow shoppers to use mobile devices to scan.

With the exception of Aldi and Lidl, customers can now download an app to scan products as they make their way around the supermarket. Although the technology is currently only being trialled in a select number of stores for most of the supermarkets, it is set to be rolled out to more and more stores in the coming year. We can see from this growing trend that grocery stores are attempting to keep up with the Joneses. However, is scanning technology really answering customer demand, and will it stand up against alternative methods to capture products in virtual baskets?

While current mobile-based scanning services may benefit from improved code recognition based on using the fastest mobiles and processors, they fall short in many real-life scenarios. For instance, at the very least, scanning technology requires the customer to hold both the mobile and the product they wish to scan whilst navigating a busy supermarket aisle. That in itself can be challenging, but this situation has a number of variables which can make it even more difficult, such as holding a basket or pushing a trolley, or hardest of all, doing that with young children. According to M&S, ‘Mobile, Pay, Go’ enables customers to purchase their lunch in under 40 seconds. While this may be the case in that scenario, in most other situations where customers are looking to buy more items or when the store is busier, it is unlikely the experience would be quite so quick. In short, scanning technology isn’t compatible with most real-life grocery shopping situations and arguably suits the grocer more than it does the customer.

As retailers look to find an alternative solution that is more customer friendly, rather than scanning, customers could see the introduction of ‘tapping’. This would allow shoppers to ‘tap’ price labels of products they wish to purchase which would then be added to their virtual ‘basket’ using near-field communication (NFC) technology. This method would make the process dramatically easier and is estimated to be four times faster.

At jisp, we have conducted our own research asking shoppers about their experience which has proven categorically that scanning using a mobile is not liked. Additionally, when we spoke to stores who provide smart apps for scanning they confirmed that the systems put aside to take payment are hardly ever used, which clearly suggests shoppers aren’t scanning.

Since M&S and Sainsbury’s utilise their mobile apps to take payment and with M&S restricting sales to under £30, it would suggest both facilities are aimed at the convenience shopper looking to make a quick dash to buy their lunch, for example. Given the dislike of this technology by a large number of shoppers, it seems early adopters are those that are eager to avoid queues and as such are willing to overlook the clumsiness. Furthermore, these apps can’t manage the sale of restricted items, such as medicines and alcohol, nor do they facilitate a greater depth of information for the shopper who might wish to dig deeper into understanding what they are buying. They therefore appear to be incompatible with shoppers looking to purchase more than a handful of items.

Ultimately, retailers sticking with barcodes is limiting the advancement of technology and convenience. While the current technology on offer in ‘Scan & Go’ apps appears to be adding convenience to the shopping trip, it has some way to go. In the future, retailers should be looking to adopt ‘tap&go’ technology to offer customers a genuinely convenient experience. This technology doesn’t require shoppers to hold their mobile throughout the trip and is just as effective and arguably quicker, particularly as scanning the barcode on certain items can be tricky and take several attempts. Not only would adopting this ‘tap&go’ technology make grocery shopping easier, but it also has the potential to make it a more pleasant experience, reducing the length of queues and freeing up more staff to offer better customer service on the shop floor.

With some grocery stores in the UK competing to roll out ‘Scan & Go’ technology across stores nationwide, surely, it’s only a matter of time until they take a closer look at the uptake of the apps among their customers and realise their unpopularity. Vitally, the demand from customers isn’t purely to avoid queues at the till, but is in fact for a stress-free, less clumsy solution that facilitates a quicker and smoother shopping experience.

About the Author

Julian Fisher is CEO at jisp, providers of free-to-download retail app that learns what interests consumers the more they shop and saves items they pick up, try on, to their phone automatically.