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Shopper Self-Checkout Technology: On the Verge of Amazing
Posted on 05.30.12
Shopper self-checkout is often cumbersome and confusing – that’s a persistent fact. IBM is offering a more ergonomic system for stores today, but the real revelation is that the scanner and cash register are right inside our smartphones – and poised to take over. It’s important news for shopper marketing folks. Mark Silva, Senior Vice President of Emerging Platforms at Anthem Worldwide, explained it to us:
Taking a long view of the platform, from Web 1.0 to 2.0 to 3.0/mobile web, there were a lot of technologies that didn’t “make it” but were essential for the journey. They were a good idea too early and needed just one more cycle of Moore’s Law [on the doubling of computing processing speed/capacity] or Metcalf’s Law [on the value of a network with scale] to succeed.
I believe this absolutely about the input technology and the input structure of mobile technology: they just need another cycle or two. Near field communications-enabled phones are expected to grow more than 20-fold, to 700 million worldwide, between 2011 and 2016. So what Google and Citi are doing with the Google Wallet can flourish a lot sooner than we imagined last year when it launched. Especially since the alternative is low-tech solutions like QR codes that are really clunky work-arounds.
A good example of fast growth: Walgreens had a program where it partnered with Foursquare to embed barcodes for in-store specials and found that it requires zero training for the front-line (checkout) people – they see barcodes and input them. All the shopper has to do is show her check-in and it’s easy to scan. Walgreens chose to innovate with Foursquare ahead of that platform reaching the scale of Facebook so it could earn an innovator’s advantage in pricing and learning.
So if a retailer gets into this now, it gets great early learning about what people want and how they operate, along with what works and how to measure; and if you wait a year or two, there will be some amazing technology that will solve a lot of these issues.
For consumer packaged goods, I’ve been seeing some solid image-recognition software, and our own BLUE graphics lifecycle management software has created a database of millions of fully rendered objects of packages. If we uploaded that to a shopping app, with a 5-to-8-megapixel camera you could take a picture of an item at any angle and have a fully recognizable, fully rendered object in-app, and once captured you could sync and redeem coupons, recipes or offers and check yourself out, using your phone as you shop – not at the end.
Not to mention that your smartphone’s video camera, GPS or Bluetooth, in passive mode, could be recognizing coupon opportunities, recipe opportunities – all delivered via the packaging or shelf without the brand having to re-form the packaging.
The technology is really on our doorstop to have some of these goals become reality, and it’s exciting because a QR code today is the equivalent of a stop sign – a signifier of a value exchange, that there’s more information or engagement available. It’s an invitation at best, but it’s not the sale itself. And frankly, QR codes make beautiful packages ugly.
Fortunately, Silva explains, pretty soon brands won’t have to contort the package: it will simply come to the shopper, and he or she will augment the experience around it, in-store, all the way to check-out.
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Schawk provides brand development and brand deployment services and technologies to top brands worldwide. This blog is where our thoughts on the branded world can interact with yours.