Kagan: How checkout technology can create competitive advantage

| by Jeff KAGAN
Kagan: How checkout technology can create competitive advantage

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If you've been paying attention to the transformation in checkout technology in retail, things are starting to get very exciting. The entire shopping experience is improving and being energized in many different ways. Checkout technology is an important piece of this puzzle to win the hearts and minds of the customer.

Walk into Home Depot and when you are done shopping, you can either choose a regular checkout line with a live cashier, or you can go to their self-checkout lane. This is very easy to use, and customers love it, but in many stores, you can find the next generation of self-checkout or automated-checkout technology with giant computer screens and easy to use tech. This delights customers.

Home Depot, Walmart use new checkout technology

Walmart, is another retail innovator and is taking their checkout experience to the next level. They call it "check out with me" and it is starting in the lawn and garden areas of the store. This let's workers help you in the aisles and check you out without going to a cash register. They use devices they carry with them to scan the item and the credit card. Easy as that. I expect this to continue to roll out to all Walmart stores and other departments within those stores.

AT&T Mobility started with this trend in the last few years. Walk into one of their stores and you won't find a cash register. Instead, you will find displays with their mobile technology on tables with chairs. A representative helps you test and trial different devices and services and answers all your questions. When you are ready to purchase, it is handled right at the same table on a portable device. Customers love this.

AT&T Mobility, Apple, Comcast Xfinity stores transform retail experience

Apple stores were one of the first to let the customer walk in, put their name on a list and when you are called you deal directly with a representative who handles your issue and checks you out on their handheld device. No cash register. This helped start the new trend toward automated checkout.

Comcast Xfinity stores are the same thing. When your name is called they work with you one on one. When you are done, simply go to a cash register, checkout and you're done. When you walk in there is almost always a line, but they get to each customer pretty quick.

Store after store is using new technology to improve the checkout experience. Many stores are improving the entire shopping experience, but the checkout line can bring the entire smooth shopping experience down to a slow crawl. A poor checkout can spoil the entire shopping experience. That's why it's important to get this right.

Retail checkout should delight customer by being easier and more pleasurable

Making it easier and even pleasurable for the customer is the key. With online shopping taking more market share each year, and with retail competitors really improving their shopping experience, it's vital that every retailer update as well.

We are crossing over the line between the time when some companies use new and innovative technology to gain a competitive advantage, to a time when customers are beginning to expect this from every retailer. Today retailers need to be rapidly moving in this same direction or they risk losing market share.

Companies like with their acquisition of Whole Foods is also upping the ante. They are bringing in new technology and letting customers use their Amazon account to purchase.

This is forcing other retailers like Kroger to test new technologies to wow customers in some stores. They are not moving fast enough, but at least they are moving.

Lead, follow or get out of the way

Every retailer needs to update. There are leaders and there are followers. It's OK to be either. Leaders take the arrows, but pave the new path going forward. Followers have an easier time, but don't carve out the new directions.

Either of these are fine. What you want to avoid is being one of those companies who doesn't see the need to update. There are plenty of companies who have suffered significantly simply because they didn't innovate. They didn't change. They didn't cannibalize their own business. They let a competitor do that for them and take their market share.

I'm talking about past leaders like Motorola, Blackberry, Nokia, Borders Books, Sears and countless others. Companies must continue to change. They must continue to surprise and innovate and delight the customer. If they continue to do things just because they always did things this way, they will ultimately lose the battle.

This is one of many important secrets to success. Either lead like AT&T or follow like Verizon. Both are strong industry leaders. If you are in the third category, just get out of the way or you will be bumped aside by the leaders to will whoosh right past you.

Topics: Customer Experience, Customer Service, Technology

Jeff Kagan is a Wireless Analyst, Telecom Analyst, speaker, author and consultant. Over 30 years he has followed the Customer Experience through technology like wireless, wire line, telecom, Internet, cable TV, IPTV, Cloud, AI, Mobile Pay, FinTech and more. Email him at www

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