European Retailers Recognize it’s Time to Scan & Go

You don’t need research to conclude that self-scanning has gained popularity significantly in retail stores. Now more than ever, consumers are being actively encouraged to download enterprise apps to give them safe and convenient self-scanning shopping experiences.

Research is important though to explore exactly how consumers interact with self-scanning technology – insight that puts the spotlight on what drives customers to use it, what they expect from it, and how retailers can use it to secure customer loyalty.

Research into such consumer expectations and behavior around self-scanning was conducted by Scandit in November 2020. The study involved a survey of 116 major European multinational retailers across seven countries with average annual revenues of €8.8 billion. The aim of the research was to learn these retailers’ experiences and insights post-pandemic.

Its findings were highlighted in a recent webinar The State of Self-Scanning in Europe, hosted by Scandit and featuring a guest speaker from analyst house Forrester. The webinar shares insight from both Scandit and Forrester as they use the basis of the study to assess self-scanning, past, present and future.

Self-scanning: an evolving story

Self-scanning isn’t new. It’s been around for a long time, but it was a decade ago when it first started gaining traction as a new sales channel within retail. It grew and evolved quite steadily until 2019, when there was a sudden surge in interest, partly driven by the expansion of the Amazon Go and ‘just walk out’ concept. This generated particular interest among retailers aspiring to offer similar frictionless customer experiences.

However, the complexity of the infrastructure needed to achieve an Amazon Go type experience, particularly at scale, was simply unachievable for many retailers. Self-scanning offered an alternative, less complex solution to deliver a similar customer experience at a fraction of the cost.

This led to an escalation in self-scanning deployment and adoption, and in 2020 this accelerated due the global pandemic – as customers and retailers alike sought ways to minimize contact in-store in order to keep safe.

In our research study, we explored the growing self-scanning trend and evolving. Here we highlight some of the main findings:

Fast, Reliable, Scalable Self‑Scanning

Key Finding # 1 Self-scanning is now fully recognized

Scandit’s research confirmed that self-scanning is now well established within retail and is set to stay beyond the pandemic. Interest is growing rapidly with nearly 60% of retailers either already offering self-scanning or looking to launch it imminently. They  see it as an important competitive advantage.

Even before Covid-19, Forrester’s annual review of ‘what’s hot or not’ in retail technology investments saw automated checkout and mobile payments move into the top 10. This is likely to intensify given the preference for safe, contactless shopping and payments during the pandemic.

Self-scanning also represents convenience for consumers. And particularly for ‘grab and go’ customers who need a small number of basic essentials and don’t want to wait in line to check out and pay.

Key Finding #2 Shopper’s own smartphone use is important

The majority of retailers (56.8%) surveyed reported that customers prefer to use the safety of their own familiar smartphone for self-scanning, with an app-based approach rather than using store-owned scanners.

Convenience and personalization are also important factors. By using their own phones, customers save time by not having to collect and return a store-owned device. This is particularly true for shoppers doing a quick convenience shop of just a few items. Other advantages include minimal contact, and enabling retailers to offer instant access to personalized features such as shopping lists, vouchers, loyalty schemes and individual promotions which can deliver an enhanced digital shopping experience.

Forrester reported that since 2019, self-checkout using mobile devices has nearly tripled and interest in rising rapidly.

Key Finding #3 Demand for more product information

In addition to creating more frictionless, contactless shopping experiences – Scan & Go on smartphone apps also helps to deliver additional value for consumers in stores. The Scandit research shows that 60% of retailers surveyed agreed that customers want more product information to help them make informed choices about the products they are buying. Barcode scanning combined with Augmented Reality (AR), delivers product information visually direct to a customer’s smartphone screen simply by scanning a product in-store.

For example, customers can quickly access information about a product’s attributes, product reviews, stock availability or whether a food item is gluten-free or vegetarian during their self-scanning activity, without the need to handle products to read labels. Data from Forrester backs up this research and confirms that consumers want to make the in-store experience as digital and informative as an online e-commerce experience.

In particular, enhancing customer service (45%) and product demos (36%) were areas where retailers wanted to use AR on mobiles (Forrester Business Technographics Mobility Survey, 2020). Giving employees the same product look-up functionality through smartphone scanning enables them to provide enhanced customer services in store.

What’s next for self-scanning?

So as retailers begin to open their doors again, how do they drive footfall and what is the future of self-scanning likely to be?

According to Forrester, 47% of consumers hope to resume their usual physical store visits, while 44% are likely to continue to use contactless payments to avoid touching screens and hardware in stores.

Throughout 2020, retailers worked hard to optimize in-store digital experiences with consumers responding positively to mobile self-scanning apps – digital interactions they are likely to bring back into store.

Consequently Forrester sees retailers prioritizing three investments to improve customer experience:

  1. Adding or improving mobile services
  2. Improving store/brand customer experiences
  3. Improving omnichannel experiences

Interestingly, mobile is now topping the priority list. This is supported by the fact that 68% of respondents in our research believe self-scanning will give people the confidence to return to stores and is likely to be a key differentiator for both customer loyalty and market share.

As customers become very familiar with a particular store’s user interfaces, like Scan & Go, product look up and contactless payments, they are less likely to switch brands.  Equally, adding more advanced self-scanning automation like age verification and processes to sync cashless e-commerce and in-store check-out payment methods will help retain customer loyalty.

All these experiences rely on retailers delivering a consistently frictionless user experience with high-performance scanning to build loyalty and high user retention longer-term. Driving awareness is also imperative to ensuring user adoption.

To hear the more in-depth analysis from Scandit and Forrester, please check out our webinar The State of Self-Scanning in Europe or you can download our full research report Has Self-Scanning Gone Mainstream?