What is Scan and Go? A Guide for Retailers

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Ewa Mruczyńska

Updated Jul 16, 2024 • 15 min read
Mid-section of female staff using digital tablet in super market-2

In an age where speed defines success, scan and go technology is the retail industry’s ace card.

Imagine your customers walking into your store, swiftly selecting what they need, and heading out without long lines or time-consuming payment procedures. Scan and go technology integrates with mobile payment systems to enable contactless payments, such as mobile wallets or NFC payments, reducing the transmission of germs and bacteria during the payment process. That smoothness is not a distant dream: scan and go promises a quick, touch-free shopping spree while making things slicker for store owners.

With scan and go, retailers benefit from happier customers, easier access, greater efficiency, less waste, and heightened convenience. It’s not just about speeding through checkouts; this tech offers insights into shopping trends, allowing businesses to refine and elevate their product range.

However, the introduction of this technology brings forth challenges, from addressing potential security risks to ensuring a seamless experience for all, considering varied levels of tech adaptation among customers.

Join us as we delve into the dynamic world of scan and go, exploring its diverse advantages, challenges, and practical applications.

The evolution of scan and go technology

Tracing its roots in the retail scene, scan and go technology goes back to the pioneering days of the self-service supermarket model introduced by Piggly Wiggly in the early 1900s. This concept allowed customers to roam aisles and select items by themselves, promising lower prices in exchange for the extra effort.

The evolution continued with the introduction of self-checkout machines in 1986. Designed primarily to reduce labor expenses, the first of these systems, patented by CheckRobot in Florida, was rolled out in a few Kroger stores. In this early iteration, customers would scan their chosen products, send them down a conveyor belt to be bagged by a store employee, and then finalize their purchase at a designated payment area.

Despite the initial hype and expectations, widespread adoption took time. By 2013, the concept began to evolve further. Walmart introduced its "Scan & Go" in select stores, empowering customers to use handheld devices to scan items while shopping.

Another major event in the area of scan and go development was where Amazon unveiled a groundbreaking concept: "Amazon Go" in 2016. Distinguishing itself from previous models, these stores employed advanced sensors and computer vision, allowing customers to pick up items and leave, as the billing was handled seamlessly in the background.

Other early adopters were:

  1. Supermarket chain Kroger has introduced their own versions of scan and go technology "Scan, Bag, Go".
  2. Sam's Club, a part of the Walmart family, also introduced a "Scan & Go" system, allowing members to scan items as they shop and pay directly from their phones.
  3. In Europe, Sainsbury's in the UK tested a mobile-based scan and go system in select stores.
  4. Tesco followed in the footsteps shortly after testing and starting a trial of “Scan Pay Go” app in 2018.

As more stores adopt scan and go, it's important for both shoppers and businesses to understand how it works. We'll walk you through the basics, from the moment you spot a product to when you leave the store.

Scanning Items:

With the "Scan and Go" app, customers simply scan product barcodes using their smartphone's camera, and items are added to a virtual cart. If any barcode poses an issue, a minor adjustment or assistance from staff can easily resolve it.

Handling Special Items:

There are particular items, such as fresh produce or alcoholic beverages, that require additional steps. For instance, customers may need to weigh a vegetable or verify their age for certain purchases. It is important to offer clear guidance and provide support when needed.

Completing Your Purchase: Digital Receipt

Once all selections are added to the virtual cart, customers finalize their purchase directly within the app, simplifying the payment process. They can also opt out from a variety of payment methods and are promptly provided with a digital receipt. This modern method efficiently sidesteps the need for traditional checkout counters.

Self checkout vs scan and go vs grab and go

Intelligent stores offer different checkout methods, each focused on speed and convenience. To help clarify these methods, we've put together a comparative table that outlines their descriptions, similarities, and differences. From the familiar self-checkout system to the newer grab-and-go model, this overview provides a clear picture of how each method shapes the shopping experience.

description

similarities

differences

Self checkout

Customers single-handedly scan and bag items at specialized kiosks with barcode scanners

Checkout done by the customer


Limited cashier assistance


In majority of cases - cashless payment

Interaction with dedicated kiosk


Barcode scanning with scanner


Payment made at the kiosk by swiping a credit/debit card or scanning a mobile phone for payment code


Bagging items after payment


No dedicated application needed

Scan and Go

Customers use their smartphones to scan items as they shop and then pay through the app

Checkout done by the customer


No cashier assistance


Cashless payment

Interaction with mobile app


Barcode scanning with mobile app camera


Payment made within the app


Bagging items on the go


Dedicated application needed

Grab and Go

Customers quickly select pre-packaged items without individual scanning

Checkout done automatically or by the customer


No cashier assistance


Cashless payment

Interaction done automatically


Barcode scanning done by RFID


Charging users account, or using traditional payment methods (cash, credit cards, and possibly some mobile payment)


Bagging items on the go


Dedicated application needed

Benefits of Implementing scan and go

Implementing scan and go technology in retail stores can lead to a multitude of benefits. Enhanced speed of service, thanks to the elimination of checkout lanes, results in improved customer satisfaction and decreased wait times. A user-friendly and straightforward interface can make the scan and go app accessible to a wide range of users, further contributing to a positive shopping experience. Working with various payment service providers supports multiple payment methods within the scan and go app, making payments directly on the smartphone seamless.

Let’s deep dive into the details:

Enhanced Customer Experience: Bypassing traditional checkout lanes allows shoppers to enjoy quicker service, leading to increased satisfaction.

Operational Considerations: The reduction in traditional checkouts lets retailers redirect staff to more pivotal store roles.

Optimized Store Layout: Reducing traditional checkouts and installing self-checkout kiosks maximizes the store layout and ultimately translates into swiffer moving lanes.

Data Collection and Insights: The acquisition of data from scan and go” usage unveils shopping trends, facilitating inventory optimization.

Personalized Shopping: Collected data leverages your ability to create tailored promotions and grow customer loyalty.

Safety and Health: The contactless approach of scan and go lessens the potential for germ spread.

Environmental Impact: Digital receipts and a decrease in paper usage align with a more eco-friendly shopping approach.

Challenges of implementing scan and go

Embracing the scan and go model is an exciting prospect for many retailers, but its integration isn't without its set of challenges. Transition requires retailers to address various concerns, from customer adaptation to infrastructure investments. Let's unpack these challenges:

Customer and Market Adoption: The introduction of new technology invariably meets some skepticism. A portion of shoppers, especially those not as tech-savvy, may gravitate toward the known territory of the traditional checkout experience. Specific countries or regions might also have lower adoption rates.

Customer Education: Although the systems are fairly similar, introducing new solutions brings forward the challenge of educating the customers, making sure they feel confident and empowered to try them out.

Inclusive Accessibility: A significant challenge tied to self-checkout revolves around ensuring the same, seamless experience for all customers, regardless of their diverse abilities.

Infrastructure Investment: The initial costs tied to Scan-and-Go implementations—scanning software, hardware, and training—can be significant.

Security Concerns:

  • Physical Security: Fewer staff at checkouts might lead to increased theft or scanning mistakes or frauds.
  • Data Security: Collecting more customer data means there's a bigger responsibility to keep it safe from hackers.

Technical Glitches: An emphasis on technology can sometimes lead to unexpected software or hardware issues, which could impede the shopping flow.

Staff Realignment: The shift in the role of checkout personnel requires retailers to be proactive in providing them with comprehensive training. This ensures they are adept at guiding customers with the new system and handling any tech-related concerns.

Case studies: success stories

Numerous brands have ventured into developing their scan and go solutions. These endeavors represent not just a response to changing consumer preferences, but also an exploration of ways to redefine in-store interactions. From Walmart to Decathlon, here's a look at how major retailers have incorporated this technology into their shopping dynamics.

Walmart "Scan & Go": A pioneer in retail innovations, Walmart rolled out its "Scan & Go'' feature in select locations. This allowed customers to scan items using a mobile app or handheld device as they shopped, facilitating a quicker checkout line. While they trialed the program extensively, it was eventually discontinued, but the initiative itself speaks to the evolving nature of in-store shopping experiences.

“Amazon Go”: redefining retail convenience, “Amazon Go” allowed customers to enter stores using its app, select items, and leave without a traditional checkout. Many businesses followed suit. Amazon continued to innovate, introducing the “Just Walk Out” feature.

Kroger's "Scan, Bag, Go": This major U.S. grocery chain's solution allows customers to scan items as they navigate store aisles, and subsequently pay through the app or a dedicated kiosk.

7-Eleven Mobile Checkout: In a bid to make convenience store shopping even more immediate, 7-Eleven trialed a scan and go feature, allowing customers to scan and pay via the app.

Decathlon's “Scan & Pay”: Catering to sports enthusiasts, Decathlon introduced this system to reduce waiting times and provide a more interactive shopping journey.

Future of Scan And Go

Looking ahead, the future of scan and go technology is poised to become even more sophisticated with the integration of advanced technologies. One of the most exciting trends is the incorporation of artificial intelligence (AI) to create personalized shopping experiences.

By analyzing previous purchases and preferences, AI can suggest products to customers, making the shopping journey more intuitive and tailored to individual needs. Imagine walking through a store and receiving real-time recommendations on your app for complementary items or deals that match your shopping habits.

Another promising innovation is the integration of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as smart shopping carts. These carts can automatically track the items placed inside them, communicate with the scan and go app, and even guide customers through the store to find the products they need. This level of integration not only enhances convenience but also ensures a seamless and efficient shopping experience.

The fusion of AI and IoT within scan and go systems signifies a shift toward a more connected and intelligent retail environment, paving the way for a future where shopping is not just faster but smarter.

Conclusion

From its early origins with self-checkout kiosks to its cutting-edge application in “Amazon Go”, this technology continues to shape the future of in-store shopping.

Embracing scan and go offers retailers myriad benefits: it enhances the overall customer experience and provides crucial data insights for personalized strategies. However, it's not without challenges. Retailers face hurdles like customer adoption rates, significant upfront infrastructure costs, and potential security issues, both in terms of theft and data breaches.

Yet, as highlighted by numerous case studies the potential of scan and go is undeniable. With the right strategy, scan and go can be a valuable asset in any retailer's toolkit.

The retail industry is increasingly embracing AI and other tech-driven solutions. Scan/grab and go, along with similar innovations, are emerging as promising trends, potentially transforming in-store shopping experiences.

Frequently asked questions

What is scan and go used for?

Scan and go is a retail technology that allows customers to scan items with a dedicated application on their mobile phones, adding them to a virtual cart, and then pay through the same scan go app. It streamlines the shopping experience by eliminating the need for traditional checkouts.

What retailers have scan and go?

Numerous retailers have implemented scan and go. Prominent examples include Amazon Go, Walmart, Tesco, 7-Eleven, Kroger, and Decathlon.

How does scan and go prevent theft?

Scan and go systems often integrate security measures such as weight checks, random audit requests, and surveillance cameras. Additionally, some stores require verification (such as a digital receipt check) upon exit.

Are there any limitations to using scan and go apps?

Yes, there can be. Some customers face a learning curve when first adopting the technology. Other limitations might include app glitches, mis-scanning of items, and the necessity for manual intervention for certain products or age-restricted items.



Photo of Ewa Mruczyńska

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Ewa Mruczyńska

Delivery Lead | Retail at Netguru
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