Waitrose Quick Check lets customers scan items as they move around the shop, saving time, boosting sales and giving supermarket richer data to analyse
There is one disadvantage to the Quick Check app however. Some people will prefer to use a dedicated unit because of the personal nature of smartphones. Cameras are much more fiddly than a barcode scanner, battery life can be impacted, people need to make calls and texts, and a phone could be damaged in the supermarket.
Thomson agrees, but doesn’t see it as a problem.
“We see this as complementary,” he said, adding that research showed people with smaller baskets were happy to use their smartphone but those with more items prefer the store-issued device.
Online v Physical
This move to ‘online style’ features is part of a recognition that physical retailers have to embrace changing habits but also realise there are several advantages to brick and mortar.
“We’re seeing a shift in thinking in what is the purpose of a physical retail store,” Thomson added. “If retailers treat their store as somewhere someone buys a product, walks out and [there is no emphasis] on customer service, they will struggle in the future as online becomes more convenient.”
“The physical store has multiple purposes. It’s somewhere I can shop, learn about the product, check material, weight and spend more time getting to know the product.”
Waitrose for example offers ‘click and collect’ delivery from John Lewis, a reception desk and some of the newer stores have wine bars, sushi counters and cookery clubs. The Waitrose loyalty card scheme doesn’t offer a point system, but instead tailors offers, gives discounts on services like dry cleaning and allows customers a free cup of coffee.
This makes it appear as though it’s a club and will encourage repeat visits.
“Price becomes less of an issue,” concluded Thomson. “I think it’s making the stores a lot smarter. It’s about customer interaction and doing it in a way that isn’t offensive to the customers who are building a joint-level of trust.”