The debut of Amazon’s checkout-free grocery store, Amazon Go, created a lot of buzz in the retail space last fall, but their unique “just walk-out” technology is on its way to becoming a common grocery shopping experience. Smaller grocery store chains are developing new and innovative shopping experiences to appeal to the convenience-focused consumer market.
Madison, Wisconsin-based grocery store, Woodman’s Market, has been testing a mobile scanning device at their west-side location. Shoppers can pick up a “mobile shopper” device at the entrance of the grocery store and can self scan their groceries with it as they shop. Once customers are done their grocery shopping trip they just need to return the device to the terminal and scan one last time to pay for their groceries.
“This will really help you beat the line on a busy weekend,” said Matthew Alba, a Woodman’s IT technician. “You could do a big order – you could do $300, and you’re out of here.”
The store also features “rapid checkout” lanes that shoppers can use to scan all their groceries in one go. It resembles an airport security bag check lane and is designed to have a 360-degree price-scanning tunnel that can scan multiple items as they travel through it. According to Alba, these rapid checkout lanes are twice as fast as traditional ones.
These technological innovations in the grocery space are helpful for grocery companies but employees are starting to worry about job security. As technology continues to improve and speed up the shopping experience, the need for employees seems to be reducing. Alba told US News that he has been hearing some concerns about jobs being eliminated at Woodman’s, but the company does not plan for that to be the case. However, some food companies are heading in that direction.
Just last month, the CEO of Jack in the Box, Leonard Comma, announced that the fast-food chain is considering replacing human cashiers with self-ordering kiosks. According to Comma, this move “just makes sense” because of the rising cost of labour. With minimum wages increasing in 18 American states, companies are looking to cut back on labour costs and technology seems to be the most efficient solution.
Brandon Scholz, the President of the Wisconsin Grocers Association, refers to the food industry as a changing market affecting both businesses and consumers. As technology becomes more prominent in the food space, the traditional dynamic of grocery shopping is destined to be disrupted.
“If you look at the grocery industry, if you look at the regional chains, they’re family-run businesses. They’re maybe a little less prone to be progressive when it comes to technology,” he said. “Now, you’re looking at changes in the industry where people now are a little more prone to take risks. There’s been a shift in the conversation.”
With so many options available when it comes to shopping for groceries, consumers are starting to mix-up their shopping habits. By keeping up with the changing trends in food and shopping experiences, companies will be able to stand out in this competitive market.