Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, December 23, 2018 12:30 EST
TORONTO – When Chris Cobain goes to Walmart, he fears the long formations at the cash register.
That's why the Toronto-based audio engineer was thrilled when he saw portable scanners, allowing customers to checkout items while shopping.
He tried the service but found the scanner "heavy" and the system still required him to use a checkout corridor or to interact with an employee to pay.
"It took me longer to do my shopping and then something happened and everything went bad," he said. "I did not feel it was faster."
The experience meant he was not surprised when Walmart ripped off the offer from its local store.
The approach, he and experts say, is a sign that portable, telephone-based self checkout is generating mixed results for retailers.
Walmart spokeswoman Anika Malik did not say how many sites the service was available and how many still have it, but said, "If a test does not produce a result that works for our customers and our business, we will have no problem changing" or trying to find a way that works best. "
Malik said that Walmart is joking about changing the service interface and some of its features, but did not elaborate.
The Walmart experience did not appear to shut down Canadian retailers. Supermarket giant Loblaw has launched its "buy and sell" offer by telephone at five Loblaws locations and three Canadian Superstores in the Greater Toronto area in November.
Loblaw spokeswoman Catherine Thomas said so far the feedback has been "very positive" but she did not confirm whether there were plans to expand the service.
Meanwhile, Nordstrom Rack and Dollarama are also tinkering with handheld scanners to speed up the purchase, but they've left the scanners in the hands of shop-stealing employees.
The different approaches and success rates of such systems result from consumer behavior, said Michael LeBlanc, senior retail consultant for the Retail Council of Canada.
He noticed that customers prefer manual self-checkout when buying some items but that allowing a cashier to make a purchase is more ideal when someone has a cart or a basket full.
"The manual self-check-out is not for everyone and it's not for every occasion," he said. "I know some retailers have checked out in the app and some customers liked it and some did not … Not everything works the way you planned it, but I think everyone likes you to try. "
The fall of Walmart was not necessarily technology, he added. Time may have played a role.
"Is it too soon or is it something customers are not interested in right now?" He said. "They may be interested, but they are not ready to adopt it yet. Ultimately, we just do not know until you put it on the field and test it.
A recent study by the Canadian Retail Council, Google, and WisePlum found that Canadian buyers "are not willing" to encounter problems when purchases and retailers do not offer "frictionless" transactions, increasingly losing Marketplace.
Younger consumers created as "digital natives" will appreciate technology even more, the study found in mid-December.
While many criticize the manual self-check-out as a job killer, LeBlanc said that most companies using such systems did not reduce workers.
Up until AmazonThe boxless store in Seattle, which uses sensors to detect products in shopping trolleys and automatically charge consumer bills, is still stocked with employee stock shelves and buyer assistance, LeBlanc said.
"If you start getting a lot of people out of your retail environment, the customer experience is not great," he said.
"So you start thinking about how to make better use of your people, and sometimes that means taking someone from the front who was checking people and transferring them to your wine and cheese section and making them help people there. "
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