New technology will soon bring an end to the polite British habit of queuing within shops. Some of the UK’s biggest retailers including Amazon, Zara and Waitrose have already taken measures to eliminate queuing at checkout through traditional payment methods.
Research by Zebra Technologies points out a major decline in traditionally manned point of sale checkouts at retail stores from 71% to 52% in 5 years.
Zara has installed advanced security systems that are likely to evolve into “queue-less” systems. They currently are using a high-tech clothing tag that allows staff to track the location of the clothing. Going forward, these high-tech tags will allow customers to scan their purchases and proceed with the payment from their smartphones.
It is similar to the concept of Amazon Go’s ‘Just Walk Out’ technology that will allow customers to exit the shop with the items without having to wait in a queue to pay. It all works with an app on the smartphone. Consumers will need to display their app’s barcode to a scanner when entering the store. The app will then detect what items are selected by shoppers through a mix of sensors, deep learning algorithms and computer vision technology in the store. In this way, consumers get to freely shop and go without queuing at tills. Instead, on walking past the checkout counters, the app will automatically tally the products bought and send out a receipt for payment to their smartphones. This new and upcoming technology is currently only open to Amazon employees for testing.
Waitrose has also launched handheld self-scanning devices in a few stores that have the look and feel of a smartphone. These Bluetooth devices allow customers to upload their shopping lists, scan products and receive promotional offers on particular products through tracking the shopper’s location within the store.
According to Mark Thompson, Zebra Technologies’ Director of Retail & Hospitality, “In five years, a visit to the British high street will be massively different from today…retailers will be able to tell when and even where specific customers are in store. This technology will also save stores money.” Through this advanced technology within shops, it will become easier for retailers to manage customers’ in-store experience and hence, make it more enjoyable and effective.
Vanessa Walmsley from Qmatic has a contradicting opinion on this matter. According to her, physical queues at checkout are most likely to disappear but not entirely. She says “While customers enjoy their technology, it is by no means a catch-all solution and retailers must develop more innovative solutions in conjunction with traditional methods. Factors including the store layout, types of services offered, customer base and more are all areas that must be taken into consideration”.