Some retailers worry that adopting a self-checkout solution will deprive them of a key point of contact with their customers. Fairway Market, a New York City metro area chain of 15 supermarkets and four wine and spirit stores, wanted to be absolutely sure that wouldn’t happen when it deployed a self-checkout app, because the retailer prides itself on a family atmosphere and a close relationship with shoppers.
The retailer is in the process of rolling out its first self-checkout app and will be seeking results that include:
• Faster, more convenient checkouts for app users;
• Line-busting capabilities, a big benefit at Fairway’s smaller-footprint urban locations;
• The ability to provide customers with product recommendations, coupons and in-store specials during their shopping trips; and
• Detailed data about length of shopping trips, customers’ paths through the store and product selection preferences that the retailer hopes will deepen relationships with customers.
“Aside from the normal center store grocery items, the foods we offer our customers are all specialty items, including imports and things we make here,” explained Genine Fargnoli, EVP of Information Technology at Fairway Market in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “We feel the app is in line with all of that, by offering customers the newest technology to enhance their experience, but not removing the personal touch and family connection.”
The app, designed by FutureProof Retail, allows Fairway shoppers to scan item barcodes or use product lookup for non-coded items such as produce. The app keeps a running total of purchases and also delivers appropriate product recommendations as well as information about coupons and store promotions. To pay for their purchases, customers scan a QR code displayed on the wall before leaving the store. There also is an associate-facing version of the app that allows Fairway employees to respond when shoppers need assistance.
Self-Checkout Facilitates Effective Line-Busting
Fairway began with a very basic reason for seeking a self-checkout solution: line-busting. “Our city stores have a small footprint, and lines there tend to build very quickly,” said Fargnoli. “The initial desire was to reduce the size of lines and have customers check out faster to enhance their shopping experience.”
The retailer investigated several self-checkout options, including those using camera technology to track the items shoppers put in their carts. One of the reasons Fairway chose FutureProof was that the smartphone app improved “our ability to speak to the customer in multiple ways,” said Fargnoli. “You can’t do that when you’re using camera technology.”
Shoppers can provide ratings about the app and their shopping experience, adding another real-time data source for retailers. Approximately 95% of initial users at Fairway have rated the app with four or five stars, according to Fargnoli.
“Retailers can take more action with the data,” said William Hogben, CEO of FutureProof Retail in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “They can crunch the data and reach customers while they’re shopping, as opposed to printing an offer on a receipt at the checkout. Essentially they can use the customer’s basket to generate an offer.”
Understanding What Shoppers Try But Don’t Buy
Data from the app also provides retailers with a linear view of the shopper’s journey around the store. “I think we’ll get some valuable data from the app, and we’re not yet data-rich,” said Fargnoli, noting that Fairway does not currently operate a customer loyalty program. “The one thing it’s telling us that the point-of-sale can’t is how much time the customer is spending on shopping — how long they have been in a location and what kinds of things they are looking at.”
The self-scanning aspect of the app also can provide Fairway with insights into items customers take off the shelf but ultimately don’t purchase. Such data points “let us know which items might need that extra push, whether that’s with better signage, more information or making them look more enticing,” said Fargnoli. “This will give us a lot more information about our store layouts.”
The retailer began investigating self-checkout solutions in late 2017 and selected FutureProof, which has deployed self-checkout solutions in other supermarkets since 2015. Fairway implemented a slow rollout in selected stores beginning in August 2018, using its own employees as beta testers. The retailer began a public deployment with five stores in September, rolled the app out to three more locations in early November and plans to have it available in all 19 stores by December, according to Fargnoli.
The rollout has been low-key, promoted only with in-store signage and via word of mouth, so only about 1% of Fairway shoppers are using the app. “We haven’t done an ‘official’ launch yet and advertised that this is available,” said Fargnoli. “We haven’t discussed specific goals for usage, but I think 10% to 15% of shoppers is a reasonable goal. We don’t expect that 90% of customers will sign up, especially those in the suburbs that are doing a much bigger shopping trip at one time. In our urban stores, where people do a number of smaller shopping trips throughout the week, we think people will see the convenience with a small basket.”
Most important for Fairway, the app appears to be enhancing its relationship with shoppers. “The specific comment that stands out the most to me was from someone who loved the app but said ‘I miss saying hello and goodbye to the cashier, so can we go through the regular lane as well?’,” said Fargnoli. “They miss that connection, but with the app we felt it was a way to have the best of both worlds: convenience and connection.”