The pandemic has created a need by grocers to make customers feel safer. As a result, contactless technology is being retrofitted to brick-and-mortar stores.
Price Chopper, Wegmans, and Giant Eagle have introduced checkout-free technology in some stores. Grocery chains were reluctant to invest in technology given the low profit margins in the industry, but the pandemic has put an emphasis on checkout safety and speed.
- Introducing Amazon Go and the world’s most advanced shopping technology (Dec 5, 2016, amazon)
- Retail 2020 | 5 Technologies that will change the way you shop (Dec 4, 2017, Lifelong Learners)
- Grocery ‘smart cart’ being pilot tested by Sobeys (Oct 23, 2019, CityNews Toronto)
- Walk-through RFID Checkout Solution & Smart Cameras (Feb 28, 2018, Panasonic Newsroom)
This post is based on the CNBC article, How the coronavirus pandemic helped convince grocery chains to experiment with new tech, by Annie Palmer and Melissa Repko, September 9, 2020, and the YouTube videos in the Spotlight. Image source: Cryptographer/Shutterstock
1. Given the pandemic, one order qualifier that is emerging is checkout speed at a grocery store. Research several contactless technologies and recommend the one that best gives the customer both checkout speed and some customization.
Guidance: Students should research the various technologies mentioned in the article. YouTube videos could be helpful for students to find and share with the class. Ask students which technology they would prefer and why. Which technology is the order winner and why?
2. Based on the student research in part a, what technology is the least expensive to implement in brick-and-mortar facilities right away?
Guidance: Students will likely make cases for almost any technology that they like. The goal here is to stimulate discussion about implementation time and cost. Will a cheaper solution today be the best choice? What about a better solution for the long haul that costs more to implement? As students grapple with technology choices, they should consider how staffing might change. Will there be new jobs to operate the technology in the store or will overall staffing needs decrease? Additional questions to raise include whether customers will miss the personal interaction at the cashier line, and when a human checkout line would be preferable.