A side-by-side photo of grocery scanners
By Steve Mulroy | April 23, 2019

Wish Your Grocery Store Checkout Lane Could Move Faster? Read This!

New Technology Solutions from Zebra and Digimarc Significantly Speed Up Item Scanning: A Win-Win for Grocers and Grocery Shoppers

*This post was developed in conjunction with Digimarc Corporation.

Even with the exponential growth of e-commerce, customers are still choosing to shop in physical stores. Zebra Technologies’ 2019 Shopper Vision Study revealed that today’s shopper very much values brick-and-mortar stores despite the convenience of online shopping. However, customers expect stores to match the online benefits of a personal, stress-free experience, from ease of navigation to a hassle-free checkout. Retailers that can best replicate some of the convenience of e-commerce in their stores will win shoppers, as Digimarc explained in its "Fighting Friction in Retail 2018” report. This is a challenge for retailers, but grocery stores can now benefit from the advancements that have recently been made in barcode technologies by companies such as Zebra and Digimarc – especially those solutions that improve the checkout experience.

Facilitating an easy checkout is pivotal to the overall in-store customer experience. In fact, data from Digimarc’s report indicates 85 percent of shoppers say checkout is important or very important to their shopping experience. It’s the last chance for the retailer to leave a good impression, whether it’s completed using a self-service device or by a cashier with a scanning device. The rise of the self-checkout experience, which launched in the early 1990s, has benefits for both parties. It reduces labor costs, plugs labor shortages and increases throughput, enabling shorter lines and a quick exit for the customer. Self-checkouts are expected to increase globally to 325,000 by the end of this year.

The grocery store checkout: a friction hot spot

Retail industry pain points (‘friction’) are anything that causes delays, frustration or extra effort. Friction impacts both the store associate and customer, and ultimately the store’s bottom line. Approximately 39 percent of shoppers admit to having left a store empty handed due to long lines, though we’ve probably all encountered friction at the checkout.

The culprits tend to be traditional barcodes on packaging that don’t scan easily and/or inefficient scanners. In addition, thermal labels on fresh foods are susceptible to being wrinkled, smudged or entirely ripped off, which leads to shopper bottlenecks.

Let’s say it takes an average of 30 seconds to deal with a thermal label scanning issue. Add this up for several items, for several customers, over several hours, and the net result is an increase in line length, along with rising stress levels for customers and cashiers. According to a study of 500 retail cashiers conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Digimarc, 90 percent said reducing problem thermal labels that don’t scan well would increase productivity.

Collaborative innovation is delivering impressive new checkout technologies

Several technology providers are already tackling grocery store friction caused by barcode scanning issues. For example, Digimarc Barcode for Packaging uses an innovative technique to add a largely imperceptible code directly to the packaging art file so the item can be scanned effortlessly from any angle because Digimarc Barcode permeates much of the packaging surface. The UPC barcode could be completely obstructed and a cashier could still get an accurate scan. The imperceptible barcode is repeated across the packaging, and is generally not detected by consumers so the packaging aesthetic is not affected. It’s ideal for private-label packaging to increase throughput at the checkout (manned or self-service) and boost business growth.

Companies like Zebra have engineered their latest multi-plane scanners, including next-generation bioptic scanners, to work seamlessly with Digimarc Barcode. The Zebra MP7000 grocery scanner scale, for example, integrates highly advanced, ultra-fast scanning technology to allow for almost 100 percent instant capture of electronic barcodes, including Digimarc Barcode, which is nearly invisible to the average eye. Great strides have also been made to improve the scanning capabilities of corded hybrid imagers, such as the Zebra DS9900 Series, to allow for effortless and accurate hands-free or handheld scanning. Allowing shoppers to keep bigger items in the cart is an added convenience and often a time saver at checkout. (It is faster for a cashier to lean over the counter, or even come around the counter, to scan a large item in a cart than it is for either the customer or cashier to fumble to lift the item up onto a stationary scanner, find the barcode, etc.)

Proof in black and white

This short video proves how Digimarc Barcode and Zebra dovetail their engineering efforts to create phenomenally fast results at the checkout:

In this experiment, three different cashiers scanned a basket of 21 items. Each cashier scanned the items multiple times on the Zebra MP7000. In some instances, the items were scanned using traditional barcodes only. In others, we enabled the Digimarc reader capability on the scanner to show how the MP7000 processes items marked with Digimarc Barcode. (The video you just watched showed one of the cashiers scanning the two different types of barcodes.)

We then calculated the average time it took to scan all items and complete checkout for the variants (i.e. with and without Digimarc enablement). Traditional barcode scanning only achieved 48 items per minute (IPM) compared to a huge 74 IPM for Digimarc Barcode scanning.

In speaking with Carolien Bastiaans, Sales & Marketing Coordinator with Digimarc about the results recently, she duly noted that: “This corresponds to an IPM uplift of 54 percent for the combination of the Zebra MP7000 and Digimarc enhanced packaging. Across the business, this adds up to millions of euros’ worth of extra products being scanned at checkout. It also reduces fraud, as Digimarc Barcode is extremely difficult to tamper with, as well as product shrink. For example, it helps to eliminate scenarios when the cashier doesn’t notice a missed product scan, but the product goes through to the customer anyway.”

Keeping checkout lines moving

Combining the latest barcode and scanning technologies from Digimarc and Zebra to facilitate checkout increases point of sale (POS) throughput for the retailer. It also increases job satisfaction for cashiers, both physically and mentally. The ability to glide items efficiently through the checkout helps to reduce stress levels and the risk of repetitive strain injury (RSI) while keeping checkout lines flowing and customers happy. The cashier is also freed up to converse with customers, facilitating the personal touch that is still highly valued. Such engagement fosters store loyalty and provides a positive lasting memory of the whole shopping experience. Lower customer and staff churn is a win-win situation.

Remove friction and grow your business

As my colleague Shawn Harris recently pointed out in his blog, “If you want to make customers happy, you need to take strides to create a frictionless experience throughout the entire buying journey both in-store and online. Improve the quality of goods and services offered as well as pricing, ensure product availability and then offer immediate checkout. This will prevent impatient customers from abandoning their purchase in-store and making a purchase elsewhere.”

So, whether your customers choose the self-checkout or head to the cashier, the experience should be the same smooth and efficient process. Fortunately, the technologies available today from companies such as Zebra and Digimarc empower you to better satisfy your shoppers' needs for convenience and optimize your retail operations.


Editor’s Note: If you are looking for a way to optimize your checkout process and create a frictionless shopping experience in your grocery or retail store, visit Zebra (stand 5D10) and Digimarc (stand 5A71) at RetailEXPO 2019 (formerly known as RBTE).

If you’re not attending the show this year, contact Zebra and/or Digimarc to set up a personalized demonstration of our combined scanner and barcode technologies.

Retail, Innovative Ideas,
Steve Mulroy
Steve Mulroy

Steve Mulroy is a Product Marketing Manager, working in the EMEA Solutions Marketing Team at Zebra. Mr. Mulroy has more than 20 years of experience working in B2B technology in marketing and product management roles. At Zebra, he’s responsible for marketing launches and driving campaigns, specifically focusing on the Advanced Data Capture and Services portfolios and related solutions.

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