Is now the right time for scan-and-go in supermarkets?

Sainsbury’s is resurrecting a new concept and trialling a scan and go solution for shoppers. The Next Web reports

Sainsbury’s supermarket is trialing a new service called Mobile Scan & Go that allows users to shop with their iPhone or Android phone and pay at the till without unloading their trolley or bags.

I’m sure it was over 10 years ago that supermarkets started rolling out a “self scan and pack” solution for in-store shopping. In a time before the smartphone however, shoppers used handheld barcode scanners that were held in banks at the entrance to the store. Once placed back into a dock, shoppers received a special receipt that allowed checkout operatives to take payment as normal.

Ultimately, the self-scan system didn’t last long – I’m guessing they were just trials and shopper resistance to technology probably scuppered it.

Self-scanning also launched on the cusp of reliable Internet grocery shopping – Webvan had gone bust, Ocado had just launched – so maybe shoppers that wanted to avoid checkouts simply went online rather than go through the theatre of picking out bananas at their preferred ripeness.

But in recent months, that concept has made a comeback. Last year, Apple launched EasyPay, which allows you to scan your own items at participating Apple stores, pay with your iTunes card details and leave the store.

Unlike Apple, which uses geolocation and in-store wifi to work out which store you’re in, the Sainsbury’s system requires you to scan a QR code to “check in” to the store then take your phone to the till where payment is taken after scanning a code to “check out”. No details yet on whether you’ll be ‘randomly selected’ to have all your shopping re-scanned, as used to happen with the old system. But this would be obvious.

Though on researching this article, I was surprised to read that Waitrose still offers this under the brand “Quick Check”. And even Tesco are rolling this out again as an improvement.

To be honest, I’m not convinced that supermarkets will switch to an entirely self-scan solution. The growing acceptance of self-checkouts is a driver in that direction, though their perceived unreliability and complexity continues to drive a demand for checkout operatives.

Nonetheless, maybe there are areas where scan-and-go will take off. For example, supermarket kiosks where relatively low value items can be purchased off the shelf. Retailers like WH Smith used to operate ‘honesty’ payment for newspapers some years ago, so given the enhanced security now in operation, perhaps scan-and-go could work in a supermarket environment.

The rise of contactless cards, however, puts a bit of a dampener on the argument that low value transactions will be sped up through scan-and-go. If only there was some way of linking these two concepts