“Self-scanning and contactless payment is now booming in Europe”
Zebra delivers software and solutions that helps retailers to elevate customers’ shopping experience, to track and manage inventory and to improve supply chain efficiency. Sophie Baqué discussed with Mark Thomson, EMEA Director of Retail & Hospitality Solutions at Zebra Technologies.
Sophie Baqué: Which evolution of retailers’ expectations is the most noticeable right now?
Mark Thomson: At Zebra Technologies, we see a real growth in self-scanning tools adoption. Due to the current pandemic situation, retailers want to limit queuing at checkouts in stores and contacts between customers and staff members. Self-scanning solution allows that. It reduces queues, puts the customers much more in control of the shopping process and limits contacts and time spend at checkout counters. France is an exception, as self-scanning is already well established, but the push in other markets is noticeable. In Netherlands, Albert Heijn (Ahold Delhaize Group) already have such tools, but they want to provide as many self-scanners as possible. In the U.K., Sainsbury’s has been promoting self-scanning on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and encourage customers to use it. We have also seen retailers investigate other payment methods and encourage contactless payments. Interestingly, there has been very little motivation over the last few years to make these changes because the old payment process worked fine, but things are now accelerating. In France, banks have also increased contactless payment limit to €50 which will inevitably capture a larger share of transactions. Combining these, we can imagine that one day, customers would be able to pay on the self-scanning device once they are ready without going through a physical checkout point…
S.B.: Several retailers are transforming their stores into dark stores for online picking. Is it a long-term trend?
That’s a good question. For grocers, the biggest challenge is responding to surging online demand. And despite the demand uplift, Tesco and Sainsbury’s have reported potential future negative hit on their margins, as they struggle to organise staff to replenish shelves, prepare orders and deliver. Dark stores are a solution to pick for online orders efficiently, but as close as possible to the customers. A Dutch grocer explained me that their excess capacity for picking intheir automated warehouse is only of +20%. It should normally be fine, but with Covid, the online demand actually doubled. They have now a significant demand from customers that cannot buy online because they are not able to pick enough, to deliver enough and they need more people to solve this. In the U.K., Mark & Spencer is now even leveraging Deliveroo’s ecommerce app and they prepare online orders and ship them from its smallest units, such as those located at fuel stations.
S.B.: What will be key for retailers on the mid-term?
M.T.: For me, the visibility of inventory will be the next thing to look at. That includes all types of retailers, not just grocers. Retailers need to make sure they can fulfil online orders not only from warehouses, but from stores which are inevitably closer to the customer. To do so, they need a proper accurate inventory visibility. One method, for food retailers, might be analytics, using inventory data, point of sale data and the historic fluctuation to predict what must be still in store. In fashion, some have already started to work on that, for example Celio and Decathlon in France, using RFID as the main technology. Maybe the covid and the shift online is the trigger or the catalyst that will drive and increase pace of speed to get toward a unified inventory vision.