Scan items, pay & go with FutureProof Retail's mobile app

FutureProof Retail and Exklusive Consulting are reshaping brick-and-mortar shopping with a smartphone-based, in-store shopping app

Waiting. In. Line.

For decades, waiting seemed like the most burdensome part of grocery shopping.

Users skip lines by scanning items as they select them via smartphone.

So a few retail tech experts, app developers, and impatient shoppers formed FutureProof Retail (FPR) to eliminate waiting. The New York City-based firm developed their "Scan & Go Mobile Checkout App." Billed as frictionless checkout, FPR's Scan & Go app enables customers to skip lines by scanning items and paying via smartphone.

Then along came 2020

and with it, COVID-19.

Vinyl gloves, one-way aisles, and acrylic barriers transformed grocery runs from time-consuming into taxing. This pandemic-fueled chaos propelled FPR's line-free Scan & Go shopping app onto many smartphones across Europe and North America.

"Across our retail partners, we've seen at least a doubling of Scan & Go adoption," explained Christian Toelg, the VP of business development at FPR. "Adoption was initially driven by the long wait times from everyone trying to buy toilet paper. Then it shifted because of the touch-free aspect""nobody after the customer touches the items, and there's no standing in line with other people, so the app protects customers and staff as well."

A Shopping App for the Anxious?
Mike Penner, the owner and primary consultant at New Jersey-based Exklusive Consulting (EC), experienced firsthand how the app eliminated stress. EC helps stores launch FPR's Scan & Go Mobile Checkout app, placing Penner on a 15-store deployment. In Manhattan. In March of 2020. Right at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

"When COVID-19 first emerged, that fear of being in stores for a long period of time took ahold of customers," Penner said. "Mobile checkout solved that because it shortened time in the store."

But do retailers really benefit from customers spending less time in the store?

"We tracked a lot of retailers that we've rolled out with," Penner shared. "The average basket size [number of items sold at once] jumped from 7/7 to 10/7 after switching to mobile checkout."

FPR's app can help boost sales through customization, such as pushing weekly specials and communicating with buyers during decision-making. An example: Upon scanning chips, the app displays a promo for salsa. Any tool that helps increase sales is welcome among mainstream grocers who typically operate with a scant 2.2% margin.

High-tech produce scales display a barcode on their screens.

A Missed Scan = A Missed Opportunity
As the app launched with NYC's Fairway Market grocery chain, Penner and Toelg began noticing missed scans.

"In the grocery stores we were operating in, there were a lot of unique barcodes," Penner stated. "Some were rounded, some were compressed or condensed, and as usage increased, we saw a lot of
friction with customers being unable to scan these."

Digging deeper, the duo discovered the app couldn't reliably scan:

  1. Uniquely shaped barcodes, e.g., a bone-shaped barcode on a box of dog treats.
  2. In-store QR codes with embedded logos, such as those printed in bakeries.
    1. Barcodes printed in-store were typically wrinkled, smudged, or damaged.
  3. High-tech produce scales""smartphones could not scan barcodes on the scales' display screens.

It was clear that FPR needed to replace the barcode scanner software development kit (SDK) that the app launched with. Scanning SDKs transform camera-equipped iOS and Android devices into barcode readers""they can scan barcodes and decode the data, making it "usable" for an app.

FPR switched to Code Corporation's CortexDecoder SDK, which has a near-zero-miss scanning rate of 99.9995%. CortexDecoder can read barcodes and QR codes on screens, cardboard, and plastic. Toelg and Penner ensured Code's SDK could handle the barcode types and shapes the other SDK couldn't""particularly labels created in-store.

"In-store labels are often faded, or there's leakage or holes in the actual label," Penner said. "Code reduced the mis-scans with those products."

After successful testing that included ground beef (which is notoriously hard to scan), FPR integrated Code's CortexDecoder SDK into its app within a day.

Toelg also pointed out that Code's flexible SDK licensing enabled FPR to maintain pricing.

"We needed a solution that would enable FPR to absorb the cost," he said. "Code has a really good licensing model for the SDK. Other SDKs would have increased our pricing, and that wasn't an option."

The CortexDecoder's speedy scanning also boosted adoption, according to Toelg.

"Code made shopping faster""there were no items to be added in the end because they could be scanned correctly," he recalled. "The whole checkout process became a lot more seamless, helping with adoption."

Closing in on 5 Stars
Fairway Market's Scan & Go Mobile Checkout App has a user satisfaction rate of 4.9 out of 5 stars. And the appeal is not limited to shoppers, store staff report greater job satisfaction. This is because they're either re-allocated to other service-oriented tasks or encouraged to engage with customers more.

ScanAndGO checkout
When done, the app tabulates the bill, and shoppers pay instantly via phone.

"Customers expect better service," Toelg offered. "They expect a nice-looking store, so many retailers want to offload staff at registers and, if they can, move staff to help customers in the aisles."

Penner added that the app ultimately pays dividends.

"App adoption rates of 5% save 400 register hours a week across a company," Penner summarized. "At 25% adoption, you've saved 400 transaction hours (based on customers/hour) in just one store alone!"

Building on savings, Toelg added that Scan & Go app users are more loyal.

"People return to that retailer because they know they won't wait in line, so you see a much higher shopping frequency," Toelg explained. "While we see similar demographics to the store overall, we also see slightly larger basket sizes compared to cash registers."

Greater loyalty, higher tickets, better customer service, connecting with shoppers""FPR delivers all of these. This is advantageous because busy shoppers won't likely return to waiting in line when the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

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