Invisible barcodes to solve slow checkout complaints

Shoppers want a checkout experience that matches their contemporary lifestyle: fast. A recent study found that 88 percent of U.S. adults want faster transactions at retail stores, while 50 percent cited slow checkout speeds and long lines as their biggest complaints.

The study—conducted online by Harris Poll and commissioned by Digimarc—found that 45 percent of those who avoid self-checkouts do so because of technical or barcode scanning difficulties, and 61 percent agreed that clerks are more focused on scanning items and less on customer satisfaction. The study also found that shoppers want to use their smartphones to scan product packaging to get more information.

              View full Digimarc/Harris Poll infographic here.

"Checkout is the last opportunity a retailer has to make a positive impression on a shopper," said Larry Logan, chief marketing officer of Digimarc. "Asking customers to endure a lengthy wait to process and pay for their order can spoil what may have otherwise been an enjoyable shopping experience.

"Retail leaders can make critical gains in perceived value, customer satisfaction and loyalty by eliminating scanning inefficiencies to enable faster checkout speeds. And, with less effort and concentration required by the cashier, he or she can place the focus on engaging with each customer and thus increase the retailer's brand relationship with its shoppers."

Digimarc makes an invisible barcode system using digital watermarking that can cut scanning times by as much as 50 percent, according to the company. Last month, Walmart revealed that it is testing the technology, which puts as many as 200 invisible barcodes on the outside of a package to make scanning easier.

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in an Instagram post: "Technologies like invisible watermarking could transform the way our customers check out." 

The technology was previously demonstrated at the 2014 National Retail Federation's Annual Convention and Expo, where it broke the Guinness World Record for fastest time to scan 50 items, according to this YouTube video.

The top 120 global high-volume retailers could realize aggregate labor cost savings in excess of $500 million annually for a single-item-per-minute improvement in scanning speed at checkout, Logan told FierceRetailIT. A typical grocer processes 24 to 26 items per minute.

"Now every item can present its own unique internet identity. The package becomes the portal to the internet of everything," he said. From basic information to seasonal and personalized offers, the package-as-barcode turns every item into an opportunity for direct engagement.

In addition, a recent Cisco Research Report showed that 73 percent of shoppers said they would scan products for special, customized offers and promotions in the store.

"By embedding the Digimarc barcode, retailers and brands are creating an invisible trigger right at the fingertips of the shopper in the aisle to make this possible, at virtually no additional cost. And when consumers scan a product, it's an unambiguous signal of intent versus random, interruptive offers such as those delivered through beacons. That's pure gold from a CRM perspective," Logan said.

For more:
-See this Digimarc press release
-See this Digimarc infographic
-See this Digimarc white paper

Related stories:
Get ready for old coupon barcode retirement
Walmart's holiday 'checkout promise' to open every register
Walmart drives growth in self-checkout
Kroger adds infrared cameras to keep checkout lanes moving
84% of shoppers would use phones for small, medium purchases

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