Kroger (NYSE:KR) has added infrared cameras to the tools it uses to manage checkout lines, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday (May 2). The cameras, positioned above store entrances and checkout lanes, use body heat to count customers in the store and waiting in line—data that is fed into Kroger's existing checkout management system, QueVision.
The result is that the average customer wait time at checkout is now 26 seconds, instead of a four-minute average wait in 2010, the chain said.
That's not all just cameras and counting. Kroger, the largest U.S. grocery chain, has also spent the past few years installing large digital signs above checkout areas in its 3,600 stores that indicate how many lanes are supposed to be staffed, how many are in use and how many should be open in 30 minutes. (Kroger originally intended the numbers' meaning to be secret, but customers figured out the system in short order—and started complaining to store managers when the "right" number of lanes weren't actually staffed.)
The system is fed by historical data and current transactions, but that leaves some holes in the picture—for example, how many customers shift between lanes or from a lane to self-checkout. That's where the infrared cameras can help give a better picture, since they can actually spot individual customers moving into and out of lines.
Kroger, which built the system itself, not surprisingly isn't interested in divulging details of exactly how everything is tracked. For example, it's not clear whether the system is smart enough to identify the difference between a couple with one shopping cart and two separate customers. The information for figuring that out could come from point-of-sale data, which Kroger is already using in the system. For example, identifying that many customers buy small numbers of items in the morning and at lunchtime led the chain to add 2,000 more express-checkout positions chainwide.
- See this Wall Street Journal story
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