New way to shop

Recently, a bunch of reports and articles have popped up about a new way to shop at stores. It requires using your smartphone with either an app found in the Apple App Store or with small hardware add-ons to your phone. Basically, the idea is that you go to the grocery store and your phone will be able to read the bar code of the items you pick up and adds them to an online shopping cart. When you finish shopping you just checkout and pay through your phone with a credit card.

The idea is not brand new anymore and apparently it’s already being used in Japan. Also, you can buy movie tickets online here in North America and have the bar code sent to your smartphone via text message which will be scanned right from your phone’s screen. However, reading a bar code and creating a shopping cart exactly like the one you have in front of you in the store and then being able to pay for it through your phone is really the next step in using technology to shop.

What this does is it allows shoppers to instantly look at consumer reviews and possible substitutes for every item they scan on their phone. This makes for a better informed decision by the customer. Advertising like in-store deals can be placed within the App which is more likely to be viewed by the customer than a store flyer or even signage because the customer will be looking directly at a small area (screen of a phone) when they scan an item. However, the main advantage that everyone is talking about with this new way to shop is the time saved by not having to wait in line to pay.

This is where this idea gets sketchy for me though. Since you are scanning and paying by yourself as you walk through the store, no one actually ensures that you paid for everything you are leaving with. This means that a store employee will have to look at your receipt (which is on your phone) and at your shopping bags to make sure you’re not stealing anything. Doing this will inevitably lead to lineups. In fact, it will likely be the same length of a lineup that you would have to stand in if you were to shop in the current way. Clearly this idea needs to be more developed and thought out before it becomes main stream.

There are some definite opportunities here for companies to come up with a solution to this idea so it can become a main stream way to shop. There can be several possible solutions for this like RFID chips that die out after you leave the store or maybe even some in-store membership program that automatically recognizes what you bought. The ideas for solving this challenge can get very long but, hopefully someone will figure it out so that this idea really does make the shopping experience better and faster.