Has Google solved the problem of long lines at grocery checkouts?
Grocers have tried plenty of tech solutions over the years to shorten the time customers spend in line. But the latest wait-shortening technology is coming not from an individual grocer, but Google’s crowdsourced data.
Google Maps is implementing functionality that uses anonymous crowdsourced location data to let users see estimated wait times at grocery stores, according to Thrillist. Google will roll the technology out before Thanksgiving. The tool for determining the wait at grocery stores is the second of two data-driven crowd size-gauging tools. The first, which launched Tuesday, allows users to determine what the average wait time will be for a table at a given restaurant.
Grocer strategies for limiting customer frustration with lines have taken many forms. Some have tried distraction, installing digital signage to make the time in line pass more quickly. Others, like Hy-Vee, have tried data-driven “traffic lights” that gauge the business of each line and signal each customer to the fastest checkout.
Then there’s Amazon.com, which planned to do away with the grocery line entirely with its automated Amazon Go concept. While some speculate that Amazon may fold the checkout-free functionality into Whole Foods, Amazon Go remains in its beta phase and its official launch has been delayed indefinitely due to technical challenges, according to The Motley Fool.
Amazon’s other big line-killer has also run into problems. As AmazonFresh’s recent exit from numerous ZIP codes seems to indicate, grocery delivery is a tough nut to crack at scale, and may require some big technological leaps to be feasible in many markets. So, long lines at store checkouts may remain a reality for some time to come.
Studies have indicated that wait times exceeding four minutes sometimes lead shoppers to avoid stores at certain times, leave a store or even, in rare cases, stop visiting a store altogether.
The Google Maps feature may serve as an aid to grocers by instructing shoppers to avoid peak shopping times. However, the service may also serve to direct shoppers to competitors where waits are shorter.
- New Google Feature Tells How Long You’ll Wait for a Table at Restaurants – Thrillist
- Can digital signage make wait times less annoying? – RetailWire
- Will data-driven checkout get shoppers through the line faster? – RetailWire
- Checkout time limit around four minutes – RetailWire
- Whatever Happened to Amazon Go? – The Motley Fool
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you expect a meaningful number of shoppers to take advantage of this new Google Maps feature? If so, how might it affect their shopping behavior? How should retailers prepare for technology that gives shoppers a clearer idea of when it’s best to shop?