NRF: Is video analytics the solution to ending long checkout lines?

Discussion
Photo: RetailWire
Jan 14, 2019
Matthew Stern

Customer disdain for standing in long lines can lead them to leave the store before making a purchase or even avoid entering a store entirely. A session yesterday at NRF’s Big Show  explored how the European convenience chain, Rossmann, has reduced wait times with the implementation of a predictive video analytics solution, which aims to stop lines before they form.  

The solution used by Rossman incorporated facial recognition technology through its CCTV system to identify and count entering and exiting customers. Stores identify the age and gender of shoppers and, in conjunction with statistics on average dwell time, determine when a given customer is likely to head to the checkout. The system sends text messages to associates or makes PA announcements when customers, statistically speaking, are likely to be on the way to check out their purchases.

Rossman has found that wait times of eight minutes of more have been virtually eliminated, while those more than five minutes in length have been cut by some 70 percent.

When using facial recognition is used, however, retailers will undoubtedly face shopper concerns about privacy. The service provider, Ultinous, claims that while its system is able to recognize repeat customers, it does so without personally identifying them.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How important is controlling checkout line length to customer satisfaction with stores? What solutions, human and technological, do you think hold the greatest potential for addressing this pain point?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Regardless of the methods employed, it is incumbent upon the retailer to leverage the insights derived from these methods."
"Long checkout lines can be a conversion killer. Findings ways to reduce/minimize checkout lines will improve conversion rates and customer experience."
"Retailers should be looking at ways to remove the queue all together as opposed to managing the queue. "

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12 Comments on "NRF: Is video analytics the solution to ending long checkout lines?"


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Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Regardless of the method used to cut down the time a customer has to wait in line, do it. A customer may tolerate a long line the first couple of times, but this may play into their decision to continue to do business with you.

Standing in line is a waste of time — and is potentially bad for business as some customers bail and others are reluctant to return. I remember a few years ago when Walmart made a commitment to its customers during the holiday season that all check-out lines would be staffed. The message was, “We don’t want you to have to wait.”

Whether the answer is keeping every lane open or a digital AI type of solution, the focus on giving a customer a better experience, which in this case is eliminating long lines, is imperative to a customer experience that will bring people back.

Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Long checkout lines can be a conversion killer. Findings ways to reduce/minimize checkout lines will improve conversion rates and customer experience. However, queue management solutions have been around for years and the type described in the article in just one example of a more current approach.

Notwithstanding the privacy concerns rightly mentioned article, retailers should seriously investigate technologies as well as their own policies for how they facilitate the sales transaction process with shoppers. One of the best ways to reduce checkout friction is to stop it before it occurs. Enabling shoppers to pay for purchases from mobile hand-help POS devices throughout the store can significantly minimize long-lines at check out.

The other area that retailers should re-examine is their own procedures at checkout. Very often, cashiers are required to solicit e-mail addresses and present credit card or loyalty card offers to customers checking out — this activity can greatly slow check-out lines and negatively impact shopper experience.

Adrian Weidmann
BrainTrust

In-store traffic counting technologies have been available for years. Face detection is one of the latest methods. Regardless of the methods employed, it is incumbent upon the retailer to leverage the insights derived from these methods. Some big-box retailers still don’t measure their store traffic. Others haven’t been measuring until very recently, while some have experimented with this technology more than 15 years ago and decided that it wasn’t worth pursuing. We’ve all been inside retailers that have 20+ cash wraps and only 2 are open. Observation and management are the two quickest and cheapest solutions to this problem. If customers are more than 3 people deep in any given line, managers should open cash wraps with on sight staff as required. It’s NOT that hard folks!

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

It is critical, especially with younger shoppers. Long lines equal dissatisfaction — end of story. The problem with the Rossman solution is that it assumes there is excess labor capacity available to run the registers. The time may come when we start using a new retail math in which higher labor costs aren’t seen as a cost item, negatively impacting a balance sheet and/or margins, but rather as a way of improving customer satisfaction, reducing shrink and fixing out-of-stocks.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

Obviously, long lines are danger. Consistent visits with long lines are deadly. I’m okay with what Rossman can do for the customer. Perhaps an additional solution is management’s ever-presence on the floor, and armed with knowledge of traffic patterns coming in the store, have staff ready to operate additional lines. Both ways, we have eyes on the customers.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

By the way, aren’t most customers already on camera in most stores (and everywhere) today? I think most know it anyway.

Shelley E. Kohan
BrainTrust

Retailers should be looking at ways to remove the queue all together as opposed to managing the queue. Working with many queue management systems, it takes a culture on the store teams’ part of actioning the data and, even in the best environments, there is typically inconsistency in performance across a portfolio of stores. Retailers should be investing in technologies that eliminate the check out transactional process and create a seamless payment method such as digital wallet, grab-n-go, mobile check out or mobile payments.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

Long lines do far more than just cause customers to leave rather than wait. Consistently having long wait times means people find another place to shop. There are many possible tools from a good front-end manager to using technology. Regardless of how a retailer cuts wait time it is noticed and appreciated by its customers.

Herb Sorensen
BrainTrust

Kroger pretty well solved this problem years ago, keeping all lines at 3 or less. Now that others are getting around to it, Amazon has introduced no checkout lines in Amazon Go. This is the logical extension of their “1-Click” online checkout, to the bricks space. I’m sure it will show up by and by in Whole Foods — and other of their bricks stores. Meanwhile, Kroger is partnering with Microsoft on an initiative that looks more likely to sweep the non-Amazon industry. Whew! 😉

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

If Rube Goldberg ran a grocery….

While I have nothing against this, I’ll bet a can of Spam that in the vast majority of cases the reason lines are (too) long is because not enough staff has been scheduled. If a store strives to provide the best service possible (within reason), this will have value, if their approach is to cut first and ask questions later, then it won’t.

John Karolefski
BrainTrust

Let’s keep this simple. The solution to long checkout lines is not a predictive video analytics solution, and it is not cashierless checkout. The solution is opening up more checkout lanes and hiring more cashiers.

Cate Trotter
BrainTrust

The stats sound really good but are video analytics really necessary to make this happen? Could the same thing be achieved through better communication and management of staff? Is it really that difficult to see a lot of people enter the store and realise that you may need to put some staff on the tills to serve them? The tech is all well and good but perhaps retailers need to look at their operations first to see if it really would benefit them.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Regardless of the methods employed, it is incumbent upon the retailer to leverage the insights derived from these methods."
"Long checkout lines can be a conversion killer. Findings ways to reduce/minimize checkout lines will improve conversion rates and customer experience."
"Retailers should be looking at ways to remove the queue all together as opposed to managing the queue. "

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