Lately, more retailers are implementing ways to increase efficiency through “self-check outs.” Since the arrival of traditional touch screen interfaces like ATMs and photo printing kiosks, there have been significant technological advances. Some of them include Redbox movies, check deposits via cell phone cameras, self check-outs in grocery stores and ordering from iPads. Most recently, a self-ordering kiosk was installed at Burger King locations nationwide.
The kiosk at Burger King is very similar to the airport self check-in kiosks. It allows customers to select the amount of pickles in the same way that passengers select the number of bags they’re checking. These kiosks seemed like a great idea, because you can be sure that your order is correct. But after observing the customers that followed me in the line, I observed a recurring theme: human error compounded by technical error.
In theory, the kiosks should reduce the need for cashiers by essentially making the customer do the work. But my observations seemed to show the opposite. Customers get frustrated and lines become longer. People end up needing to wait for an employee to come to them or somehow track them down to essentially do the check-in themselves, in turn reverting to the traditional check-out method. Efficiency is non-existent and customer satisfaction is low.
So what’s my great solution? Let the consumer go through the check-out using their cell phone. By using this personal device, there is no need to learn yet another type of kiosk. Additionally, the retailer’s cost is reduced because there is no hardware investment. Similar to an Apple iTunes account, the phone already stores your credit card information. All you have to worry about is what you’re purchasing.
Yes, retailers would have to develop an app for customers. But this is not a far-fetched idea, seeing as Starbucks already has one and Macy’s and Best Buy are in the process of developing theirs. Besides, in this day and age, cell phones are used for everything. We feel naked without them, namely because they provide us with several communication methods, including music, entertainment and tools.
This personal and highly interactive experience would open doors to retailers for even more cell phone opportunities, such as instant product information, coupons and consumer tracking. Given the possibilities out there, it’s certainly not surprising that Apple is about to celebrate their 10 billionth app download (billionth!). Personally, the phrase “There’s an app for that” never ceases to amaze me, especially now that it really is true.