BARRINGTON, Ill. -- A Jewel-Osco store here has begun the first U.S. "proof-of-concept" test of a portable laser scanning device that enables loyalty card shoppers to scan their own groceries during the shopping trip as well as receive promotional offers from the store.
Jewel-Osco, a division of Albertsons, Boise, Idaho, began the test with consumers two weeks ago, following a two-week training period for employees, according to Symbol Technologies, Holtsville, N.Y., supplier of the small-screen, wireless device, which the chain has dubbed the Jewel-Osco Preferred Card Shop 'n' Scan. An Albertsons representative did not respond to requests for comment.
The seven-year-old device, which Symbol has called the Portable Shopper System but is now describing as Customer Access Technology, has enjoyed significant success in Europe, particularly the United Kingdom, where it is employed by Safeway U.K., Sainsbury, Tesco and Waitrose, and in Italy and the Netherlands; it is used by 32 retailers at around 560 stores worldwide.
Its use so far has been primarily as a self-checkout device, but that application has never caught on in the United States, despite tests at such chains as Hannaford Bros., Stop & Shop, Sam's, H.E. Butt and Marsh. It is still undergoing tests at the Calgary Cooperative Association in Canada.
But Symbol has thought for a few years that by adding promotional delivery to the device, it would win over American consumers, and it's now putting that theory to the test. "We have a strong belief that the additional capabilities will make the difference," said Nancy Tully, vice president of corporate communications for Symbol. "We're seeing a renewed interest in it from the retailer's perspective because it offers better service and loyalty, and we're seeing it increase basket sizes."
In addition, she pointed to the proliferation in recent years of mobile devices like cell phones and PDAs that has made consumers more accustomed to using portable devices. "And a greater number of retailers have a wireless infrastructure in their stores, so adding this is not difficult and won't interrupt the store," she said.
Tully said the early returns from the Jewel-Osco test indicate that it is "getting good responses from customers." She added that the test will run until the end of the year, followed by an analysis of the results.
The Jewel-Osco test comes as Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif., begins a test of a tablet-based device that attaches to a shopping cart, and Stop & Shop, Quincy, Mass., is preparing to test a similar device from Unipower Solutions, Quincy, Mass. Both devices perform promotional functions similar to those of the Symbol device, but uses a tablet-size screen to display messages; the Unipower device includes a scanning unit.
In the Jewel-Osco test store, the Preferred Card Shop 'n' Scan device is available only to loyalty (Preferred Card) holders, who identify themselves by scanning their card with the device. As they shop the store with the device, which can be stored in a cradle attached to the cart, shoppers can scan items, creating a running tally that can be used to budget their trip.
At the end of the trip, the device can print out a bar-coded receipt, which is taken to a dedicated Shop 'n' Scan lane; there a cashier completes the transaction, scanning products that shoppers had trouble with, checking IDs for age-based products, and taking cash and checks or processing cards.
In addition, the device can display targeted messages at the "point of decision" based on what the shopper scans. "So if I scan a 40-ounce detergent, it may offer me cash off if I upgrade to 100-ounce," said Tully. "If you scan hot dogs, it can direct you to mustard." The system is also linked to a shopper's purchase history and can make offers based on previous purchases, said Tully, adding, "We will be looking at how many messages are too many."
The device will also be linked to the store's pharmacy, which will signal through the device when a prescription is ready to be picked up, or if there is an insurance problem, said Tully. The device can also be linked to a deli or one-hour photo area, which can also indicate when orders are ready.
Tully said Symbol is discussing the device with other retailers, including mass merchants, office supply chains and specialty stores.