West Lawrence grocery gets new tech that lets people largely skip checkout lines
photo by: Chad Lawhorn
Grocery shopping is becoming high-tech, and a west Lawrence store is on the cutting edge of it.
The Dillons store at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive has become just the fourth store in the Dillons chain to allow customers to use new handheld technology that allows them to scan the prices of their items while putting them in their grocery carts. The technology allows customers to largely skip the traditional checkout line process.
“It is helping to create the grocery store of the future,” said Sheila Lowrie, spokeswoman for Dillons, which is part of the huge grocery store company Kroger.
Dillons introduced its new Scan, Bag, Go technology at the Sixth and Wakarusa Dillons earlier this week. Shoppers can download the Dillons app to their smartphones to access the technology, or they can use one of the speciality hand-held devices provided by Dillons near the entrance of the store.
From there, shoppers use their phones or devices to scan the barcode of items, just like they are used to doing at self-checkout stations. The Scan, Bag, Go technology gives shoppers a running total of how much they are tallying in grocery costs as they go through the store.
When done shopping, shoppers have a couple of options for paying. If they have linked a credit card to their Dillons Plus Shopper’s Card, they can hit a “pay now” button that pays the bill via credit card. An electronic receipt and barcode is sent to their phones. Shoppers show the receipt to the attendant at the self-pay station and walk out the door.
If a credit card isn’t linked to their Dillons Plus Shopper’s Card account, shoppers go to a self-checkout station and scan a barcode on the self-checkout machine that allows the self-checkout machine to read all the items that the shopper just purchased. A total is listed on the self-checkout machine, and shoppers can pay there with cash or credit. The entire process takes a few seconds rather than the several minutes involved with the traditional process of taking all the items out of the cart, scanning and bagging.
Lowrie said customer feedback has been good at the three other stores where the technology has been introduced — single stores in Topeka, Wichita and Omaha. But Lowrie declined to provide information about what percentage of shoppers are using the Scan, Bag, Go technology.
There are some issues for shoppers to keep in mind as they use the technology. They include:
• Shoppers need to take grocery bags with them while they are shopping. Lowrie said many shoppers are bringing reusable bags with them and labeling them for certain types of items. For example, the items that will be unpacked in the pantry go in one bag, all the items for the refrigerator in another, and so on.
• Buying produce may involve an extra step. Produce that is priced by the pound needs to be weighed before it is placed in the cart. Dillons has added several digital scales to the produce department. Those scales are Wi-Fi connected. Users scan a barcode on the scale, place the produce on the scale, and the scale then will send the weight to your smartphone or device.
• Shoppers will want to get familiar with digital coupons. You can download digital coupons onto your smartphone so that they can be used automatically while you shop. The device Dillons provides comes pre-loaded with more than 100 Dillons-issued coupons. Shoppers who have paper coupons can redeem those by giving them to the self-checkout attendant.
Dillons and its parent company Kroger developed the technology, but it is part of bigger “scan-and-go” trend that is hitting the grocery store industry. Grocery store chains reportedly have accelerated the pace of adopting new technology after Amazon purchased the Whole Foods chain and began experimenting with a Seattle-based store that is entirely cashier-free.
Lowrie said Dillons was not introducing the technology in the effort to get to a point where cashiers or other similar employees are eliminated from their stores’ operations. Lowrie didn’t provide specific information, but she said the technology hasn’t resulted in job losses at the Lawrence store, and some associates could be added as the store is devoting some employees to work exclusively on the project.
Other grocery chains also have launched scan-and-go technology, and companies are introducing other pieces of technology rapidly. At the National Retail Federation trade show earlier this year, grocery companies were being pitched on the idea of self-driving carts, and high-tech carts that weigh the items to help ensure that people aren’t placing items into the cart that aren’t being scanned, according to an article by the business website CNBC. Theft has been an area of concern for some companies using the scan-and-go technology. CNBC reported one grocery cart company even has introduced a model that has a flashing red light to alert store employees of when it appears a shopper hasn’t properly scanned an item.
Dillons isn’t using such smart cart technology. The company hasn’t released details of its theft prevention efforts.
While several chains are adopting the scan-and-go technology, at least one major retailer has pulled back. In May, Walmart ended its scan-and-go program, Business Insider and other publications reported. Reportedly, Walmart was having difficulty getting customers to adopt the new technology at their stores.
Lowrie said Dillons is not in a test mode of the technology, but rather is beginning to roll out the technology in phases. The Sixth and Wakarusa store is the only Lawrence store expected to have the technology this year. It will come to select stores in Wichita, Manhattan, Andover, Derby, Garden City and Hutchinson in 2018. Lowrie said that eventually all Dillons stores are expected to have the technology, but she didn’t have a timeline for when Lawrence’s three other Dillons stores may receive it.