"The checkout is especially important for the shopping experience"

Interview with Mark Thomson, Retail Industry Director EMEA, Zebra Technologies Corporation


A lot of companies have exhibited on EuroCIS 2015 who aim to provide complete solutions to enable retailers and customers alike to take part in true omnichannel commerce. One of them is Zebra Technologies. Mark Thomson, Retail Industry Director EMEA, talks about the current trends in the retail industry and why it is especially important for retailers today to empower the salespeople in the store.
Photo: Mark Thomson; copyright: iXtenso/Stöter

Mark Thomson: "At the moment, retailers are again starting to think more about their staff." © iXtenso/Stöter

Mr. Thomson, what are the most important trends in retail at the moment?

One major trend in retail still is enabling the customer by using self service, self checkout and self scanning solutions. We register continued growth in that space – more and more customers want to use either their own smartphone or a store-owned device to scan the products as they go around the store.

At EuroCIS, we are showing for example the MC-18, a new scanning device to enhance the self-service shopping experience in the store. Customers can scan items as they shop to receive discount coupons, suggestions for complementary items and keep a running tally for fast checkout. And unlike with their own smartphone, shoppers will experience fast and dependable scanning.

The customers can not only see how much they are spending or which promotions they can get for the products, but they can also save a significant amount of time at the checkout, because they don’t have to take their shopping out of their baskets and scan it again. This really means a process improvement which also benefits the retailer, because there are no long queues at the checkout.
Photo: Scanner; copyright: iXtenso/Stöter

With the MC-18, customers can scan items as they shop and keep a running tally for fast checkout. © iXtenso/Stöter

So the checkout is especially important for the shopping experience?

Yes, it is. The checkout is one of the points where the customers are very sensible when it comes to errors and problems of the retailer. I am talking for example about long queues at the cash register. This is why we are also showing our new slot scanner DS 7708, which is not a classic laser scanner but an imager – a camera in a box. This means it can scan all the same barcodes other scanners can. But it is also able to read 2D barcodes, QR codes and even barcodes from a mobile phone, for example when the customer wants to use a voucher. This gives retailers the possibility to just use a single scanner at the checkout rather than using different devices for scanning different codes, resulting in shorter waiting periods for the customer.

You are also showing a lot of products here which are designed to be used by the employees in the store. Why do you put so much emphasis on enabling the staff?

Retailers are again starting to think more about their staff. Despite them still being called salespeople, they are often working more on the operational side, stocking the shelves and other such tasks. A lot of retailers are thinking about how to turn their staff back into “real” sales assistants, because the staff is one of the most expensive assets a retailer has and thus he has to put it to good use.

At the moment, any customer who enters the store with a mobile phone has more information on the different products at their hands than the employees do. The goal here is to put that information in the hands of the staff as well. If you empower your staff, they become proper salespeople, engaging with customers more and thus improving the customer experience.
Photo: Scanner for checkout zone; copyright: iXtenso/Stöter

The DS 7708 gives retailers the possibility to just use a single scanner at the checkout rather than using different devices for scanning different codes. © iXtenso/Stöter

Here we are actually entering another big topic of retail today, because empowering the salespeople and giving them the right devices to have all the relevant information at their fingertips can also be a big step on the way to omnichannel commerce. For example, if the product the customer wants to buy is not in stock, it is the employee who can facilitate the order for the customer and have the product sent to the store for collection or perhaps even directly to his home.

Customers show a great interest in those additional services. The salesperson can offer all this different options in direct interaction with the customer, which obviously makes for a better shopping experience than the customer having to do all this by himself on his smartphone. We see omnichannel commerce as being driven by a variety of things, among which back-of-store, front-of-store, customer engagement and staff enablement are the most important.

How were those trends reflected at your booth here at EuroCIS in Düsseldorf?

Zebra’s booth at EuroCIS 2015 was really not about any one product. The way we have set up here this year derives from the feedback we have gathered from retailers. They want to know what steps they have to take to achieve true omnichannel commerce. This is why we are showing on the one hand the fulfillment side – how do you get products in the store, how do you manage your inventory – and on the other hand we are showing the in-store solutions which are all about how to engage customers and how to interact with them.

Interview: Daniel Stöter, EuroCIS.com