Cash tills set to be relegated to history
Picture a queue in your favourite store, and then yourself bypassing it by paying for goods using your smartphone.
Or scanning sandwiches during a lunch break at a self-service checkout instead of lining up so you have more time to enjoy your food.
These or similar payment methods are predicted to spread across the UAE as more stores reduce reliance upon traditional checkouts, introducing mobile point of sale devices (MPOS) or even encouraging customers to download a smartphone app linked to a stored credit card to complete their purchases.
Such systems are imminent or already trialling elsewhere, says Mark Thomson, the director of retail and hospitality solutions for Emea at Zebra Technologies.
The British firm helps retailers implement smarter trading solutions and predicts the UAE will increasingly embrace advanced payment methods.
In the case of Apple stores, they have for a while; cashiers made way for roaming MPOS-equipped employees who process customer payments, e-mailing the receipt.
Mr Thomson, who discussed retail technology at the World Retail Congress in Dubai, believes this and other methods could be enhancing the wider UAE shopping experience soon.
“A lot of retailers should look at their stores and think ‘how could we achieve the way Apple does it?’ where you in effect have a one-to-one appointment with a member of staff’,” he says.
“There are some companies looking at putting the solution into all types of retail, where I take my phone, use an app to scan bar codes and simply pay.”
Mr Thomson says some retailers outside the UAE are either completely digital or card-based.
“They don’t have cash handling,” he adds. “It costs them less to do that and staff can interact in a different way. You might design your whole checkout in a different way or not have one, just staff with mobile devices around the store or payment points anywhere.”
Another development beginning to infiltrate the UAE is self-scanning checkouts, which are already prevalent in many UK supermarket chains.
Abu Dhabi’s Souq Planet, meanwhile, describes itself as the first “digital supermarket” in the Middle East. It is pioneering a self-scanning system where registered customers use a smartphone or store device to scan bar codes as they shop.
“A software application allows you to scan using your phone,” explains Mr Thomson. “Once you get through scanning all your products, whether that’s through a device the store provides or your own, you don’t have to put it onto a counter for somebody else to scan and re-pack.”
At the checkout, you tap a button on the device that signals “end of shop” and produces a bar code.
“You scan that at the checkout as a representation of your total spend and go through the payment process,” says Mr Thomson. “That might be at a standard checkout where you hand over the scanning device and they take payment.”
The Virgin Megastore Mena president Nisreen Shocair advocates replacing checkouts with advanced payment methods. The brand operates both MPOS and fixed cashiers.
“This idea you would have a cash till … I’m surprised we have them still. They take up so much space,” she says.
“We piloted a year ago, maybe two, the idea that you could pay anywhere in store. The customer still wants to go to the cashier, but we’re going to get to the point where customers checkout on the spot. Some do contactless payment. Everybody is starved for time; they just want to get what they want.”
The UAE chain Home Centre recently rolled out MPOS at its remodelled flagship Mall of the Emirates outlet, where staff bring a device to a customer to fulfil payment.
Its chief executive Médéric Payne cites two clear advantages for shoppers and stock logistics.
“MPOS has enabled customers to look around the store and complete their purchase in an instant,” he says. “Our staff can process the order through card payments right by the product, rather than taking the customer to a till in the corner.”
Mr Payne says MPOS also gives the retailer real-time stock visibility in the warehouse and stores, allowing it to book delivery dates for the customer by linking with its delivery management system.
“It also has the ‘single swipe’ feature for taking card payments and loyalty cards in the same device,” he adds.
“This way the staff remains with the customer throughout their shopping journey, giving them the opportunity to cross-sell through linking other products.”
That is music to the ears of Mr Thomson, who sees more brands enlisting such technology as physical retailing competes with online.
“We’re not going to stop shopping. We may change the methodology, but convenience and price is key,” he says.
“We talk about experience and digital transformation, but at the end of the day what do retailers want? To sell more and to do it at a lower cost. Operational improvements and how they achieve them … the end result is a better experience for customers.”
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Updated: April 16, 2017 04:00 AM