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Western Beef accelerates integration of automated customer experience technology []

Western Beef Supermarket recently accelerated plans to integrate Toshiba Self Checkout Systems at its locations after a successful piloting, continuing with five additional stores in New York. These systems are designed to improve the customer experience by reducing wait times.

As a benefit to Western Beef, the shift to automated checkouts will reduce staff and help the supermarket keep costs down despite minimum wage hikes. Many of the store’s personnel will be reassigned to support customers and improve customer service satisfaction.

Nearly half of the supermarket’s customers have used the automated checkout, and the system can be appealing to consumers who prefer to avoid human interaction and go at their own pace. Younger consumers who are tech savvy and prefer to manage a process on their own will prefer the option, which allows them to have greater control over the experience.

While the advantages for the store are reduced labor costs, there are some challenges facing this transition. First, the opportunity for point-of-sale impulse purchases is reduced. Sales of items like candy bars, magazines and beverages, which are strategically positioned near the cash register, will suffer as space around automated checkouts is limited. Frustration with scan and price errors, item lookups and staff overrides can also be a negative experience without someone on hand to solve the problem. Lastly, loss prevention will need to be better managed as some consumers may inadvertently miss scanning an item or deliberately place more expensive items into their bag without scanning the UPC.

As I see it, the consumer experience has shifted dramatically toward screen-based ordering. Amazon has made online ordering and delivery a breeze. UberEats, Door Dash and Grubhub have made online restaurant ordering simple and convenient. Netflix and Hulu have created a stay-at-home experience more enjoyable with a vast variety of on-demand entertainment.

With more younger consumers opting to leverage mobile devices to order everyday items, the routine will push them to experiment and likely enjoy the automated checkout systems. I would expect to see continued adoption of technology and automation in the food and foodservice industry as it catches up to other sectors of business in becoming less labor intensive.

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