Stop & Shop is scaling its Scan-It Mobile initiative, an Android/iPhone-based version of its original handheld Personal Shopping System (PSS). At the end of October, the supermarket extended the app to 42 more stores throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Leveraging a smartphone’s embedded camera as a scanner, the Scan-It app allows customers to scan & bag their groceries as they shop, thereby expediting the checkout process. As a regular Stop & Shop customer and iPhone user (not to mention analyst covering PSS), I was interested to test the Scan-It app first hand. I got that opportunity this past weekend while doing my weekly grocery shopping.
Overall, the performance of the Scan-It app on my “old” iPhone 3GS is impressive. In most cases, the camera scanned with approximately 90-95% of the efficiency as compared to the dedicated Scan-It solution, which I have been using on a weekly basis since it was introduced several years ago.
The app is not flawless, however. On several occasions I noticed the camera struggling to focus, delaying the scan. That said, I also experienced scans that occurred with the same speed as the purpose-built Scan-It solution. The only other shortcomings I noticed were the ergonomics of using the iPhone as a scanner and the hassle (relative to the dedicated Scan-It solution) of repeatedly scanning multiple purchases of the same item. I suspect this latter issue could be addressed through the addition of some kind of quantity-input feature in an updated version.
Considering the solid performance of the Scan-It Mobile solution, PSS apps such as Scan-It could represent a threat to the business of dedicated, purpose-built PSS hardware suppliers. By offering PSS via a smartphone app, retailers essentially eliminate the hardware investment required to deploy PSS, thereby enabling PSS to be deployed across a store chain with relatively little added expense. While ensuring data security—both for the customer and the enterprise—remains a critical issue, we expect more retailers seeking PSS will evaluate smartphone apps in addition to dedicated solutions.