A few weeks back, Continental airlines introduced a “paperless boarding pass” in Boston airport that allows for passengers to get their boarding passes sent to their blackberries, cell phones or PDAs, which can then be scanned at the point-of-entry.
Retailers are starting to introduce hand-held devices as well. Last fall, Stop And Shop (SandS)introduced a portable scanner, a hand-held device that allows customers to scan items as they shop and shows them discounted items as they walk through the store.
I tried using this hand-held at my local Stop and Shop. The pitch to the consumer was that the device would reduce my checkout time. Rather than having to scan each item and wait at the check-out counter, I could just pay and go, since I had already pre-scanned each item using the device before getting to the counter.
At first, it certainly felt cool to be walking around the shop with the device. But I found that the device was not a big time-saver and actually increased my overall time at the store. For instance when buying produce, the device required me to bag the produce, weigh it, print out a sticker with a bar code/price and then scan the bar code. Not to mention, that I needed to find a garbage bin for the now useless sticker. Additionally, the bar codes on some items were hidden within the packaging (probably by design) so it took a while find and scan these. Between these and other problems, I stopped using the device after a couple of tries.
While SandS was not successful with me, it would be interesting to know how successful these innovations on a larger scale for both firms. For any new customer-centric technology, success will depend on whether it actually helps the customer. In this case, it clearly fell short.