Macy’s CEO Outlines Plans for Mobile Checkout

19. March 2018.

Dive Brief:

  • Macy’s is testing mobile barcode self-scan for accelerated checkout at some stores, and is planning to roll out the capability in at least 450 of its stores, according to Cincinnati Business Courier coverage of statements made by Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette at this week’s Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Consumer & Retail Technology Conference in New York City.

  • Using a feature in the Macy’s mobile app, shoppers would use their phones to scan barcodes on the merchandise they want to purchase, and then go through a dedicated mobile checkout line, where payment would be verified, and security tags removed from the products purchased, according to the report.

  • Gennette also told the Merrill Lynch conference audience that the checkout process is currently the retailer’s “single biggest pain point.”

Dive Insight:

Macy’s may soon join a list of several other big names in retail using mobile apps to accelerate the checkout process. That list of course includes Amazon, Walmart, Kroger and Starbucks, to name just a few.

Depending on the eventual timing and pace of Macy’s rollout, the legendary department store chain could end up having the capability available in more of its locations than any other retailer, aside from China’s JD.com, which reportedly is planning “hundreds” of unmanned convenience stores.

And therein lies a wrinkle in comparing one retailer’s mobile scan-and-checkout capability to another’s. Some may depend on mobile apps living on shoppers’ phones, while others depend on store-owned scanning devices. Also, some may be part of a broader store-of-the-future vision in which stores no longer have human employees, which may be what Amazon and JD.com are up to, while others are simply an effort to loosen up checkout line bottlenecks and convince shoppers they can get in and out of a store quickly if they need to. That’s where Macy’s offering appears to fit in.

There’s also a key difference between Macy’s and some of the other retailers that have been aggressive with mobile checkout. Those other retailers have at least one foot, and in some cases both feet, planted in the markets for groceries and/or convenience retail items (like lattes). Offering mobile self-scan and accelerated checkout can be a huge factor in helping those operators lure customers in for frequent, small purchases. However, this kind of technology has not been as quickly embraced by department stores and apparel retailers. Macy’s use of it could prove to be a major test of mobile checkout’s viability across other retail segments.

Department stores are supposed to enjoying a modest revival these days, though with its many store closings, Macy’s has a deeper hole to climb out of than others. In the retailer’s recent fourth quarter earnings report, Gennette suggested Macy’s is making progress doing that. As part of the recovery effort, he’s directing Macy’s to embrace trends like new promotions, subscription boxes, pop-ups and other new store concepts and now mobile checkout. We’ll see how well it all works, but in many cases it seems certain that in the retailer’s attempt to revive its energy and win back customers, Gennette will leave few tricks untried.

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