iPhone Self-checkout Augments Traditional Point of Sale


Is the iPhone the POS System of the Future?

Whipping out my iPhone in the middle of a store to scan barcodes is almost second-nature to me now, but lately I’ve been wanting more. Sure, comparison shopping is great, and my trusty barcode scanning apps have saved me a lot of money this season, but I am ready to take this relationship to a new level.

I spent a couple harrowing hours in a Wal-Mart last week, culminating in a surreal self-checkout process where the self-checkout POS machine told me ceaselessly what to do, making me feel almost as subordinate as it did empowered. If my iPhone can scan barcodes, why can’t I just checkout from my iPhone- a machine with which I already have a close relationship?

Surely, I am not the first to ponder this question, I thought, so I headed online to do some research. Enter: Aisle Buyer, a company that believes in using technology to make shopping easier and better. They believe you should never have to wait in line and that you should have access to the best features of online shopping without sacrificing the things you love about in-store shopping.

AisleBuyer has teamed up with Boston-area retailer, Magic Beans. Magic Beans was founded in 2004 by husband and wife team Eli and Sheri Gurock. The Gurocks conceived the idea while Sheri was pregnant with her second child. They envisioned a retail experience designed for kids and optimized for parents, a place that would balance the fresh and new with the tried and true.

I downloaded the Magic Beans app, which has a clean, simple user interface and an effective scanner. But since I don’t live in the Boston area I couldn’t test the app first hand. I called their Brookline store, where owner Eli Gurock, serendipitously answered the phone. “We try to be cutting-edge and believe that self-checkout is the wave of the future,” he said. He reports no technical issues since implementing the app in August 2010, saying that customers find it very easy to use and and a lot of fun. “We’ve just come out of the very busy season,” he said, “and the app has proved very helpful in keeping lines down.”

Customers can scan items in the store to get pricing, information and reviews. They can buy straight from their phones (Android or iPhone) and simply show a confirmation screen to an employee on their way out. The implementation has taken a major role in the Magic Beans marketing plan. Customers are informed of the app through signage, radio advertising, the website—even on employee tshirts.

There are no firm numbers yet as to how AisleBuyer is affecting the bottom line, but Gurock reports that customers who checkout with the app are checking out multiple items. Long lines are one of the main reasons why customers abandon purchases, the app removes this impedance.

The AisleBuyer concept is working for Magic Beans, a company that provides plenty of employees to assist customers and answer questions. Imagine the impact it could have in larger chain stores where lines are long and help is generally unavailable?

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