Apple owns the checkout at Decathlon’s sporting goods store

Discussion
Sources: NewStore, Decathlon
Apr 17, 2019
Matthew Stern

Visitors to the first full-sized U.S. location of global sporting goods brand Decathlon will find the checkout not at the front of the store, but all around them — on the iPhones carried by the store’s staff.

Decathlon’s new retail concept, located in Emeryville, CA, features RFID-enabled mobile checkout stations instead of traditional checkout lines or cash wraps, according to a press release. When a customer wants to pay, s/he approaches an associate who places the physical contents of the shopper’s basket in the checkout station, which takes stock of the items and generates a QR code. The associate then scans the code with an iPhone, adding the products to a mobile cart. The customer can then pay with Apple Pay, credit card, gift card or via a proprietary QR code-based checkout system tied to the store’s payment platform. The payment system runs exclusively on iPhones, using technology created by solution provider NewStore.

The Decathlon store features a wide array of lower-priced private labels, according to Gear Junkie. Management says it intends to expand Decathlon’s stateside brick-and-mortar presence beyond its current footprint. Decathlon’s U.S. presence currently consists of the full-sized store and one “Lab Store” it opened last year, also in California, to gather data on local customer needs and interests.

The U.S. sporting goods market that Decathlon is entering is one that is working on finding how to best leverage technology.

Dick’s Sporting Goods, for instance, recently announced plans to bring its software development team in-house, so as to build custom solutions more geared towards the needs of the company than it believes can be created by third-party developers.

Throughout the broader retail landscape, automated checkout technology has become a common objective.

Amazon’s checkout-free convenience store, Amazon Go, has emerged as the most closely-watched force in the automated checkout space, due to its ability to let shoppers pick up products and leave without any interaction with staff or a machine to trigger payment.

Others like Sam’s Club have had success with scan and go solutions, which allow customers to  scan items before putting them into their carts to circumvent a wait in the checkout line.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is having staff stationed throughout a store at mobile stations a good way to streamline the checkout process? Do you foresee any snags in operating this type of system?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Great idea – avoids the need for queue busting. "
"This doesn’t seem as groundbreaking as it first sounds. It still requires an associate, a checkout process, and a checkout location."
"Yes, this will save time and let customers avoid lines but it will not be without its issues."

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15 Comments on "Apple owns the checkout at Decathlon’s sporting goods store"


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Zach Zalowitz
BrainTrust

This is great from a convenience factor to the customer but doesn’t streamline the process, it spreads it out across multiple parts of the store. The operational snag is that people start queuing up at the checkout person wherever that may be and that sometimes causes issues with the flow throughout the store. Easier for Apple to do it in their stores from mobile devices given their uniform layout and relatively low SKU count, but doesn’t expand well to larger, multi-SKU format like a sporting goods store (or grocery).

Oliver Guy
BrainTrust

Great idea – avoids the need for queue busting. However I wonder if there could be a security challenge – given that a customer could be at the rear of the store when they pay for their goods, it could become challenging to determine what a customer has (and has not) paid for as they walk through the store and towards the exit.

Zel Bianco
BrainTrust

Yes, this will save time and let customers avoid lines but it will not be without its issues. Even restaurants are using this technology which in many cases seems to work well. I still think the Amazon Go method, once perfected, will be the one to watch as the need for store personnel is less than the Decathlon approach. As most of have said in other discussions, technology to automate the process, whether it be robots doing the scanning, ordering and even mopping up the floor to scan and go, is a good thing as long as it does not eliminate positions but places the personnel in areas where service levels and shopper satisfaction are improved because of the shift.

Steve Dennis
BrainTrust

I suggest we think about this from the human-centered design perspective AND the efficiency standpoint. Untethering checkout allows the brand to meet the customer where she is and build more of a personal connection; something many retailers don’t spend enough time thinking through. Whether it’s efficient or not will depend on the situation, and this to me is the risk. For a customer with an easy-to-carry item it streamlines the process. For customers with many products a conventional checkout system likely works better. For me, the best answer is likely a hybrid approach, which will also better handle any queuing issues.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Hybrid — good point. For all of the ubiquity I saw of this process in China, it was almost always in smaller scale operations, where the purchase was highly mobile. Larger scale purchases that will require some manhandling won’t be as easily adaptable to this process. Having said that, if I am at Home Depot buying plywood and 2x4s, wouldn’t it be great to be checked out anywhere and not have to navigate through the store with a cart that loaded up?

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

During my 14 months of living and working in Hangzhou, China I watched my associates flash their phones at scanners in taxis, restaurants and retail stores. Easy, fast, efficient … frictionless. Cash wraps are bound to go the way of the buggy whip.

Art Suriano
BrainTrust
I love the Mobile Pay concept and have always been impressed with it especially when first experiencing it in the Apple Store. However, we have to look at practicality here, and I’m not sure that the small convenience store is where the system is going to work best. C-stores tend not to be staffed with many associates and purchases tend to be a single item or only a few items. Having a convenient register station seems to work fine in these types of stores, so I do not see a tremendous benefit with mobile pay. First, I’m concerned with how many associates will be available to assist customers. One reason why the mobile pay system works so well in the Apple store is that you never have to look for an associate, they’re everywhere. However, I don’t know how well the system would work if that were not the case. I love new technology and see the many conveniences, but I think we have to also look at when it is practical, and I’m not… Read more »
Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

There are a number of operational issues around this kind of checkout, including the need for a surface upon which to fold apparel items, a printer for receipts (and gift receipts) and bags. It will be interesting to see how Decathlon handles these.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

This doesn’t seem as groundbreaking as it first sounds. It still requires an associate, a checkout process, and a checkout location. How does this impact associates’ primary duties of assisting customers pre-purchase? How many associates are there per customer, especially at peak/holiday times? What do shoppers do when there is a shortage of associates or when checkout stations are in use?

Just like other hyped new tech checkout implementations, time will tell what’s real, what works, and what is technology for technology’s sake.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

From a flow perspective it could cause queues to form in front of one or two associates, in the wrong places on the floor. From a customer service perspective, if every associate were able to check out a customer, it would certainly smooth out the flow and customers could be out the door much quicker. With help from Apple, Decathlon will soon figure out what works best and straighten it out. Have faith!

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust
This mobile approach to checkout is the future – leveraging modern devices, technology, and automation while maintaining a human touch. It’s not without challenges however – you still need the “mobile checkout station” which by itself sounds like an oxymoron. You need it for obvious reasons, e.g. customers with multiple items to be counted, receipt printing (although this can be done via email), and bagging items once finished. In theory, it should be possible to have these located throughout the store so as to be more efficient than a central checkout area. You do still need to have plenty of associates around during busy hours to prevent people from queueing up at random locations in the store where associates are standing. Still, this should be more efficient and pleasant for customers. There will also be shrink concerns as customers move throughout the store, however, if everything is RFID tagged, it should be possible to have a system in place that tracks items and knows if they have been paid for when they approach the front… Read more »
Rob Gallo
BrainTrust

Versions of this have been around for a while. At Nordstrom Rack, it works fairly well and often helps with queue management. If you get a helpful associate I’ve even seen some additional unit sales. At the Nike House of Innovation the concept doesn’t work very well (at least yet). The staff is able to direct you to a Nike Instant Checkout station, but the solution is tied to the online product catalog. If the products you are buying aren’t also sold online (a decent probability in that store), the checkout process falls apart, the associate is left breaking the bad news and the customer is left frustrated.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

The idea is to create a more convenient experience for the customer. If having mobile checkouts throughout the stores helps keeps the customers from having to wait in lines, it’s a winner. Less wait time is seen as a better CX. The snag would most likely be technology issues and staffing levels. Work out those bugs and then test the concept.

Harley Feldman
BrainTrust

Having checkout stations in the store near the customer provides better and quicker service for checkout. Using RFID will provide quicker and more accurate checkout at the stations. The consumer does not have to look for the one checkout area or wait in a longer line to pay for their items at one checkout place. The challenge for Decathlon associates is they must be near each station to provide the checkout experience which may take them away from helping customers with their questions.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust
Ken Morris
Retail industry thought leader
7 months 21 days ago

If this works as well as promised, the mobile checkout approach (similar to Apple stores) is a great way to streamline the checkout process. Mobile POS and checkout is the future of retail. One potential issue is loss prevention. What is stopping consumers from adding something to their bag as they walk through the store after they have paid? Maybe Decathlon will have a receipt checker at the door to reconcile items in the bag to the consumer’s electronic receipt (similar to Costco).

The one catch is the “cashless” approach of Decathlon. Cashless legal issues in some markets have been a hot topic recently and maybe Decathlon plans to avoid these regions.

This is the future of retail sales: more mobile stations, a BYOD mindset, not a one-to-one ratio of peripherals to mobile devices, no hardware maintenance with disposable POS devices. I applaud Decathlon’s move to think outside of the box.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Great idea – avoids the need for queue busting. "
"This doesn’t seem as groundbreaking as it first sounds. It still requires an associate, a checkout process, and a checkout location."
"Yes, this will save time and let customers avoid lines but it will not be without its issues."

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