Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Innovations in shopping, not quite two steps forward

When Oyster arrived on London's Underground it was almost universally loved. For me the biggest improvement was the 'tap and go' functionality it introduced. How often had you been stuck behind someone at the barrier fumbling in their pocket for their ticket? Seemingly unable to feed their ticket into the barrier? Or, my personal favourite, a person standing there gormlessly waiting for the barriers to open having put their ticket in the machine. You have to take the ticket with you!

Not only did Oyster make my passage through the barriers faster. More importantly it did the same for everyone else. During rush hour you could have a decent improvement to your journey time. There is nothing more irritating than standing in a queue on your way to work.

I know Paywave has been around for a while, but my bank here in Australia has only just issued me with a Paywave card. Over the past few weeks I've been taking every opportunity to use it. Which isn't easy as Sydney's retailers seem to be slow adopters.

I'm a big fan. It is doing for shopping what Oyster's tap and go did for the underground back in 2003. When you are in a queue at the checkout; it seems to me that it's not the scanning of the items that takes time, but the exchange of money. From my unofficial survey cash is quickest, followed by chip and pin and finally we have the people that still like to sign for their credit card transactions.

Paywave is significantly faster than all the current alternatives. You'd think it shouldn't be a lot quicker than chip and pin, but it is.

There are the naysayers out there who are talking up the security concerns, but I don't buy their arguments. I of course reserve the right to change my mind if I'm the victim of uncompensated fraud.

One step forward.

Again, I know Australia has been a slow adopter, but self service checkouts have had a big push over the last six months. They are not just appearing in city centre outlets where you grab a few items, but in more suburban locations where the weekly shop is done too.

I use them every week. They are quicker than waiting in line for the manned checkouts and as supermarkets seek to cut costs are undoubtedly here to stay. The only thing that bugs me is that there is nowhere to put your trolley, which makes the whole experience quite awkward. Just as the manned checkouts are designed so that your trolley 'flows' through with you. They need to come up with an ergonomic solution of where to put your trolley when you are using the self service checkouts.

Only half a step forward.

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