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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Scan yourself, pay contactless: Corona is changing purchasing

Bills and coins are more and more often in the pocket when shopping. Payment is made contactless with the card. And more and more people are scanning themselves.

Shopping in Corona times is always a bit of a risk. Many consumers therefore try to keep the risk of infection as low as possible when shopping: Often by paying cashless and sometimes by scanning the goods from the shopping basket themselves instead of standing in line at the checkout. The corona crisis is in the process of permanently changing shopping.

The fastest growing year for cashless payments

According to a study by the Cologne retail research institute EHI , one billion fewer purchases were paid for with cash in 2020 than in the previous year. A total of 28 billion euros less in cash went over the counter than in 2019. The year 2020 will be recorded “as the year with the strongest growth for cashless payments in Germany” since the surveys by the EHI began 25 years ago, reported EHI expert Horst Rüter.

And the change is taking place everywhere – in the supermarkets, but also at the discounters. The discounter Aldi-Süd reported in a survey by the German press agency: “In January over 40 percent of payments were made with cards. About 60 percent of them were contactless.” Aldi Nord also reported that paying with an EC card or cell phone was becoming increasingly popular. “For many of our customers, cashless payments are convenient and hygienic.” In some cases, almost every second purchase is now paid for cashless. Edeka and Rewe also reported that cashless payments had been given a further boost by the corona pandemic.

The girocard is the main winner of the crisis . Sales with the Girocard at retail checkouts exceeded cash payments for the first time in 2020, as the EHI reported. But credit cards are also used more often when shopping. Paying with the smartphone currently plays a subordinate role. There is little to suggest that there will be a return to cash after the pandemic. In a survey conducted by the consulting company EY among 1,600 consumers in Germany, a good every fifth respondent stated that they had changed their payment behavior during the pandemic and that they wanted to continue doing so in the future.

Scanned more and more often

But paying is only part of shopping. The goods must first be selected and scanned. And when it comes to scanning, too, the trend is increasingly towards the do-it-yourself principle, because many consumers consider this to be more hygienic in the pandemic. “The topic is booming in the food trade and it is also growing steadily in drugstores”, observes EHI retail expert Frank Horst.

For a long time, retailers primarily relied on self-service checkouts at the exit, where the consumer had to take the purchase out of the shopping cart piece by piece and scan it – just like at a normal checkout. But now another solution is becoming increasingly important: apps that allow customers to scan their purchases with their own mobile phones when they put them in the shopping cart. At the exit, all the customer has to do is press the “Pay now” button on the mobile phone screen and scan the QR code that then appears at a terminal at the exit. Or he can even process the payment entirely via the smartphone.

The supermarket chain Rewe and its discount subsidiary Penny are among the pioneers of this technology. Last summer, the Rewe Group started test runs with a Scan & Go app in more than 100 Penny branches and 50 Rewe stores.

Easier for customers

“It is easier for customers to use their own mobile phone. They don’t have to get used to a new device,” said Penny project manager Lukas Fischer, describing the advantages of the system over other solutions in one of the test markets in Erkrath near Düsseldorf where the customer first scans the goods himself at the checkout.

Rewe is now in the process of rolling out the offer further. According to Rewe, the feedback from users has exceeded expectations. Scan & Go is used particularly frequently by regular customers, not primarily by young, technology-savvy people, as was originally expected. Customers should be able to scan their purchases themselves with their mobile phones in 100 Rewe stores by the spring.

Germany’s largest grocery retailer Edeka has now also integrated a Scan & Go function into the Edeka app. The experience so far has been “consistently positive”, reported the dealer. However, the offer can still only be used in a few markets. However, the retailer announced that more shops should follow soon: “After the successful test, the Scan & Go function will be used step by step by other interested independent Edeka retailers and activated for customers in their stores.” The Edeka discount subsidiary Netto is also testing payment directly with the smartphone in individual branches so that there is no need to go to the checkout.

“Basically exciting”

The discounters Aldi and Lidl have so far been more cautious about self-scanning. But that doesn’t have to be the last word. “We are always interested in innovative technologies that help make shopping even more pleasant for our customers,” said Lidl. And Aldi Nord even conceded: “The simplicity and speed of this technology makes the subject of self-checkout generally exciting for us.”

But aren’t self-service checkouts inviting shoplifting? Not necessarily, as an EHI survey in retail shows. “Most retail companies do not observe any increased thefts at the self-checkout stations or during mobile self-scanning,” reported EHI expert Frank Horst.

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