Self Shopping: The Best Apps for DIY Shopping


Sales digitalization, e-commerce or food delivery are revolutionizing retail consumers’ purchase ways.
According to the Osservatorio Innovazione Digitale nel Retail (Retail Digital Innovation Observatory) carried out by the School of Management of Milan Politecnico, the Italian Top Retailers’ interest in the development of systems devoted to the customer experience inside stores is extremely high. 100% of stores, in fact, have adopted at least one front-end innovation (Wifi in store, evolved cashdesk or mobile POS, new payment modes, couponing and digital loyalty…) and 91% have implemented back-end solutions (monitoring customers in store, electronic invoicing, CRM and business intelligence analytics). Their target? Making processes progressively efficient and, at the same time, allowing consumers to live unique and increasingly customized experiences.

In the traditional purchase process in the store brands, above all belonging to the Food MMR (Mass Market Retailers), are introducing new apps overcoming the dematerialized fidelity card concept and adding the possibility of directly carrying out self shopping in the store via smartphone.

An immediate advantage for the consumer is being able to skip the queue at the cashdesk, saving up considerable time and enjoying a new shopping experience.

For the retailer, it implies reducing staff cost at the cashdesk and the number of cashdesks in a progressive way.

We have carried out a little survey on apps offered by national brands like Coop, Tigros, Despar, PAM or Iper, just to mention a few and have found many good ideas and some limits to these apps.

Among the good ideas available today in some MMR stores:

  • “smart” shopping list: some apps allow making up a hybrid list with generic items (e.g. “bread” or “apples”), together with specific products (“Citrus fruit Yomo yoghourt”) which identify the single product EAN in assortment in a given point of sale the user has previously declared as his favourite
  • contextually while shopping, users can tick specific products on the “hybrid” list by reading barcodes or getting them into their digital trolley (as in e-commerce) as well as generic products the list “learns” to match with specific products, to simplify users’ lives in future purchases
  • voice: some apps offer voice search, both when shopping and also while composing our shopping list and examine the example of the Alexa phenomenon by Amazon, which is revolutionalizing the way of making lists and probably also web search

Let us have a look at the limits:

  • search filters: in some cases, the number of hierarchy levels for products is eccessive and accurately reflects a hierarchical structure of goods categories of the store item data: the consumer who is simply looking for a certain product often remains confused in front of a too articulated tree diagram
  • digital fliers which are not so digital: in many cases, the flier in the app is just a pdf file which does not allow highlighting the products consistent with the customer’s purchase behaviour, searching for the product by name or adding it to the shopping list with a click/tap

These are some future scenarios we contemplate in front of us:

  • the perfect store: nowadays, being able to know real-time availability of a given item in a specific store is a “dream” for consumers, but this dream might soon come true: it would be like making the store walls “transparent”, developing already existing processes like “click and collect” or “home delivery” for products booked from our self-shopping app and making the purchase experience increasingly “no-channel
  • seamless payment systems: the continuous evolution of payment modes allows autonomously paying for goods from our smartphone, without needing to stop at the cashdesk or recounting items in our trolley

These new purchase modes will end up needing a redesign of store spaces, overcoming the traditional concept of cashdesk barrier and most probably also the way in which our trolley works, as shown in this video:

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