On a recent Sunday afternoon, I stopped in the Whole Foods Market in New York’s Union Square. As is typical for that time and location, the store was mobbed, and it may have taken longer to check out than to find the items on my shopping list. One woman standing in front of me in the checkout line with only one item opted to discard it rather than wait to complete her purchase.
Whole Foods’ announcement earlier this month that it has partnered with Square for payment processing at select in-store venues — such as coffee bars, sandwich counters and pizzerias — should help ease some of that congestion.
Time and again, industry experts say one reason consumers bypass supermarkets for prepared foods in favor of quick-service restaurants or convenience stores is that it takes too much time to walk through the store and make a purchase.
Now, customers who want to pop into Whole Foods for a cup of coffee or a slice of pizza won’t have to worry about waiting behind someone with a cart full of groceries.
One can imagine a myriad of other uses for this type of payment system.
Down the street from the Union Square Whole Foods, The Nordstrom Rack has started sending employees with tablets to pull its customers out of the checkout line if they are paying with a credit card.
It’s not hard to see Whole Foods making use of this tactic during busy periods, or even stationing such tablets in different areas of the store.
Just want to buy a couple of steaks for dinner tonight? Why not have an employee ring up your purchase directly at thecounter. The employee could then affix a “paid” sticker to the item so you can head straight to the exit and avoid the checkout area completely.
As a side benefit, retailers who collect payment this way ask customers for an email address in order to send an e-receipt. That’s an excellent entry point to connect with customers after they leave the store.
Certain Whole Foods stores will also allow customers to use mobile devices to pay with Square Wallet, whose other functions include item and price look-up, discount discovery and order tracking. These features should especially appeal to tech-savvy Millennials accustomed to using apps like Seamless to purchase food.
With very little financial investment per store, Whole Foods’ Square deal appears ready to offer huge returns.
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