In the never-ending effort to attract customers, supermarkets trumpet straight-forward virtues such as selection, quality and price.
But when they talk about another attribute — convenience — the topic requires some nuance.
There’s the time it takes to get to and from the store.
And there’s the time it takes to get through the store, especially the checkout line.
The industry’s latest solution to that perennial bottleneck is an app that lets customers use their smartphone for scanning prices and paying for their purchase.
The first store in Lancaster County to test the app is the Giant at Lancaster Shopping Center on Lititz Pike, where the app went into service on Tuesday. Giant's proprietary version of the app is named ScanIt Express.
“It’s very convenient to scan your groceries with your phone as you go,” said Chris Brand, Giant spokesman.
Here’s how it works: Customers scan an item’s bar code with their phone, then put it in a bag in their cart.
When they’re done shopping, they tap “checkout,” enter their PIN, select a method of payment and proceed to the ScanIt checkout line.
The ScanIt line’s sign turns green, indicating payment has been received. A receipt prints out and checkout is finished.
The goal of Giant’s app is saving time. Customers no longer need to unload items from their cart, scan them, bag them, place them back in the cart and pay.
“We’re interested in simplifying the shopping experience so customers can get back to what matters most in their life,” said Brand.
Giant is the county’s largest supermarket business with 12 stores here.
It picked the Lancaster Shopping Center store for the pilot program here because, at 75,000 square feet, it’s the biggest and busiest Giant in the county.
Customers can download the app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. They’ll also need to have a payment method such as PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay, Google Pay, a credit card or a debit card on their phone, and a Giant Bonus Card.
Giant’s major competitors here are testing other versions of the app or thinking about doing so, according to company representatives.
For instance, Wegmans is testing the app at two stores in Rochester, New York. Weis hopes to begin testing the app sometime next year at locations to be announced.
“We are considering it,” said Lin Weaver, an owner of Shady Maple, the county’s biggest supermarket by square footage. “I have been watching this for a year now. The concern is, it is not theft-proof.”
Debi Drescher, a spokeswoman for Stauffers of Kissel Hill Fresh Foods, likewise said the app is under consideration. A Whole Foods spokesman did not respond to emails seeking comment.
Streamlining or eliminating the checkout process has been a goal of supermarkets for years.
To that end, some stores have introduced do-it-yourself scanning and bagging areas and store-supplied hand-held scanners. They’ve even eliminated the store visit altogether (i.e., home delivery or curb-side pickup).
Giant also was the first here to offer a store-supplied, hand-held price scanner. That local test site in 2010 was the Lancaster Shopping Center store too.
Carlisle-based Giant is testing the smartphone-scanner technology at seven stores in Philadelphia and southcentral Pennsylvania, including the one here. Giant has 182 stores overall, including its Giant Heirloom Market stores, Martin's stores and a former Musser's in Lebanon that will open as a Giant on Friday.
Brand said it’s too early to say whether Giant will equip all of its stores to handle the ScanIt app.
The decision will hinge on customer usage and customer feedback, said Brand.