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Magic Beans exec: Mobile self-checkout users spend more

September 15, 2011

Magic Beans is piloting a self-checkout app

BOSTON – A Magic Beans executive at’s Annual Summit said customers using a mobile self-checkout application spend 8 percent more than non-users on average.

During the “Owning the Decision Point: The Future of the In-store Mobile Experience” session executives from retailers such as Magic Beans, PacSun and Jos. A. Bank discussed how they are using mobile to improve  in-store experience. For baby gear retailer Magic Beans, a self checkout app has already provided promising results.

“The idea that you can skip waiting in line is very compelling,” said Sheri Gurock, cofounder of Magic Beans, Boston.

Comfort level
Magic Beans operates four retail stores in the Boston area that sell baby gear, strollers and toys.

Last year, it began piloting an app from AisleBuyer that enables mobile self-checkout in its stores.

During the Black Friday weekend last year, 42 percent of smartphone owners used the app rather than wait on line.

Additionally, 12 percent of all transactions during the holiday season were completed through the app.

“Mobile shopping is absolutely where the future is headed,” Ms. Gurock said.

Magic Beans shoppers who use the app can take a product off the shelf, scan the bar code, pay and go.

Users can also access ratings and reviews as well as detailed product information from the Web site.

“Our customers are early adopters who are educated about their purchases,” Ms. Gurock said.

The app enables Magic Beans to design intelligent cross-sell promotions.

For example, when shoppers put a Lego item in their carts, the app can serve up an offer for 50 percent of a second Lego purchse.

Other features include a GPS store locator and the ability for users to share their purchase on Facebook.

One of the biggest challenges was training staff and customers to use the app.

“People weren’t comfortable with buying via mobile last year,” Ms. Gurock said. “A lot has changed in the past year and we are hopeful adoption will be greater this year for the holiday season.”

In-store strategy
Jos. A. Bank is also using mobile in-store.

The men’s specialty retailer went live with the first stage of its mobile strategy in March in response to feedback from customers that they were looking for the retailer via their mobile devices.

“Our goal is to build engagement, drive traffic and provide an additional sales channel,” said Pete Zophy, vice president of ecommerce at Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, Hampstead, MD.

The first stage included launching a mobile app and site with mobile checkout added more recently. 

There were challenges from a technological standpoint getting the mobile strategy going.

“For any retailers looking to do this, I would recommend having the technology people start as soon as possible,” Mr. Zophy said. “It took longer than we expected.”

Going forward, the company wants to test mobile coupons to see if it can drive traffic and increase sales.

The retailer also wants to test a scan feature on its mobile app that will enable users to scan any item and pull up product information.

“We are seeing that mobile is bringing the Internet and retail together,” Mr. Zophy said. 

Cutting costs
PacSun has 800 mall-based stores selling youth inspired clothing.

The chain rolled out iPads to 300 stores this summer in an attempt to address the problem of customers coming into a store and not being able to find what they want. The iPads provide a new way for store associates to interact with customers.

Shoppers can use a PacSun app on the iPads to purchase or as a tool to shop in-store.

The fully native app has a back-end content management system so the information can be quickly updated. The commerce capability is powered by the retailer’s existing mobile site.

The ability for stores to download floor sets has reduced the company’s printing costs.

“The printing costs alone from not having to ship floor sets to the stores will pay for it,” said Tim Katz, senior online operations manager at PacSun, Anaheim, CA.

The app also features interactive features such as lookbooks.

The company plans to roll out iPads to an additional 100 stores by the holidays and to all of its stores next year.

“In such a short time, the iPads are already exceeding our ROI expectations,” Mr. Katz said.

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