Columnists

Why self-checkout tech can transform Kenya retail services

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While queues at the markets are important, people are increasingly busier and it is important to make their shopping livelier. FILE PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NMG

Kenya’s retail sector is attractive to local and foreign investors. Despite the disruptions and supply chain issues across the world, the Boston Consulting Group, the Future of Traditional Retail in Africa report estimates that supermarkets and tier one retail will account for between 25 percent and 35 percent of all sales in Kenya.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the sector has contributed upwards of nine percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the past five consecutive years.

Recent technological advancements have further heightened the enormous promise within retail. The rise of e-Commerce and e-Mobility has made shopping easier than ever, and heightened interactions between customers and retailers.

Retailers have a wealth of digital data at their fingertips that can accurately identify customer pain points and create solutions, giving rise to services that enhance the overall shopping experience.

However, even as its growth surpasses expectations, the retail sector is still grappling with several issues that need to be addressed.

Customers are time-poor, socially conscious and more experience-oriented than ever. Kenyan retailers are operating in competitive environments and facing identical challenges.

A major concern faced by most brands, and the customers they serve, is the long queue at the checkout counter. Increasingly, customers have busier schedules and less time to shop – making convenience a key consideration.

We recognise that a queue can act as the doorway to a business. It is an experience that can shape a customer’s view of a brand, making new visitors enter a store or loyal shoppers leave.

Self-checkout services can enhance convenience and time effectiveness by removing queues altogether.

In most developed and select developing economies, retailers have rolled out self-checkout services to ease the tensions caused by long queues.

Ongoing surveys done on the effectiveness of self-checkout systems have found a tremendous increase in customer satisfaction.

As a developing country, Kenya has a vibrant consumer base that is continuously adapting to modern technology.

A huge chunk of the population, mostly people aged below 40 years, is open to new technology and open to new innovations.

Sectoral adaptation to new technologies will be a great way to stay in touch with current and expected consumer behavioural changes.

After a decade of heavy investment, in a country where the number of retailers has more than quadrupled since 1995, it is the ideal time to embrace new models that will keep customers happy.

Thanks to technology, people now have increased power over how they interact with their environment and the outside world.

This extends to how, what, and when they buy and consume essentials. Technology and innovations in retail will be a key linkage between the consumer and the supermarket stalls.

The writer is regional director of Carrefour, East Africa.