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05/21/2013

Kroger Quickens Checkout with Infrared Cameras

Kroger supermarkets is battling long checkout lines with infrared cameras, which detect body heat, at the entrances and above cash registers at many of the retailer's 2,400 locations. The cameras are part of a solution called "Intelligent Checkout Management," developed by Irisys, a thermal technology provider.

Combined with in-house software that determines the number of lanes that need to be open, the technology has reduced the customer's average wait time to 26 seconds. That compares with an average of four minutes before Kroger began installing the cameras in 2010.
 
"The technology enabled us to execute at the front of the store without that additional (labor) expense," Marnette Perry, senior vice president for retail operations for Kroger told The Wall Street Journal.
 
Kroger calls its system QueVision and has now rolled it out through about 95% of its stores, which operate under the Kroger, King Soopers and Dillons names. The system includes software developed by the retailer's IT department that predicts for each store how long those customers spend shopping based on the day and time. It also determines the number of lanes that need to be open, and displays the information on monitors above the lanes so supervisors can deploy cashiers accordingly.
 
Executives at Kroger have reported they learned something surprising from the QueVision data that helped to boost certain orders. The system showed that there were more customers than Kroger realized buying a small number of items in the morning and during lunchtime, and that the express lanes were backing up. The retailer has added 2,000 new express lanes to its stores nationwide, which it credits with growing the number of those small orders over the last two years.
 
The QueVision software is continuously improving to better predict shopping behavior and fine-tune the staffing of the checkout lanes. The retailer is testing other ways to get shoppers out more quickly, including a tunnel-like device resembling an MRI machine that scans items as they go through, then automatically bags them.
 
"The bottom line is we want our checkout experience to be the best and it's our goal that our customers will enjoy the experience so much that they'll want to return," said Perry.
 
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