Debbie Young shot a red beam at the container of grape tomatoes.

Young, at the Giant Eagle Market District in Cuyahoga Falls, was using the grocery chain’s new Scan Pay & Go service aimed at getting customers in and out of the store quicker.

The technology is cheaper than self-checkout lanes, industry experts say.

Young was using a handheld barcode scanner she picked up at a kiosk at the front of the store to zap items before placing them in bags in her cart.

Scan Pay & Go also works with a smartphone app available from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

“I love it because you can control your budget as you go along” through the store, said Young, who lives in Akron, not far from the Falls store. “It keeps a running tally [visible on the scanner’s screen] so you know how much you’re spending.”

And she said, she's yet to see a line at the Scan Pay & Go checkout, where a scan of a barcode on the checkout screen loads the order. Shoppers pay as they do at the self-checkout machines.

Shoppers also can use the traditional checkout lanes.

Giant Eagle began introducing Scan Pay & Go in its Northeast Ohio market earlier this year. The service is now in six Cleveland-Akron area locations: Market District stores in Cuyahoga Falls, Green, Solon and Strongsville and the two Giant Eagles in Stow. A handful of other Northeast Ohio stores will get the service in the next few weeks, Giant Eagle spokeswoman Jannah Jablonowski said Friday.

The grocery chain, based in O'Hara Township, outside Pittsburgh, launched the service last year in its hometown market.

“The grocery industry is more competitive now than ever before," Jablonowski said, "we recognize that the store experience is one thing that can really set us apart.”

She doesn't foresee Scan Pay & Go resulting in fewer store workers.

"We want to use technology to streamline the shopping experience for customers," she said, "but also to free up the time of our retail team members to really focus on the customer service element."

Giant Eagle followed rival Kroger Co., which introduced its Scan, Bag, Go earlier in 2018. (Kroger, based in Cincinnati, does not have stores in the Akron-Cleveland-Canton area.)

The grocery industry — with slim profit margins — is increasingly using technology to cut costs and respond to consumer demand for convenience.

Giant Eagle earlier introduced online shopping with curbside pickup at various Northeast Ohio stores.

Last year, the Akron-headquartered Acme Fresh Markets expanded its online ordering and curbside service, offering pickup at all of its 16 stores.

Buehler’s also offers online order and curbside service. Acme and Wooster-based Buehler's also offer delivery, as does Giant Eagle to many ZIP codes. 

On Friday, at the Market District in the Falls, shopper Judy Searl, handheld scanner in hand said, cautiously, “This is the first time I’ve tried this … It’s going fine.”

Would she use it again? Yes, said Searl, who lives in the Falls. She noted that she’ll get more comfortable with the technology the more she uses it.

Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com.