© Photo: Willys

by Fanny Nyström, Customer Success Manager

Self-checkout retail solutions are rolling out an accelerated rate. Whether it is a kiosk-based system where consumers scan their item and bag their own groceries, or a mobile-based solution where customers scan items as they go, eliminating the need for a traditional purchase flow before leaving the store, the idea behind these innovations is largely driven by the desire for efficiency.

Customers hate waiting in line. That’s obvious.

And, in theory self-checkout provides a lot of benefits. Kiosk-based systems take up a far smaller footprint than a traditional manual checkout stand. With more space freed up, two or three times the number of tills can be placed in the checkout area. One could argue this translates into shorter lines since more purchases are running in parallel.

With scan and pay, the efficiency argument can potentially be even stronger. Instead of going through a multi-staged process of removing items from the shelves, placing them in a basket, removing them from the basket to scan them, then placing them back into a shopping bag, scan and pay removes some of this logistical juggling by allowing users to scan an item, drop it in their bag and walk out the door with their groceries.

There are, however, valid counter arguments that poke holes in the prospective efficiency gains of self-checkout solutions. For instance, asking any consumer to scan their own groceries at a kiosk means that process will run much slower than if an expertchecker who has every produce code memorized could perform the checkout at high speed. Some might say this drawback is okay, since the real problem is that customers hate waiting in line, and that even if the holistic checkout process doesn’t end up being any faster, they are at least actively participating rather than idly and impatiently waiting.

Of course adoption curves are also a major hurdle.

In several years from now, when everyone (including their grandma) is familiar enough with a scan and pay solution using their mobile phone, the shopping experience will likely be far more streamlined than it is today.

But during that transition period, a steep digital learning curve creates adoption friction. This friction raises an ironic truth about the adoption rate of self-checkout solutions. Humans are still required.

Turnpike is working with innovative grocery retailers who are looking at this very challenge. With our wearable solution capable of alerting any employee in the store of a customer service need in real time, we are seeing that there is indeed a correlation between a store’s ability to quickly provide service, and the general rate of self-checkout adoption.

The premise is simple. Customers who feel inconvenienced when using a self-checkout solution will be less likely to use it again. Whether it is an age verification, PoS issue, or a product code or scanning problem - customers need immediate assistance. If they don’t get it, they lose the efficiency benefit they are expecting by performing a self-checkout in the first place. Once again, people hate to wait.

Our message to retailers using self-checkout systems, is to make sure they dedicate their staff to being prepared to act quickly when customers need assistance. The quicker they can react (perhaps by wearing easy-to-use and smooth smartwatches) the more likely customers will be to come back and try the system again. In turn adoption curves will accelerate and self-checkout will soon emerge as the default transaction method and the obvious choice when going grocery shopping.

Contact us here, if you want to know more about how we can help your retail business increase customer satisfaction and staff efficiency.