Self-checkout systems are gaining increasing popularity among high-volume and specialty retailers alike. While some businesses see self-checkout technology as a means of driving growth, for others it’s a solution to tackle the ongoing labour shortages of recent years. 

Regardless of the reason for their implementation, the fact remains that self-checkout solutions offer many benefits to the businesses that implement them. By adopting self-checkout services, retailers can offer their customers a fast, engaging, and reliable shopping experience while also diminishing operational costs. 

What is a self-checkout machine?

Self-checkout systems are technological solutions that allow customers to purchase items from retail stores, supermarkets, and grocery stores without the need for help from human cashiers. 

The first implementation of self-service systems goes back to July 1986, when three self-checkout terminals were installed in a Kroger store near Atlanta, Georgia. According to Donald F. Dufek, the implementation of self-checkout stations produced very positive results. Fourteen weeks after the initial installation, two thirds of the store’s customers had used the machines (source).

Nowadays, self-checkout kiosks are a common fixture in multiple locations, from corporate big-box stores to the average convenience store. The machines can be used to purchase all kinds of products, from fresh produce to a brand-new pair of blue jeans. It’s expected that, in the near future, checkout kiosks will become as common as shopping carts.

In fact, according to a study from Dalhousie University, self-checkouts are becoming the preferred option for customers when grocery shopping, with over 53% of Canadians intending to use selfcheckout solutions regularly in the future (source).

The basic capacities of typical self-checkout solutions include: 

  • Allowing customers to scan product barcodes. Every product with a barcode has its information preloaded into the self-service system, which operates similarly to a traditional staffed checkout machine.
  • Weighting products without barcodes to determine their price. When buying items such as fresh produce, users can select the variety from a touchscreen display and the machine will automatically determine the correct price. 
  • Monitoring scanned items by weight. To ensure the secure transaction between customers and self-checkout systems, scanned items are verified by their weight before they can be removed by the customer. The machines have a special “bagging area” where items must be placed before payment is made. The customer is only allowed to proceed if the weight of the items matches previously stored information.
  • Self-checkout technology. Self-checkout units can seamlessly connect with a store’s POS systems. Likewise, it is normal for self-checkout systems to include integrated terminals that allow for easy payments with credit cards and digital payment methods. The machines can also automatically print receipts after the checkout process has been completed.  

Ultimate guide to self-checkout systems

Do self-service checkouts save money?

Not only are self-service checkouts effective at increasing the operational efficiency of any retail space, but they also help reduce labour costs. A business that implements self-checkout kiosks can see its profitability improved by selling more products while also spending less on upkeep.

One of the main advantages of self-service checkouts is the reduction of labour costs. When using self-checkout systems, users can easily scan and bag their items without the help of another person. While traditional checkout lanes require a different cashier for every lane, self-checkout lanes may only require a single employee to guide those customers who are unsure of how to operate the machines. Self-checkouts can also improve backend efficiency, thereby streamlining the POS, inventory, and reporting analytics data of a store. This competency makes it easier to spot issues and solve problems.

Why do people prefer self-checkout?

Customers prefer self-checkout systems because they offer them security and convenience. Factors such as faster transactions, better control, reliability, and ease of use contribute to positive checkout experiences, especially to the growing number of younger consumers.

Shorter lines

Long lines have always been a hindrance to the customer experience. It’s in every retailer’s best interest to create the most agreeable shopping environment and long lines are a major point of frustration for consumers. Long lines can even stretch down shopping aisles, interrupting customers who are still shopping.

Research shows that more than 30% of consumers prefer to quit a long line to look for better checkout lanes, while 11% will abandon their purchase entirely if they consider the lines to be too long. While many customers opt for online purchasing options, people still prefer to physically interact with the items they buy. For instance, grocery shoppers wish to be able to touch, see, and smell food products before making a purchase (source).

A faster purchase process

Self-service kiosks can hasten the checkout process to the benefit of both employees and consumers. The capacity of a self-service purchasing environment doesn’t depend on the availability of free cashiers but on the number of available self-checkout lanes.

When consumers use self-service checkouts, the speed at which a purchase is made depends on how fast they can operate the machine. Even if it takes some customers more time to scan the items by themselves, the fact that they don’t have to wait in line or for a cashier to do the work makes them feel like they are handling the process at an agreeable speed.

This way, the frustration related to waiting for cashiers to finalise checkouts is minimised. Moreover, when employees are not bound to cash registers they have more time to perform other assignments, such as helping consumers find the products they are looking for.

A consumer reports survey shines a light on how self-service checkouts improve the customer experience. For example, shoppers who prefer to use self-service kiosks feel that they’re in control of their purchase operations and can bag their items at their own leisure. Nearly three out of four consumers applaud self-service checkouts as a time-saver (source).

Minimal contact

In a post-covid 19 world, reducing the amount of human interaction during the purchase of items has become a major priority for many customers, especially younger ones. Self-checkouts substantially improve a store’s contactless ordering and payment capabilities, allowing customers to handle products and payments by themselves. This helps reduce the fear many customers face of the items they purchase being contaminated by bacteria.

Additionally, many people nowadays have more reserved personalities than previous generations. Due to this, they have become reluctant to actively interact with others, including retail store employees and cashiers. The implementation of self-service kiosks allows introverted people to perform traditional shopping operations at their own discretion, free from the emotions they face when interacting with strangers.

Reliable and secure transactions

When making a purchase, customers only need to perform simple actions while the self-service system does all the heavy lifting. This includes calculating the exact amount of money required to finalise a purchase. Consumers using self-checkout kiosks don’t have to worry about any cash-handling risks. Potential errors such as cash miscalculations are all but gone when every transaction is managed and monitored by a machine.

Is a self-checkout machine worth it?

Yes, because it speeds up transactions, reduces queues and therefore improves customer service, but also reduces labor costs and counters the labor shortage for those who cannot find employees. It’s also worth it because with the labor shortage, some stores had to close earlier and now they can stay open with one employee watching 4 checkouts instead of 4 employees for 4 traditional checkouts.

Self-checkout solutions

Make your incursion into the self-checkout systems market and join the future with the help of SIR Solutions. Thanks to extensive experience offering thousands of secure and effective self-checkout experiences, SIR Solutions is ready to serve all kinds of retail customers. We deliver the best checkout solutions directly to your retail space. 

The expert team at SIR is ready to install, support, and optimize state-of-the-art self-service systems. Furthermore, we provide training to both managers and retail employees to guarantee that the checkout stations are used efficiently and to their fullest potential. 

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