How to Successfully Launch Self-Checkout

The technology has come a long way, but there is still room for improvements.

November 23, 2021

Self-Checkout System in Use

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Many customers prefer self-checkout over a traditional cashier experience, but a survey by customer-experience-technology company Raydiant found that 67% said they had experienced some form of failure at a self-service checkout, reports the Wall Street Journal. Although there’s a lot less “unexpected item in bagging area” alerts, customers commonly experience self-checkout delays due to difficult-to-scan items, an inability to find the code for a product they’re buying or weighing errors.

According to the Wall Street Journal, researchers have learned a lot about how things can go wrong with self-checkout, how consumers perceive the technology and what retailers need to do to get more people to use it.

(Sign up for next week’s free NACS webinar “Self-Checkout Innovations in Convenience Retailing” to learn more.)

Pre-pandemic only 30% of customers wanted to use self-checkout, but in the first 18 months of the pandemic, that number jumped to 45%, according to Praveen Adhi, a partner at McKinsey who leads the firm’s retail-operations practice in the Americas. However, a bad experience can quickly turn off a self-checkout customer. According to the Raydiant survey, 25% of the respondents said they wouldn’t use a self-service checkout if they had previously used the self-checkout machines, but they didn’t work.

Retailers should also make sure that the self-checkout machine is intuitive enough for a first-time user and that scanning doesn’t take too many steps, says the Journal. Also, it’s the small things that matter, such as making sure each item makes a beep when it’s scanned or making sure the system easily picks up bar codes.

Self-checkout kiosk maker Toshiba is working with retailers on computer vision and artificial intelligence tools to allow machines to more easily recognize difficult-to-scan items. Additionally, NCR, the global leader in self-checkout, has software for self-checkout machines that uses computer vision to identify produce that’s placed on the scale.

Even though the self-checkout process is manned by the customer, there must be an employee nearby to assist customers to check IDs for age-restricted products or remove an unrecognized item in the bagging area, among other tasks. According to the Journal, self-checkout technology companies are working to address these instances that add friction to the experience by reducing the need for a staff member to be physically present. Shoppers could have the ability to remove products they had already scanned, or employees could have a mobile application that allows them to remotely clear a transaction on their phones.

Though close to half of consumers prefer self-checkout, there are some that aren’t believers in the technology. Those that have yet to use self-checkout or use it often need to see an added benefit to the technology over a traditional cashier experience. Examples of added benefits could be a consistently faster checkout experience or a discount for using self-checkout.

The Journal says that ultimately, all of this may be moot, and self-checkout will be a transition technology to something more like Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology, which allows customers to skip the checkout entirely and walk out with their purchases. Choice convenience stores in Denver offer self-checkout, walkout technology and an app, which all sync and communicate with each other. According to Choice founder and CEO Mike Fogarty, this was intentional from the store’s inception.

During the Wednesday, Dec. 1, NACS webinar, Alan Meyer, chief executive officer at Meyer Oil Company, will discuss how his company successfully implemented and continues to innovate in self-checkout. NCR, the global leader in self-checkout, will also share self-checkout innovations that are being implemented around the globe in convenience retailing. Pre- and post-pay fuel transactions, loyalty acceptance, cash acceptance and age ID verification will all be discussed. Register today to save your virtual seat.