ALEXANDRIA, Va.—NACS Magazine interviewed Bassam Estaitieh, director of strategic marketing - retail, Crane Payment Innovations, about self-checkout, and how retailers who are new to the technology can get into the arena and why.
Q: SELF-CHECKOUTS ARE FAST, FLEXIBLE AND COST-EFFECTIVE. HOW CAN CRANE PAYMENT INNOVATIONS HELP RETAILERS SUCCESSFULLY DEPLOY THE TECHNOLOGY?
We’ve found that we can provide additional value to our customers by leveraging our history and expertise in cash management to improve cash management practices in stores in general. Focusing on OEMs as well as retailers helps optimize retailers’ cash management practices. Because we also have other equipment in our portfolio—like back-office cash counters and cash and coin automation at the point of sale—we have many proven ideas on how to make the whole process seamless. We ensure that the system we sell to each operator suits their needs and is not a “one-size-fits-all” configuration. We can streamline implementation and provide c-stores—and all retailers—with a complete range of support and services. CPI develops integrated technologies that keep customers moving. In addition to self-checkout, our full portfolio includes everything from attended lane automation to coffee kiosks, cash processing, vending and fourth-wall revenue solutions. CPI can assist retailers by working with them to ensure a successful trial, followed by a successful rollout.
Q: SHOULD RETAILERS START OFF BY PILOTING SELF-CHECKOUT IN JUST ONE STORE, OR DO WHOLESALE IMPLEMENTATIONS WORK BETTER?
Most retailers already understand the potential positive impact self-checkout can have on their operations, and our customers have found the quicker they can implement at least 1-2 self-checkout units per store, the faster they can achieve their desired results. We encourage retailers to try self-checkout technology at a limited number of locations to understand the parameters for a successful deployment, and then roll out en masse. Obviously every store is unique, so using a few machines in a trial or pilot will make the mass implementation more likely to be seamless.
Q: WHAT ARE SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN ROLLING OUT SELF-CHECKOUT?
Here are a few lessons that we or our customers have learned about implementation:
- Don’t roll out without cash. You can’t eliminate lines or achieve the desired ROI without both cash and cashless at the self-checkout.
- The self-checkout should be front and center. You need people to easily find it and check out! By the entrance/exit or near the assisted cashier stations is best practice.
- Employees and customers need training. Moving to self-checkout is a big change for your store, and both employees and customers need to get on board. Store owners and managers need to facilitate this—they need to position an ambassador at the machines at first to train and encourage their customers to use their self-checkouts, they can add signage around the store, and they can ask regular customers to help advocate.
- The most important thing to do is to work with a technology provider that also serves as a trusted partner. CPI works one-on-one with c-store operators to create a self-checkout configuration that will accommodate their current and future needs, as well as plan a streamlined implementation that will work for them. We’ve developed a suite of preventive maintenance and other services to meet individual c-store operators’ specific requirements and can recommend the right plan for each of our customers depending on what those requirements are.
Q: SELF-CHECKOUT IS INTENDED TO REMOVE FRICTION, SO THAT MEANS GOING CASHLESS, RIGHT?
Self-checkouts are not necessarily deployed to eliminate friction, but rather to provide better and equitable service to customers and improve revenue for the retailer. This means eliminating lines, and the way you’d achieve this is by providing all means of payment at the self-checkout—including cash. Even the recent post-COVID-19 statistics put cash usage for c-stores at up to 50% of all payments. Having a cashless-only self-checkout also discriminates against more vulnerable customers—unbanked and underbanked people who do not have bank accounts are a large piece of their customer base. Cash-paying customers shouldn’t have to wait in lines simply because of the form of payment they plan to use.
Q: HOW CAN CASH AUTOMATION HELP WITH SELF-CHECKOUT RETURN ON INVESTMENT?
With a self-checkout enabled for all payment methods retailers can effectively eliminate a cashier and reassign that employee to a more value-added task, which simply cannot be done with a card-only lane when up to half of all transactions are cash for many stores. It frees up employees to spend time helping customers, contributing to a better customer experience and bottom line. Shoppers who interact with a sales associate are 43% more likely to purchase a product, and their transactions have 81% higher value compared to those who don’t interact with an associate.
SCO benefits are not limited to better customer service but could also alleviate work on the part of your staff in the back-office. Most of the cost of handling cash involves labor. The back-office tasks like starting and closing tills, reconciling differences, preparing deposits, etc. are typically done by the store manager. If you’re looking to save on that labor, it’s highly unlikely that a store manager position would be cut or a lower-paid employee would take over this duty. When it comes to saving on labor, most modern stores employ automation technologies like cash and coin recyclers to save that significant labor time and cost, and as a bonus, this also saves time at the point of sale. Success means achieving the best ROI for self-checkout, and that ROI cannot be fully achieved without cash automation.