Blog post

Turning self-checkout in retail into a reality

Self-checkout in retail is easier to implement than many people think. Here's what you need to know.

  • Topic
    Store operations, Customer experience

We’ve all been there. You’re in a hurry but need to grab something from a store. It should be a case of you’re in and out before you know it. But instead there’s lines at every checkout and they’re not even moving quickly. You sigh and give it - it’s going to have to wait.

It’s a familiar story right? And it’s damaging for everyone; you’ve had a terrible experience and the store has lost a sale. No one wins. The good news is it doesn’t have to be like this.

Self-checkout in retail is easier to implement than many people think.

It’s often associated with grocery stores and - while this is where it’s used most - more and more retailers are looking to enhance the experience they give their customers by making self-checkout a reality.

Not only is it a vital tool in the quest for no queues in physical stores, it also frees up store associates and turns them into sales representatives. When they’re not stuck behind a checkout, store associates are able to spend more time helping and serving customers, delivering a better experience.

Self-checkout has been a huge success in the food industry for nearly ten years now and customers are ready to see more self-checkout options in every store they visit.

In this article, we’ll show you:

  • What retailers are the best fit for self-checkout

  • What's required for self-checkout to work

  • The benefits retailers have seen from implementing self-checkout

What kind of retailers is self-checkout suitable for?

Let’s be clear from the start, self-checkout isn’t for everyone. However, for many, it’s the perfect way to eliminate long lines and free up store staff to focus on the customer experience instead. It also can help reduce costs as the number of POS in use can be adjusted to reflect seasonal changes and it can increase the average order value per receipt.

So who is it for?

It’s not something sector specific, instead you should ask yourself, does self-checkout fit with the experience we want to give our customers and the buyer journey?

Depending on your product range, target customers and store set up, self-checkout could very easily elevate your in-store journey. A self-checkout option, or self-checkout as the primary checkout option, should, in practice, be suitable for all retailers. 

Here’s the questions we think you should ask yourself to find out if it’s suitable for your business:

Do you need to remove security tags?

If you sell products with security tags, you need to offer a way for your customers to remove the tags without any hassle. This is also one of the reasons why self-checkout is more often found in stores that offer a price point at a lower to mid range, where security tags aren’t an issue.

Do you have easily scannable barcodes? 

 For a quick and easy checkout experience, scannable barcodes are recommended. If your product range lacks barcodes, your customers will have to search for the product in the POS interface - this is, of course, not a problem if you have an intuitive POS but it will definitely prolong the checkout process and remove the advantage offered by self-checkout. 

Is your store space suitable?

One of the main reasons for retailers to implement self-checkouts is the reduction of queues - but to succeed in this quest you need to have a space near the exit/entrance that’s suitable for multiple self-checkout stalls that don’t interfere with the natural flow of customers in the store.

Do you have suitable hardware?

You’ll need a lightweight POS setup that doesn’t look or feel cumbersome or out of its element when used as a self-checkout format. There should be an option to use a scanner so your customers can easily add and edit products in the shopping cart. Our recommendation is to use a flexible and durable scanner that allows for a vast amount of customers to handle it without any breakage. 

Do you have the right software capabilities?

Your self-checkout POS should have an intuitive and easy to use interface that is simple to use. It should be crystal clear for the customer how to initiate the checkout process, add and remove products, add potential shopping bags, log into any loyalty program, add any potential discount code, select secure payment options and finalize the purchase - all on their own. 

The self-checkout should offer a well delimited interface for customers not to access any vital settings or other information that is not meant for them - while at the same time offer an easy way in for the store associates to access these areas of information and settings.

While the self-checkout POS should be a limited version of the regular POS used by the stores associates, it’s a huge bonus if the self-checkout can be easily turned to a regular POS with all of the features and functionality that it possesses.

Does it make sense?

For some retailers, self-checkout is as obvious as a traditional checkout, if not even more obvious. But for some it’s not. In the end it has to make perfect sense to offer the option of self-checkout - either as an option to the regular checkout line or as the main way of completing the purchase with a regular checkout by the counter as a fallback

Does it match the experience you want to give your customers?

Is your customer experience built on exclusivity and luxury? And do you rely on the personal touch? If so, then an in-store experience checkout by the store associate is more suitable, rather than a smooth and quick in and out. 

Do you want to transform the role of your store associates?

Self-checkout enables your staff to work in a new way - it’s not to replace them. Instead, it frees up their time, gives them a new purpose and makes their role in the customer experience even more important. Self-checkout improves your level of service and gives your customers more freedom.

Examples of successful self-checkout set ups in retail

Here’s two examples of how a successful implementation of self-checkout is benefitting two different retailers.

Sweden's retail giant, Lagerhaus went from two regular POS to 4-10 self-checkouts plus the one stationery POS (which are only used if necessary) giving them 11 checkout points.

The average basket size has increased by roughly 33% percent.

Former Head of Digital Operations at Lagerhaus, Bradley Coyne, says "Now, 90% of sales in the big cities go through the self-checkout counters (60% in the smaller ones) and the average monetary purchase has increased by 10%. Moreover, the average basket size has increased by roughly 33% percent." (2.1 -> 3.2 items per basket)

Not only did it make perfect sense for Lagerhaus to implement self-checkout, but, more importantly, it freed up the time of the store associates, who are now able to support the customers on the floor, enhancing the overall customer experience as well as devoting time to retail operations, such as real-time inventory corrections, visual merchandising and in-store team-training.

Lifestyle retailer, Granit, have also seen huge success from implementing self-checkout.

Having a self-checkout option in our stores allows us to give our customers both convenience and choice.

Sara Engstrand, Regional Manager at Granit where Sitoo Self-Checkout is used, says "Having a self-checkout option in our stores allows us to give our customers both convenience and choice. Not only does it mean they can shop on their terms and we can keep lines to a minimum, it also frees up our store associates to carry out daily in-store operations and gives them time to focus on our customers."

If you’d like to find out more about whether self-checkout is suitable for your business or have any questions on what we’ve covered above, we’d love to help.

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