Self-Checkout Footprints Get Smaller For Retail
You may have used self-checkout stations at grocery stores and supermarkets, do-it-yourself retailers like IKEA, Lowe’s and Home Depot, CVS Pharmacy, and even to borrow books from your local public library. Designed to expedite service for shoppers with just a few items, to manage checkout queues with limited staff on hand, or simply to add a self-service option for customers who prefer it, these self-checkout solutions have been around for a decade or more.
And while some retailers have nixed self-checkout stations in their stores in favor of more human contact for customers – examples include grocer Albertsons removing self-checkout lanes from 100 stores, and US grocery chain giant Kroger experimenting with self-checkout removal at a store in Texas – most hard evidence shows self-checkout as an increasing trend.
Need more evidence? A 2008 survey of US consumers by NCR revealed that 72 percent of shoppers “are more likely to shop with a retailer that gives consumers the flexibility to interact easily via online, mobile, and kiosk self-service channels, versus a retailer that does not.”
And rather than reducing staffing needs, as many critics fear, self-checkout technology is pushing improved customer service, allowing one cashier to monitor four stations, while giving other employees more freedom throughout the store.
Retailers want self-checkout hardware that maximizes employee efficiencies, offers varying levels of service for customers, and integrates easily with point-of-sale (POS) hardware and software. On the other side of the transaction, customers want reduced checkout wait times, and a more user friendly experience.
Here’s a look at how the self-checkout options on the market today bring these two groups together.
Compact and Flexible Self-Checkout
Most self-checkout stations currently on the market are larger stand-alone models. But with space at a premium in many retail stores, a smaller unit can be a welcome choice.
Designed to offer self-checkout options for retailers in many different verticals – think drug stores, convenience stores, specialty markets – the Fujitsu U-Scan Compact system provides additional flexibility, especially when the unit size may be an issue.
Created with a smaller footprint than most stand-alone units, the U-Scan Compact installs directly onto a countertop, and can be ordered with retailer-specific countertop materials (like granite, or stainless steel), paint colors, laminate choices, and lane lights.
The flexibility also extends to the supported service models. Retailers can opt for self-service (complete customer independence), full-service (maximum customer assistance), or modified service, where customers start the transaction on their own but a clerk can step in to assist at any time.
Self-Checkout Robots Debut
With an emphasis on consumer friendliness and usability, industry player ECRS debuted a new generation of consumer-centric self-checkout robots during last month’s National Retail Federation (NRF) Annual Convention and Expo. The term robot simply indicates an integrated device that talks the customer through the checkout process.
Offering easy integration with most commonly installed POS systems, these self-checkout solutions also operate with the goal of maximum functionality via a minimum footprint, offering more options for space-challenged retail stores.
Retail Self-Service Options
A company that offers many retail self-service options, ranging from self-checkout stations to self-service kiosks used for bill payment and gift registries, NCR knows the importance of helping retailers provide a quick yet positive experience to consumers. With its “SelfServ” line, including the SelfServ Checkout, they offer retailers across varied industries the opportunity to redeploy staff to other parts of the store, stocking shelves and helping customers find what they’re looking for.
IBM’s Self-Checkout Solutions
With over thirty years of retail experience around the globe, IBM’s self-checkout offerings provide plenty of flexibility for retailers. Available in both stand-alone “Scan and Bag” models and “Belted” models, IBM provides both cash and cashless options to fit different retail environments. Here are some of the advanced features you’ll find:
(1) Faster order processing. With a feature allowing bags to be removed during the scanning process, customers get a quicker check-out, while store owners maintain effective loss prevention.
(2) Range of model sizes. For retail applications requiring more than one size self-checkout station, options start at one bag, moving all the way up to a six bag carousel.
(3) Shrink-reducing security features. Since problems with security features on self-checkout units can require a high level of employee assistance, the adjustable weight tolerances on these models helps lower the number of interventions during a transaction. And the carousel model provides an additional shelf for heavy, bulky items.
With these choices and many others popping up on the self-checkout landscape, there will be plenty of options for current users and new adopters. The challenge is to dig in to your own retail model and understand what self-checkout features are most important for your customers. By watching and listening to both employees and consumers, you’ll be more likely to choose a system that fits your store.
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