The paradox of self-checkouts. Why slower is faster?

Retailers are increasingly willing to supply their shops with self-service devices. New technologies in retail are in demand. Both by shop owners and by customers. Undoubtedly, self-checkouts provide the feeling of a more convenient and faster shopping process. We can see the paradox of self-checkouts. The customer prefers to spend more time scanning his purchases on his own rather than queue at a regular checkout. Why is this the case?

The self-checkout paradox – what is it?

In fact, shopping at a self-checkout takes slightly longer than at a traditional checkout, where two people are involved in completing the purchase. The customer lays out and wraps the shopping, the cashier scans it. In the case of self-checkouts, you have to do all the work yourself. However, customers perceive the shopping experience at a self-checkout as faster and more efficient than at a traditional checkout. This feeling makes the customer leave the shop with a positive experience. This is very beneficial for retailers because the checkout experience is the last thing the customer remembers when leaving the shop. And when you create positive emotions around the shop, the customer is more likely to return.

Self-service checkout = fast shopping.

The paradox of self-checkouts reduces the negative feelings associated with queuing and spending endless time in the shop. The customer has come to the shop to select and pay for goods. Long queues at the checkout can be a real pain in the neck, even if the product you want is on super-promotion. Standing in line makes customers feel like they are wasting their time. Standing and waiting for others is frustrating. Self-checkouts allow you to control your own time. The customer comes into the shop, selects the goods, scans, pays and leaves. They, not the queues, decide how much time they will spend in the shop. In addition, being on the move while scanning is a kind of ritual that provides peace of mind and a positive feeling in contrast to the stress of queuing at traditional checkouts.

The problem with queues is that some customers, especially those buying smaller products, find them so annoying that they would rather leave the shop without making a purchase than wait. With self-checkouts, retailers have the chance to cater to these customers, rather than risk losing them to nearby smaller corner shops – a clear transactional benefit of the self-checkout paradox.

The paradox of self-checkouts
Customers do not like queues. Self-service checkouts make the shopping experience fast and convenient.

Shop image and self-checkouts.

For retailers, no or shorter queues mean fewer staff. This is not only more cost-effective. Self-checkouts allow you to provide quality customer service not only when finalising the purchase, but also during the selection process. Let’s take a look. One assistant is enough to operate up to eight self-checkouts. The rest of the staff can then focus on real interaction, making contact with the customer and creating a positive image of the shop, e.g. by offering advice, restocking or cleaning.

An important element that needs to be addressed when writing about the paradox of self-checkouts are interventions, or rather the lack thereof. An intervention happens when something happens at the checkout that requires an employee’s action. In order not to lose the positive customer experience achieved by the self-service checkout paradox, it is important to ensure that the number of interventions is as low as possible. This is possible by carefully analysing the most frequent interventions in a shop and finding a solution. For example, a frequent cause of intervention is the check gates, which open after scanning a paid receipt. This activity causes frustration and more interventions in case of lost receipts or scanning failures. It is worth rethinking whether it is better to implement self-checkouts based on security scales. A checkout system based on a security scale also ensures that all products are scanned before the customer packs them up and leaves the shop.

The paradox of self-checkouts is that shopping is perceived as fast and convenient. The customer does not feel that time is wasted; on the contrary, he feels that he has used his shopping time to 100%. They leave the shop satisfied with their shopping and with themselves. A positive customer experience is not the only benefit for the retailer. Self-service checkouts reduce staff costs and retain customers who want to buy fewer products. Everything that self-service checkouts offer to a shop can be encapsulated in one word – profit :-).

Self-checkouts in fashion shops. Does the fashion industry need automation?

Only 100 years ago, a retailer needed two things to be successful: a good shop location and a good product. Over time, customers have become more demanding. Their patience has diminished and today customers expect fast access to everything. From furniture to groceries. That is why they visit stationary shops. You buy and you take with you. Are self-checkouts in fashion shops necessary? If a customer came into a shop, he was counting on the service of a sales assistant not a machine, but is that really enough for him?

Self-checkouts in clothing shops versus sales assistants.

From a business strategy perspective, the expansion of self-checkouts in grocery shops seems logical. The barrier to entry as well as the level of risk involved is simply low. Does this argument also apply to the clothing industry? Does the customer simply want to buy clothes quickly and leave, or has he or she gone to the shop because they expect another human being to interact?

Recently, the millennial generation, people born in the 1980s and 1990s, have been present on the market with their own money. It is not without reason that this generation is also called the digital generation. They have had contact with new technologies since birth, they are not afraid of them, on the contrary, they expect them to develop. To choose the right clothes, size or to pay, they do not expect the assistance of a salesman. And it is this generation that is currently setting the trends for automation in shops. This generation is just beginning to accumulate material goods, buying flats, cars, furniture and, of course, clothes. Being familiar with new technologies makes them want to be in control of their purchases, including payments. Long gone are the days when you had to fully rely on the salesperson to ask for a different size or product. Self-service gives customers what they want – convenience.

Fast service and lack of appearance evaluation – positive values.

Another fact is that nowadays retailers have to provide faster order processing than ever before in order to meet customer demands. This also applies to stationary shops, where long queues in times of widespread online shopping are highly risky. Standing in line is a far cry from the ease afforded to us by the era of developing self-service. Thanks to self-service checkouts, shopping in a stationary shop can be fast and convenient, and what is more, it gives an advantage over online shopping – the customer receives the product immediately.

Another positive shopping experience that self-service technology can provide to the clothing shop customer is the lack of judgement. Shoppers do not have to feel judged by staff for how they look. Shopping becomes enjoyable. The customer himself chooses the clothes he needs, their size, evaluates his own appearance and pays for them himself. We should also mention the recent fashion for conscious shopping. Our purchases are becoming more and more conscious, and we do not want to have clothes in our wardrobes that we do not wear. We do not want someone to tell us what we should buy. Self-service gives us time to think whether we really need the clothes and whether we want them in our wardrobe. The salesperson has no knowledge of us or our wardrobe, their job is to sell the product.

A hybrid sales approach allows you to serve the most demanding customer.
A hybrid sales approach allows you to serve the most demanding customer.

Chain stores and high fashion.

Self-checkouts in fashion shops seem to be a good solution for fast fashion retailers, where the traffic in the shop is high and shoppers are time-constrained. In these types of shops, controlling queues at the point of sale is a priority. In comparison, for higher-end shops there is a disconnect between the values of automation and the need for personalised service and human interaction. But is it really?

In the past, many luxury brands believed that e-commerce would have no impact in an industry where the need to be taken care of by a salesperson is what matters. However, this assumption was very quickly proven wrong. Today, all high fashion shops offer online shops and are enjoying growing revenues.

Naturally, when it comes to luxury clothing shops, the human factor is an important part of the service. Technology will not provide the level of care, attention and assistance that a retailer offers. It is interaction and engagement that is an essential part of providing a luxury experience. On the other hand, as the rise of e-commerce has shown, technology cannot be ignored. To be successful, a balance must be found between the online and offline experience.

While the luxury shopper expects interaction from the retailer when choosing clothes or shoes, queuing at the checkout is not desirable.

Self-service in a fashion shop.

The decisive factor in implementing self-checkouts in fashion shops is their appearance. A self-checkout in the fashion industry must be ‘fashion’. It can complement the design of the shop and provide a more convenient way to buy clothes. Of course, functionality is most important, but a nice self-checkout can be the icing on the cake.

For clothing shops, the most sensible solution seems to be the introduction of self-service checkouts based on RFID technology. This technology makes shopping even more convenient as the customer does not have to scan the clothes, just place them in the packing area. It should be mentioned that after paying for the product, the customer deactivates the anti-theft protection himself, which makes the final stage of shopping fully self-service and allows retailers to focus on providing advice or replenishing goods.

Shopping at a self-checkout becomes similar to shopping online. In both cases, the customer does not need the assistance of a salesperson to have a positive experience. Responding to market demands, all retailers face the challenge of making the service process as smooth, efficient and convenient as possible. Self-service technology plays a big part in this, especially when it comes to finalising purchases. We are in a process of radical technological change when it comes to customer service. Some brands are slowly adapting to it, some are still figuring it out but either way change is inevitable and it’s better to stay ahead than behind.

A self-checkout is not a piece of furniture.

Most people are visual. Mostly sight is the dominant sense in the perception of the world. On the internet and especially in social media, videos, graphics, infographics, etc. are the most popular. In real life, we all like aesthetically pleasing spaces. On the street we look for attractive girls or boys :-). Is a self-checkout that fits into this trend what retailers should be looking for?

Beautiful self-checkout.

Tastes are not to be discussed. It is not what is pretty that is pretty, but what you like. However, there is no denying the fact that appearance does matter. Aesthetic self-checkouts attract customers eyes and can be a visually attractive element of shop equipment. Recently I have noticed a rash of manufacturers on the market, who have introduced self-checkouts to their offer.

In theory, creating a self-service station does not seem difficult. A touch screen monitor, a scanner, a payment terminal, a fiscal printer and optionally scales. All this in a nice design. And that’s it. From the outside. For a self-service cash register to work, you still need software. Cash register can be the most beautiful, make customers will not be able to resist its charm, but if it works badly, no one will want to use it.

Even the most beautiful self-checkout will not make the customer use it.
Even the most beautiful self-checkout will not make the customer use it.

What does a malfunctioning self-checkout mean?

Apart from the failure rate of cash registers and the speed of response to failure, the factor that makes a self-service cash register malfunction is its software. Companies that are manufacturers of POS systems and have years of experience in their implementation often offer slightly modified software for self-service checkouts, which worked well with traditional cash registers. And this is a mistake which may cause that the customers will not use self-service checkouts. Why? Because they will be too difficult for an incidental customer who, for example, came to the shop for the first time and is likely to become a regular customer.

The POS software has been developed with the shop employees in mind. They are the ones who use it on a daily basis, have been trained and are able to navigate it efficiently. Employees have completely different needs than customers. Such software is not suitable for use at self-service checkouts. Good self-service checkout software is an “overlay” that integrates with existing POS software. An overlay that is designed with the customer in mind from the start. It makes the self-checkout intuitive and easy to use.

How does the right self-checkout software affect business?

I have repeatedly said that the most important element of effective implementation of self-checkouts is choosing a good supplier. An experienced supplier knows that a self-service checkout is not a piece of furniture and is not only supposed to look nice, but, above all, it is an element of business transformation. A self-checkout with the right software enables you to:

  • minimising theft through the use of various types of control mechanisms, e.g. control scales comparing the weight of the product with the weight in the database, a camera comparing the scanned product with the image database, etc,
  • limiting unnecessary interventions – ultimately, the only intervention from a shop employee should be acceptance of age (until age verification software is legalised in Poland, for example, this)
  • non-invasive, discreet promotion of products,
  • automation of sales of tobacco, premium products, condoms, etc. read more Vensafe
  • payment processing when using self-scanning technology
  • remote monitoring which enables remote support of self-service checkouts and analysis of sales data.

My recent experience shows that the right self-scanning practices can help any retail chain that is just introducing self-checkouts to maximise their return on investment. However, in addition to choosing self-checkouts and implementing them efficiently, long-term post-implementation support is very important. Just because a self-checkouts has been successfully implemented and customers are using it, it does not mean that this will always be the case. Experience shows that even the smallest factor has an impact on the effectiveness of SCO. Undoubtedly, the software dedicated to self-checkouts, and in fact to customers, is a powerful tool that allows you to properly handle and analyse the business.

I have already written how to choose a self-service cash register here and how to implement it here.

Self-scanning – mobile self- checkouts.

All the predictions I’ve seen for retail in 2021 talk about a strong expansion of self-service. The good news is that customers want to return to stationary shops. However, they don’t want to spend a lot of time there for security reasons. The shopping process is supposed to be fast, efficient and safe. Is self-scanning what the customer wants?

Contactless retail – self-scanning on the market.

Retailers are always striving to provide the best possible shopping experience for their customers and are constantly looking for new ways to make the shopping experience seamless, convenient and enjoyable. With the rapid development of retail technology, more and more shops are adopting self-service solutions as part of their customer service strategy.

Global Market Insigts, estimates that the global self-service checkout market size is likely to be valued at over USD 18 billion by 2023. Growing demand for self-service devices from the retail industry is expected to drive industry growth over the forecast period (2016-2023).

Customers who a few months ago were shopping even on a daily basis are now wondering whether to go to the shop at all. They are used to receiving purchases ordered online without contact. This way they save time and feel safe. However, people need contact with other people. Even children on remote learning declare their desire to return immediately to stationary classes. No fooling, knowledge is not the main reason for this enthusiasm 🙂 .

Customers are already returning to stationary shops and retailers who want to stay in the market need to be prepared for new demands. As I have already written here, customers expect a secure shopping process. Retailers are implementing self-scanning technology to ensure customers are comfortable while shopping. This is nothing more than mobile self-service checkouts. This solution allows customers to self-scan their purchases in stationary shops using professional mobile scanners or smartphones. This technology enables the shopping process to go smoothly without the assistance of staff who can take care of other tasks.

Self-scanning - the contactless solution to customer expectations.
Self-scanning – the contactless solution to customer expectations.

Shopping with scanner in hand.

Thanks to self-scanning, the customer scans the barcodes of the products himself while shopping, packs them himself and makes the payment at the self-service kiosk or via an application on his phone. Scanning takes place using a professional portable scanner or via the camera in the smartphone. The customer himself brings his own mobile self-service cash register to the shop or uses a portable scanner in the shop.

The app can be expanded with various add-ons that are important for both the customer and the retailer. While shopping, customers can learn more about the product e.g. its composition, use, recipes etc., they can be informed about promotions or discounts specially dedicated to them. Self-scanning has been and continues to be an effective way to increase customer engagement. Research has shown that customers value the opportunity to get to know a product in detail and to change their mind more easily during purchase. As a rule, the customer puts purchases in the basket once and takes them out once, and this significantly reduces the time spent in the shop, especially as they do not have to wait in the checkout queue. The verification of purchases can take place selectively on the basis of algorithms prepared according to the expectations of shops.

On the other hand, for retailers, self-service is also a valuable source of data on customer behaviour. Tracking app usage along with regular key performance indicators of the shop is a good way to assess performance in many areas. In-store traffic, checkout wait times, shopping patterns, basket size, revenue, costs and customer satisfaction can all be captured and measured.

Self-scanning makes shopping easy, fast and safe.
Self-scanning makes shopping easy, fast and safe.

Smartphone or professional mobile scanner?

Using each of the above-mentioned devices during self-scanning has its advantages and disadvantages. The choice depends on the shop’s capabilities and needs. Both devices significantly reduce shopping time and allow the customer to go through the shopping process as they wish. They offer a choice.

Self-scanning by smartphone:

  • ensures there are enough scanning devices in shop – every customer brings their smartphone,
  • makes purchases hygienic,
  • reduces investment costs – the customer buys the device himself,
  • saves space in the shop.

Self-scanning by professional handheld scanners:

  • professional scanners are more robust, resistant to wear and tear and drops from a great height,
  • can inspire greater confidence in customers for reasons of data security,
  • professional scanners capture barcodes faster as they are less sensitive to the quality of lighting and the direction of the codes than smartphone cameras,
  • mobile scanners have long-lasting batteries that recharge quickly when returned to the cradle, the shopper can be confident that the scanner is charged enough to complete the purchase process.

In summary, the retailer using self-service consumer devices incurs lower costs and is able to increase shop space. This is important to maintain distance and ensure safety. In turn, purpose-built professional scanning devices provide a better shopping experience for the customer, thus building customer loyalty. However, to successfully implement a self-scanning solution in a shop, the most important factor is the performance of the scanning software. The solution must work well every time and on every device. In any customer service, the user experience is paramount. The pandemic situation has made it necessary for shops to implement efficient contactless service faster than planned in response to new customer demands.

Implementing self-checkouts – how to do it right?

More and more shops are choosing to implement self-checkouts. However, retailers and customers are still struggling to actually use them. Changing shopping behaviour is difficult, but possible with the right implementation. What should it look like and what should you pay attention to?

Shop analysis.

The decision to implement a self-checkout system in a shop is always an investment preceded by a careful review of the offers. I have already written about how to choose the right self-checkout here. However, the key element for optimal use of self-checkouts is their implementation. Even the prettiest, best or most expensive SCO will not ensure success. The key is to understand the specifics of your shop and your customers’ shopping behaviour. Implementing self-checkouts in every shop will look different. It is important to consider how to implement SCO to achieve the objectives set by shop owners.

What does the purchasing process look like in your shop?

Before the implementation of self-checkouts in your shop can begin, the shopping process must be analysed. The basis for a thorough shop analysis is the POS data modelling technique, i.e. obtaining sales data of the shop and proposing different self-checkout systems. The choice should not only be made based on sales data alone, you should observe your customers and conduct short interviews with them.

The size of the shop and its nature is also an important factor. Is it a neighbourhood shop or a large supermarket? What is its location? Perhaps offices or schools nearby mean that our shop has more customers at certain times. How do our customers like to shop? Do they use trolleys or baskets, or do they take the goods in hand? How do they like to pack it – in a carrier bag, in their own net or maybe in their pocket? By looking at these factors, you can determine where you should place your self-checkouts.

Let’s look at the customers.

Customers’ purchasing behaviour tells us a lot about their needs. Analysing them allows us to propose a solution that responds to them. How many customers visit our shop each week? What goods do they buy? Maybe you should consider Select&Collect if your customers buy tobacco or premium items?

And then there’s this…

The shop analysis will also identify key success indicators and calculate potential savings on labour costs and give an idea of what security measures should be implemented at the self-checkouts, in our shop.

Proper implementation of self-checkouts allows the business to grow.
Proper implementation of self-checkouts allows the business to grow.

Self-checkout implementation vs. positive experience.

Once the self-checkout system has been selected and implemented, the next step is to create a positive experience when using it. In particular a positive first experience. How do you encourage people, both staff and customers, to use self-checkouts? How to ensure that staff are not afraid to use them? First and foremost, the process of using a self-checkout should be as simple as possible. It should be so intuitive that using it is natural, without the need to put special effort into learning. Remember that today’s staff and customers are technologically literate. They already use telephones, information kiosks or even electronic printing of numbers in offices. An intuitive interface will not be a special challenge for them.

Staff.

Firstly, staff should be well trained and taught how to encourage customers to use self-checkouts. At peak times in the shop, staff should talk to customers queuing and encourage them to try the self-service checkouts. Of course, staff must communicate the benefits and give all support to the customer.

Interventions.

During the implementation of the self-checkout system, it is necessary to work intensively on reducing interventions, as they always create a negative customer impression. At this stage, technical errors that occur should be actively worked on. Being aware of recurring errors will allow you to intensively search for solutions and reduce interventions. Remember; mistakes happen but they should be fixed and not repeated.

In summary, to be successful in implementing self-checkouts you need to:

  1. Analyse the shop using data modelling, customer observation and interviews with staff and customers.
  2. Choose the right location for the machines in the shop.
  3. Train staff on how to encourage customers to use self-checkouts.
  4. Create a positive first impression when using self-checkouts, for both customers and shop staff.
  5. Reduce the number of interventions by proactively fixing problems so that they do not reoccur.

Automating tobacco sales. Is it possible? Vensafe in Poland.

The introduction of self-checkouts to the trade has significantly changed the customer experience. For the better. Queues have been shortened and shopper frustration reduced. Customers during Covid-19 are definitely more willing to reach for self-service solutions. Let’s see if Poles are ready for the next step. Is tobacco sales automation possible and beneficial? An important topic for the retail industry. Retailers are looking for ways to encourage customers to make quick purchases of tobacco or premium products in their shop.

Whai is Vensafe?

Vensafe is a Select&Collect solution – effectively automating the sale of tobacco as well as small, higher-value items such as razor refills, more expensive cosmetics or items that may trigger unhealthy emotions among other shoppers such as condoms. And we don’t want that! Customers should feel comfortable with their purchases.

Vensafe- scanning a ticket.
Automated tobacco sales – collection of goods after scanning a ticket.

Vensafe consists of 3 components:

Touch screen with a kiosk application:

  • an intuitive interface guides the user through the purchase process,
  • screen placed on a wall, shelf or floor stand,
  • display of marketing content e.g. promotions, special offers possibility to display multiple images and product descriptions.

Dispensing unit in a size to meet business needs:

  • one unit holds up to 80 different products and the capacity of the unit is 1600 articles,
  • Possibility to combine up to 3 dispensing units, to obtain up to 240 different products and a capacity of 4800 articles,
  • the dispensing unit displays the current stock level and indicates the need for replenishment not only through the display but also by sending an e-mail to the staff,
  • access to the unit is strictly controlled and recorded.

Vensafe Manager Software, integrating the above elements:

  • allowing inventory and stock updates
  • enabling central management of product data at chain or country level.

What does it look like in practice? The customer selects a product on a touchscreen and receives a barcode ticket (similar to a parking ticket). The customer then goes to a regular or self-checkout with the ticket and pays for it there. Alternatively, the ticket can be downloaded and paid for immediately at a self-service or regular cash register. In the final step, the shopper goes to the dispensing unit, scans the ticket and receives the goods. Simple. But is it beneficial for shops, legal and safe? Read on😊

Automated tobacco sales, how the process look like.
Automated tobacco sales. A man in a green jumper buys and receives cigarettes.

6 benefits for shops to automate tobacco sales with Vensafe.

  • Minimalisation internal theft with intuitive software that tracks all activity around the unit.
  • The device is convenient to refill and allows you to set prices for individual batches of goods.
  • Saves staff time – staff do not have to get up to reach for the goods or fetch goods from another till, the size of the dispensing unit can be adapted to the needs of the shop to meet customer demand.
  • Eliminate external theft to zero as the system requires customers to make a purchase before handing over the item.
  • Compliance with tobacco regulations, cigarette packs are invisible, only the names or symbols are displayed on the kiosk screen.
  • Allows customers to buy tobacco or other goods without any problems and minimises the risk of customers leaving the shop to buy cigarettes elsewhere.
Vensafe - replenishing the assortment
Automating tobacco sales – replenishing the assortment.

Regulation of tobacco sales and Vensafe?

As I mentioned above, cigarette packets placed in cabinets are completely invisible. The customer sees the goods physically only after picking them up from the dispensing unit. This not only allows for privacy, but also protects children and adolescents from seeing items that are bad for health. Also on kiosk screens, the customer has to prove his or her age to enter the tobacco offer.

I also want to emphasise that Vensafe is not a vending machine. The age check takes place at the regular or self-checkout and this is also where the sale is finalised, i.e. payment for the goods.

To answer the title question. In my opinion: YES, tobacco sales automation with Vensafe is possible, safe, compliant with regulations and, above all, can bring many benefits to shops. Retailers with the right configuration of Vensafe will make the work of their staff easier and can increase sales of tobacco products or premium products. With Vensafe, they can encourage customers to visit their shops more often and buy products which, for various reasons, are usually bought elsewhere. And that’s what it’s all about! I am very pleased to see more and more solutions appearing on the market that support the digital transformation of the retail sector. I will keep an eye on them and let you know if something interesting comes up again.

Self-checkouts – how to choose the right one?

When shopping in shops, you have probably come across different self-checkouts. They all have the same task, to make the customer’s shopping experience positive, and preferably more than positive. For the customer, a SCO is a SCO, it has to work smoothly and provide fast service. It’s nice when it looks good and holds all purchases. And that’s it.

The onus is on shop owners to choose a self-checkout that will meet customer expectations and contribute to the success of the business. For those making the choice, after reviewing the offerings, what really makes self-checkouts different is;

  • quality,
  • price,
  • number of interventions required,
  • speed of transactions,
  • level of security.

Which SCO to choose? Retailers know their business very well, they know what slows it down and what builds it up. This knowledge is the most important, because now they just need guidance on what to look for when choosing self-checkouts that will contribute to success.

And this is where I and my article😊 come in.

Self-checkouts - choose the best one for your business.
Self-checkouts – choose the best one for your business.

Here are the most important elements to consider when choosing the most suitable self-checkouts for your shop.

A full-service provider for the implementation of self-checkouts.

The supplier should dedicate a team to provide assistance at each stage of implementation. This team, in cooperation with employees delegated from the client’s side, performs a mathematical analysis of transactions and customers’ purchasing habits using specially developed software. On this basis, it offers the optimal solution. A good supplier will not only train your staff, but will also evaluate the end result of the solution, and if it is unsatisfactory, will take action to improve it. To get the most out of self-checkouts in a shop, analysis using data modelling in combination with customer feedback is essential.  This process is complex, time-consuming and involves a number of people, but it is essential to realise the full potential of self-checkouts. The supplier should determine the timeframe within which the chosen solutions can be successfully implemented, so that the retailer can prepare its shop, staff and customers well for the moment when self-checkouts will be available.

Self-checkouts that integrate well with existing systems and other solutions.

In order to satisfy the customer and encourage the use of self-checkouts, it is important to remember that they must offer the same capabilities as regular checkouts. Effective integration with existing systems and possible solutions is essential to coordinate receipts, loyalty points, discounts and other features available at traditional cash registers.

Self-checkout security system based on security scale.

Some suppliers offer self-checkout systems with gates. This is not convenient for the customer, who has to scan a receipt to leave the checkout area. Receipts can get lost in shopping bags or simply cannot be scanned. What happens next? Then the customer must wait for the cashier, who will open the gate for him. The self-checkout area becomes crowded, which is something we want to avoid. Suppliers of solutions with gates refer to the safety provided by this system. But are you sure?

There is no guarantee that the receipt the customer scans contains all the products the customer has in his bag.  If the customer does not scan the product but places it in the packing area, the device will not register it. Of course, this situation can be intentional or not, in both cases the shop loses. To ensure safety, I recommend self-checkouts based on a security scale. This system checks the weight of the products put into the packaging area and compares it with the weight stored in the system. This solution is efficient and safe without the need to install gates that hinder the shopping process.

Intuitive self-checkout interface.

The self-checkout interface should be as intuitive and simple as possible so that the customer can reach the end goal of their visit – i.e. leaving the shop – as quickly as possible. A well chosen interface is a great way to reduce the intervention of sales assistants and encourage the customer to use self-service checkouts. I think in these times of increasing DIY popularity, everyone likes to do their DIY and likes how it works out.

In summary when choosing self-checkouts for your shop you should:

  • know how fast the integration process will be
  • how well the solution integrates with existing systems and other solutions,
  • choose cash registers with an intuitive interface and without gates
  • choose a supplier who will carry out a thorough shop analysis and train your staff.

And remember that a good supplier is one for whom, after installing the Self-checkouts, integrating the system and training the staff, the “fun” is just beginning. In order to achieve the desired goals, there comes a crucial moment – the adjustment of the self-checkouts to the shop and the customers. And that’s what customers like best.

Self-checkouts to support commerce in today’s environment. Is it possible?

Each investment in new technologies is uncertain. We do not know whether this innovative solution will work in our business but it costs money. Let us take a look at whether SCO (Self-Checkout) are nowadays a support for retail trade or an unnecessary expense?

What happened and what to do?

One day, information about a dangerous and rapidly spreading virus appeared in the media. In a short time the virus reached Poland. This situation forced retailers to adapt efficiently to new customer expectations. Today, the customer expects from the shop the availability of goods, an efficient supply chain and, most importantly, compliance with safety standards.

Retail shops try to satisfy customers by ensuring availability of goods and compliance with sanitary regulations. Customers who are uncertain about tomorrow buy less and try to keep visits to the shop to a minimum. The customer’s shopping experience has changed significantly in just a few months. Despite the efforts, the retail industry is noticing an economic slowdown.

Retailers are wondering: will retail ever recover?  It will, but on different terms.

What always happens when there is a downturn has happened. Retailers are fighting for the market. Which one will survive? According to Darwin’s universal theory – not the strongest, but the one that can adapt. Adapt to the new economy and new customer requirements.

Multichannel !

Shops that have already introduced or tested a multi-channel approach are in a good position. Shops which, in addition to stationary shopping, also offer online shopping with home delivery or collection of a ready-made order in a stationary shop, have recently noticed an increase in the number of customers.  The owners of these shops know very well how important it is to react quickly to changes, to be alert and open to changes in the economy. Applause.

Fortunately, a recent study by Mood Media offers some optimism.  The September 2020 Shopper Sentiments study surveyed 8,000 shoppers. As many as 80% of respondents are satisfied with the health safety measures introduced by shops, more than half hope to return to their shopping habits (without rationing shop visits) by summer 2021 and as many as 67% have already returned to shopping in smaller shops.

It is important to remember that customers who return to shops after a pandemic will have different expectations than customers before a pandemic. As I mentioned above – you have to adapt in order to be successful. On the one hand, the new customer will certainly be more willing to use the online shop, on the other hand, he will want to return to his everyday, stationary shopping, where he decides which cabbage he wants to pay for, what to pack it in, when he wants to buy it, and so on. I think we now particularly miss the freedom of choice already mentioned in my articles – I wrote about it here. Yes, I think the whole world will want a return to the normality which  provides freedom.

And yet – self-checkouts support the trade. Self-service is gaining momentum.

Retailers are wondering how the pandemic’s changed customer mindset will affect stationary shopping. And this is where self-service technology comes to the rescue. Self-checkouts are the shop’s answer to providing a quality customer experience – but safely.

In the near future, enriched with the knowledge of the importance of hygiene in the purchasing process, customers will try to limit contact with other people, aware that most viruses are transmitted by droplets. On the other hand, SCOs provide the customer with the comfort of choice, and this is important for the customer as evidenced by the thriving development of self-service technology before the pandemic.

Another popular solution is self-scanning technology. Customers like to be mobile and independent. With an app installed on the customer’s own smartphone or on a mobile scanner in the shop, the customer scans the goods and pays for them himself.  This app can be equipped with various extras, e.g. a help or advice button, a product information window when passing by, etc. Purchases made in this way are fast, convenient and safe.

It is predicted that the future of stationary shops will ultimately lie in so-called showrooms with a limited range of products. In Europe, self-service kiosks already function, allowing the customer to order goods online after seeing them in real life (endless aisle kiosk). This solution provides the customer with constant access to goods and at the same time allows the customer to see the quality of goods or simply their appearance in real life. After ordering and paying, the customer can order delivery by courier or collect the goods in the showroom. Already today, we can see how shopping in stationary points of sale and online shops intertwine.

Keep it up.

Self-service technology could contribute to retailers’ success in the coming months. Self-service checkouts certainly support retail. Chains or shopkeepers who recognise the need for multichannel business and the need to meet new customer needs in terms of the shopping experience are likely to gain a strong foothold in the retail market. The pandemic will one day be just a memory, but it will certainly leave its mark on the economy and our mentality for a long time.

Secure self-checkouts in times of pandemic?

The last few months have been difficult. The situation has forced us to adapt to new conditions, including commercial ones. Are self-checkouts the answer to new customer expectations? Are they safe and what does the customer actually want now?

The post-pandemic client. What has changed?

As we remember, in the beginning, the order to limit going out caused fear and panic. We rushed to the shops and stocked up on large quantities of goods, especially those with a long shelf life. Some products began to be in short supply. At that time, retail chains saw record profits. Internet shops triumphed. Online shopping seemed to be the best solution in this situation as it ensured that there was absolutely no contact with another person. Unfortunately, online shops, especially those supplying food, were also taken aback by the sudden surge in customers and lead times were significantly extended. Like it or not, armed with masks and gloves, we had to return to stationary shops.

A disinfected self-service checkout scale is a “must have” today.

We started to wash and disinfect our hands more often, to pay attention to hygiene. We are not the only ones. Shopkeepers have also established procedures to make shopping as safe as possible, minimising the risk of infection. In the meantime, the strict restrictions have been lifted, with only the obligation to wear a mask remaining. But something has changed in the public mind. For the better. Good habits will stay with us for a long time. Richer in knowledge and experience, customers pay attention not only to the choice of goods and attractive prices. They expect shopping to be safe and, in fact, hygienic. Retailers face another challenge – safe self-checkouts.

Secure self-checkouts

I have written about the fact that Poles are eager to use self-service devices here. Manufacturers of self-checkouts meet the expectations of customers. These devices have been present on the market for some time, but until now mainly large sales chains decided to use them. In order to shorten the time of waiting at the cash desk, shops probably did not even think how futuristic solution they introduced. Currently, many companies offer self-checkouts dedicated to smaller shops. I am convinced that in the nearest future, these cash registers will also appear in these shops. Why?

Because when finalising a purchase at a self-checkout;

  • the customer has no contact with the cashier
  • the purchased goods are only touched by the customer
  • the set-up of self-checkouts forces a distance between customers
  • moreover, some manufacturers offer devices that allow the customer to take care of his/her own safety directly.

As a rule, life or business changes are preceded by a deeper analysis of the situation, a plan and expectations. Now we have been put up against a wall, whether we want to or not, we have to adapt. Forced changes, although often very stressful, do not always have to be a bad thing, on the contrary they can bring a lot of good.  The situation has drawn our attention to hygiene issues, and these are not only important in the context of the current epidemic, it should be remembered that there are many diseases that can be contracted through contact with other people. Hypermarkets, supermarkets and even small shops promote contact with other people and therefore the risk of infection. Fortunately, stationary shops can rest assured, customers still value the possibility of self-selection and quick access to goods, they have just raised the bar.

Self-checkouts in Poland. Is this the way to success?

The introduction of modern solutions to the market is always associated with risk. Do self-checkouts in Poland have a chance to become something common? Is it a necessary investment? And is it this time and this place?

That is how it was and that is how it is now.

The development of self-service technologies in Poland is a fact. This phenomenon is not surprising. Everyone likes to decide for themselves, especially when it comes to spending money. That is why the entrance of hypermarkets to Poland 30 years ago was a great success. The decades of standing in queues for each individual product and the lack of choice are behind us. The times when the quality of service depended on the shop attendant are behind us. Poles rushed to hypermarkets in large numbers, somehow realising their need for freedom. And it is precisely this need for freedom, for making one’s own choices, that is now crucial in making purchasing decisions. But what’s with the cash registers?

Poles and new technologies.

The twenty-years-old generation does not remember those times, but the thirty-year-old have had the opportunity to experience this phenomenon, not to mention older generations. Poles are open to novelty, they are not afraid of new technologies.   More and more Poles are aware of the constant development of technology and the need to keep up with it. At present in Poland over 90% of payments are made by contactless. Poles are willing to set up a trusted profile ePUAP, a profile on the e-patient portal to receive e-prescriptions, etc. As a rule, new technologies are perceived by Poles as something that makes life easier.

Self-checkouts in Poland are „in demand”. Observing the behaviour of customers who decide to use self-checkouts, I noticed that the users are not only young or middle-aged people. I see elderly people efficiently completing their purchases or asking an assistant to ‘teach’ them how to use such a cash register. Even people who are afraid of using self-checkouts often get out of their comfort zone and try them. They learn because they know that in a short while, the novelty will be an everyday occurrence.

Self checkouts in Poland – Partner Tech in Stokrotka – Polish Retail Chain

Why do Poles choose self-checkouts?

What are the main reasons why Poles want to use self-checkouts? Let us consider.

As I want, when I want.

Firstly, it seems to me that the most important element is the aforementioned possibility of choice. It is the customer who decides which cash register he wants to choose. A person who has not yet been convinced by self-checkouts does not feel forced to choose modern technology and this increases the likelihood that he will try it in the future. As we know, people are different. Some choose traditional cash registers to talk to the cashier or out of fear of unfamiliar machines. Others are eager to test all technological innovations and choose shops that allow them to do so.

I am saving time.

Certainly the factor that has led Poles to use self-checkouts in the first place is the absence or much shorter queues. It’s always an enticing prospect. Even traditional cash registers are chosen based on the length of the queue. We value our time more and more. While there are certainly people who enjoy the selection of goods during shopping, a long queue can effectively spoil the pleasure.

I do the packing myself.

Another reason that makes a customer choose a self-checkout is again related to choice – the choice of how they want to package their shopping. Very often cashiers operating traditional cash registers scan products at the speed of light. The customer has barely finished putting the goods on the belt and has to run to pack them, as the scanned and piled-up shopping almost falls to the floor. In between blindly throwing the shopping into bags, he pays for his purchases, measured by the urging eyes of the next customer in line, who is waiting to start his marathon of lining up and packing. Deodorant in the yoghurt, a crushed tomato or a broken jar can all lead to frustration. With a self-checkout, customers can complete their purchases at their own pace and pack as they wish, not as they have to.

I buy what I want.

Another circumstance that makes a customer decide to use a self-checkout is the desire for privacy. Poles do not always want their purchases to be visible to ten people. We live in a country where the purchase of certain products can still arouse unhealthy interest or, even worse, unnecessary comments from others. Shopping is part of privacy. Everyone can shop the way they want and need without being judged by others, even by just looking. The customer appreciates not only the fact that he can take the goods off the shelf himself, but also that he can pay for them in full.

Of course, there are many more reasons why customers use self-checkouts in Poland. Probably many of them will be mentioned on this blog. Theoretically, I can assume that as many customers as many reasons😉 I will research. After all, customer service is my passion and my destiny 🙂 I will research.

One thing is for sure, self-checkouts are not only modern devices but also tools that offer customers a completely different buying experience. Shops that allow customers to use self-checkouts are perceived as modern and friendly. And customers return to such shops willingly.