Month: February 2021

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.