Could self-checkout be a triple threat winner?

Published January 13, 2023

The pandemic has increased the adoption of self-checkout by retailers, including c-stores, and it’s easy to see why.  As reported by Bloomberg, 87 percent of consumers during the pandemic said they preferred shopping in stores with robust self-checkout and preferably touchless terminals. But moving forward in a post-pandemic world, top sources predict that this self-checkout traction will only continue, with the “global self-checkout systems market size expected to reach 7.8 billion USD by 2027” (Cision PR Newswire). Meanwhile, Loss Prevention Media says self-checkout is poised to grow 10.3 percent “year over year until 2024.”

So, convenience store owners are wise to invest in self-checkout, as it’s clear that the rise of it is only going to continue. But it’s important to note that self-checkout was already adopted well before COVID. “In retail petroleum, both self-checkout and self-service kiosks have been in place for several years now,” said Jeremie Myhren, Chief Information Officer at Road Ranger, which operates 40 stores in the Midwest and Texas. “Customers increasingly expect to have a self-service option, whether via a kiosk, self-checkout or within your app, and certain customer segments are going to increasingly demand from and reward those who provide full self-service options.” (C Store Decisions).

Related: Five ways c-stores can enhance the customer experience

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The benefits of self-checkout and how it helps your staff


Self-checkout has many benefits, but the top one is convenience. And Success Magazine offers a very good example of how consumers are willing to pay for convenience: Rather than walking down the hotel hallway to purchase a soda from a vending machine for $1.25 people very often pay $5.00 to get it from the minibar inside their rooms. That’s a matter of spending nearly $4.00 more to save a few minutes.

And that’s why consumers love your c-store and self-checkout—the convenience of it can make a big difference to consumers who are leading more rushed lives and are concerned about safety. And the flexibility of having the choice to use self-checkout when lines are long, waiting for a cashier is something most of your customers prefer. According to Forrester Consulting, 97 percent of grocery shoppers see long lines as limiting and 65 percent of them said that if available they would use self-checkout to avoid the long lines.

Self-checkout also gives your customers something else they truly valued and adopted, bolstered by the pandemic: contactless ways to pay. Investing in POS systems at self-checkout that accepts their tap and pay cards or their mobile wallets not only increases their safety, but it’s faster and even more fun—after all, consumers enjoy using new technology in stores.

So, what about your employees? What does more self-checkout mean for them? There has been some concern that SCO will replace employees, but because the customer experience always needs the human touch, that’s unlikely. Self-checkout also presents an opportunity to improve the customer experience and give your staff opportunities to perform more value-added tasks. When your staff can give extra attention to customer needs on top of the convenience of self-checkout, you’ll be upping your customer service and loyalty—which can help your bottom line.

 

Related: Managing labor with self-checkout

 

And your employees who might otherwise stand behind a cash register all day or night can step out into your store to do things like restock items or sanitize properly to satisfy rising customer expectations driven by the pandemic.

There’s also filling the role of “the greeter” that can be more important than you might initially think for c-stores. Sure, your customers want to get in and out as quickly as possible, but personalized customer service will always be key to your operations. Take Pet Supplies Plus, they put a real premium on greeting their customers who they call their “neighbors.” And Business News Daily reports that “greeters and engaging staff members have been proven to increase customer satisfaction and reduce the possibility of shoplifting.”

Also, why not take the opportunity to offer curbside service so your customers don’t even have to leave their cars or the pump if they’re filling up? With staff freed up from taking payments, they can fill orders and deliver them to your customers. That’s what Wawa started doing in their Pennsylvania and New Jersey stores during the pandemic. Now their customers can pull into six to eight clearly marked areas for delivery of fresh food and other grocery items—and pay with a mobile payment. It’s a great way to utilize your staff while expanding their experience and skill set and provide even better, more convenient and contactless service.

 

Related: Self-service and mobile technologies underpin convenience stores’ foodservice growth

Adopt more SCO with the customer journey in mind


While the benefits of self-checkout appeal to your customers, if it’s not easy-to-use, dependable, engaging and placed in accessible areas that aren’t prone to crowding than your customers are less likely to use it. So having a comprehensive SCO strategy is important.

According to TechSee, a remote visual customer assistant company, there are essential parts of a solid SCO strategy that includes:

  • Setting clear goals keeping in mind your customers self-checkout wants and your operational needs
  • Defining and enhancing customer journeys making sure there is no friction at any point, particularly when it comes to accepting payments
  • Making self-service consistent across every channel, which helps remove the friction
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of its engagement to make sure customers are getting the most from it

 

Related: Self-service doesn’t mean no service

The pandemic push and preparing for the SCO future


As for the future of SCO, it’s certainly clear that COVID-19 pushed the technology further and that the demand by consumers for self-checkout will continue for the convenience, efficiency and satisfaction that it delivers—and by meeting their expectations you can increase your brand loyalty and bottom line.

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