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Using self-service technologies to address labor issues

Published June 22, 2022

Much has been written about the labor shortages affecting retailers. The great resignation, as it has been termed, has seen people leaving retail in their masses opting for better paid, and less stressful occupations.

Wages have risen as retailers compete for workers, but the reality of the situation is that people are less keen to work in retail. Bridging the gap between the number of staff retailers need and the ones at their disposal – in the short term at least – is going to be difficult. The only option is to find ways to make the most of the staff you have.

Self-service technology allows retailers the ability to adapt to their labor. In the last few years, they have become a common feature of grocery stores in the US, and the pandemic saw their use accelerate even faster. According to recent data, the market is expected to grow at more than 13% year on year between 2022 and 2030.

Related: See how this C-store uses self-checkout to creatively allocate staff while reducing checkout times

For customers they bring speed, convenience and personalization. The ability for customers to take control of the checkout system and scan through at their own pace has proved popular with customers. To them, it is a way to avoid queues and get in and out with their shopping in the fastest possible time.

With the onset of COVID-19, self-service checkouts also became a way to reduce physical contact and to maintain social distancing while in-store. Reducing queues at the checkout minimizses crowds and lowers the chances of infection spreading.

Meanwhile, for stores, they have become a way to improve the customer service by adding more choice to the checkout process. Those who prefer to be served by a person in the traditional way still have the existing checkouts. Those who want a faster and more convenient option can choose self-service.

With a smaller footprint, they serve more people within a much smaller footprint adding to the number of customers they can serve within the same space.

But it is the labor shortage which could prove to be the key. Self-service checkouts offer the option to speed up the whole process, reduce queues and alleviate the pressure on staff. They free them up to be more productive and give your customers the high level of personal service they value. The entire shopping experience becomes faster, more convenient and much happier for everyone.

How to implement self-service checkouts

Much, though, will depend on how the technology is implemented. Each store is unique, with its own layout and customer base. It is important to consider what role self-service needs to fulfil within the store and what you, as a retailer, want to get out of it.

This is where a reputable partner can step in. A company that has the expertise to analyse in-store options and deliver the latest technology to deliver a state-of-the-art self-service checkout system tailored around your needs.

Service should start with analysis. The key is to understand the demographics within the store and your customer’s shopping behavior.

Different stores might see different buying patterns. For example, you might be located near a train station in which case you might see short bursts of activity in which the store can become extremely busy very quickly. Your customers might be predominantly older, younger or young families. The layout of your store may affect how they move through the aisles and what they buy.

Your customer data, therefore, will be incredibly important in shaping what your new system should look like. One of the first things to do when working with clients is to conduct intense data modelling. By assessing metrics such as basket data, peak time of day information payment mix and others, we can design an optimal front end for your business.  

Related: Smart checkout – pilot first, then scale

Depending on the nature of the store, you might be better suited to different types of self-service options including:

  • Small baskets: If you regularly cater to small baskets, you can use smaller machines which take up very little room allowing you to offer multiple payment options.
  • Larger baskets: Bigger machines will be suitable for stores in which customers regularly come for their regular weekly shopping. These have more space around them which will allow for bigger single purchases but will reduce the number of payment stations. Many  devices bring extra levels of customization by automatically identifying items as they are placed on scales, allowing for a much faster and more seamless experience.
  • Grab and go: For an even more convenient approach, grab and go lets people take items, pay and leave without ever visiting the checkout. Using deep learning and computer vision technologies, customers take items and automatically pay for them 
  • Mobile Scanning: Using phones or mobile scanning devices, customers can check-in items as they go rather than scanning through each one at the till. They arrive at the checkout already bagged up and ready to go. All they have to do is scan their phone and make the payment. Look for a  system that comes complete with features such as reusable shopping lists and personalizsed promotion with allow for a uniquely tailored approach.
  • Click and collect: During the pandemic, Click & Collect became extremely popular as customers sought to minimize time in store. With this option, people can easily place orders and then collect the item when they arrive in store.

Depending on your store, choose a partner that can tailor the mix of self-service checkouts to your business and provide the very latest technologies. For example, customers can take a selfie for age verification rather than wait for a member of staff to come over. Checkouts can identify items just from their weight and staff can be alerted via mobile device allowing them to know where they are needed at any one time.

This mix of the latest technologies and expertise gives retailers the chance to secure a real edge on the competition – even those which have already made some progress in the move towards self-service. Having the technology is one thing – but positioning it in a strategic way which provides maximum value is what transforms self service from a nice to have gadget to something which truly transforms the instore buying experience. Those who get it right can win out in a big way.

LISTEN NOW: As published
on The Voice of Retail podcast:

David Wilkinson, President, NCR VOYIX Commerce on the Future of Self-Checkout, POS & more

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