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Why independents need SCO more now than ever

Published November 25, 2020


Make a solid plan and put it into action

Back in March, the question retailers wanted answered more than anything was, “Should COVID-19 change my decision-making process for investing in self-checkout?”

It’s hard to predict the long-term implications of the pandemic, but what we do know (months later) is that demand and expectations for self-checkout have grown dramatically. Now 87 percent of shoppers say they don’t just want self-checkout, they would prefer to shop in stores with touchless or robust self-checkout options.

So, if you’re wondering if you should invest in self-checkout the answer is, yes. It’s faster, convenient and safe—and it’s the service your customers are demanding.

Aside from creating an indisputable financial payback for retailers, today’s self-checkout technologies and innovation bring additional benefits to both the shopper and retailer that weren’t available just a few years ago.


Self-service doesn’t mean zero service

Naturally, if you’re an independent grocery store owner or operator, you might ask, “Why should I invest in self-checkout when my differentiator from the big box stores is my attention to customer service?” It's a fair question. But it begs another: Do you ever use self-checkout?

Over 90 percent of the time, the answer from other independents is yes, they do use self-checkout at other stores. The reasons vary, from being in a hurry and only having a few items to not wanting to wait in line or didn’t want to closely interact with a store cashier—which are all of the same reasons consumers use them, too.

And that’s why the reason to invest in self-checkout have never changed. It’s about customer service and that’s about giving shoppers choices. From the variety of products you offer and the number of departments you have to whether you provide curbside, pick-up and delivery service and many other factors, choices are important to your customers. As you provide more of them, you’re improving the customer experience—and the checkout is no different.

Did you know the number one complaint for shoppers is waiting in line? So, if shoppers are sensitive to the time it takes to get through a traditional checkout out line, giving them choices—especially when it means a speedier checkout—is an obvious improvement in customer service.

And during the pandemic, shoppers are hyper-focused on reducing the time they spend in your store. They’re not browsing the aisles anymore. Instead, they’re grabbing the items they need and finding the shortest line to check out and leave. If that means using self-checkout, you can bet they will.

In fact, according to a consumer survey conducted by NCR VOYIX, 49 percent of consumers say they will use self-checkout more often than they already do, because of COVID-19. 


Is self-checkout right for a smaller store?

When considering self-checkout technology, the size of your store generally should have little bearing on whether or not you invest in self-checkout. The typical ratio for the replacement of traditional cashier lanes with self-checkout is one for two—for every cashier lane removed, two self-checkouts are deployed.

For a smaller store, maybe two cashier lanes are removed and replaced with four self-checkout lanes; for a mid-sized store, three cashier lanes are removed in exchange for six self-checkouts. From a layout perspective, the goal is to place the self-checkouts in a space similar to the space gained with the removal of the traditional lanes.


Is self-checkout evolving?

Yes. Innovation continues to be a driving decisionmaker for retailers when investing in self-checkout. The advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) have improved the overall shopper experience in the store while helping you manage operations.

  • Produce management: Imagine if you put a bundle of bananas on a self-checkout scanner and selected the produce icon, and all that was displayed on the screen was bananas? That’s a reality right now. Today’s technology identifies the item by shape and color, eliminating the need for the shopper to search through a long list of produce items to make their selection.
  • Shrink prevention: Similar AI technology is also being used to prevent expensive items from being rung up as produce. For example, if a shopper attempted to ring an item (like wine) as produce (perhaps a banana), which is less expensive, the AI would alert the managing attendant at the self-checkouts that the bottle of wine was rung up as bananas and the transaction would not be allowed to proceed.
  • Facial recognition: Imagine if your self-checkout attendant didn’t have to intervene every time there was an alcohol purchase. Technology can validate the age of a shopper making a purchase of an age restricted item. If the shopper is of legal age, there’s no need for an attendant to intervene.

If the shopper is underage or if the technology is unable to positively gauge their age, an attendant would be called over to validate it. This technology improves the consumer’s shopping experience by reducing the number of times they interact with your staff and improves accuracy that human error can miss.

Already rising in demand, COVID-19 has made self-checkout in grocery stores more important than ever. And the myths that self-checkout can’t be deployed in smaller stores or that it reduces a grocer’s customer service are simply that: myths. Still, every retailer’s journey with self-checkout is unique, so it’s critical that they have a trusted, innovative partner to work with to make sure they deliver the right self-checkout solution.

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