IKEA Bags Self-Checkouts

Discussion
Aug 14, 2012

Let the great self-checkout debate continue.

When IKEA opened its massive warehouse store in Tampa back in 2009, it included self-checkouts. That, it turns out, is about to change as the store found self-checkouts were not as "efficient" as the company had projected when it opened for business.

On busy days, according to a Tampa Tribune report, the lanes clogged as consumers found checking out wasn’t as easy to do when they did it themselves.

"On peak days, we were finding that we ended up staffing them anyways with a co-worker per checkout lane," IKEA spokesperson Joe Roth told the Tribune. "If you end up doing that, what’s the purpose of having it?"

IKEA is now in the process of removing self-checkouts from its stores across the U.S. although many locations, including those in Oregon, continue to offer the self-checkout option.

While ready-to-assemble furniture warehouse stores may not be the best location for self-checkouts, supermarkets and mass outlets, even with some notable exceptions, continue to expand the option. Chains as diverse as Walmart and Wegmans have increased the use of self-checkouts this year.

Research conducted by Dechert-Hampe found self-checkouts are in about two-thirds of all supermarkets in the U.S. Nearly one-in-four checkouts are of the do-it-yourself variety.

"Self-service is not for everyone," Raymond Jones, managing director for Dechert-Hampe, told the Tribune. "If you’re a retailer, your business is to satisfy your customers. And we found that people can have a wonderful experience all the way through the store, but everything can be undone by that extra five minutes at checkout."

Discussion Questions: What are the greatest opportunities and challenges for stores related to the use of self-checkouts? What criteria should retailers use to determine if self-checkouts make sense in individual stores?

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13 Comments on "IKEA Bags Self-Checkouts"


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Kenneth Leung
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

I think the challenge for IKEA specifically is just the bulkiness and volume of the items purchased. Many of the items at IKEA are in large boxes where the barcode cannot be easily reached with a traditional checkout lane scanner. Often it does take the customer to move the box for the cashier to scan the barcode.

Also, IKEA shopping is a family affair, often with children, which makes it more difficult for parents to manage the child around big heavy boxes and do scans.

Sometimes the convenience of self scanning is defeated by the nature of the scanning process.

Ed Dunn
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

The problem with current self-checkout implementation is it does not solve the queuing problem. Customers still have to line up to conduct a transaction.

Mobile self-checkout, through bring-your-own-device and mobile-enabled tablets that cost $200USD can provides higher transactions-per-minute, the true goal/metric a retailer should achieve instead of admiring nifty but redundant $40,000USD self-checkout stations….

Zel Bianco
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

It comes down to who is in front of you. Its like EZ-Pass. If the guy in front of you neglected to add money to it, you are stuck. With self check out, it’s the same thing. Many CVS stores and A&P Fresh stores in the NY area have done a good job with self check-out. They have at least 5 or 6 terminals with one employee standing by to help those that may be having trouble scanning produce or whatever the issue is. This seems to resolve having to have an employee stationed at check-out as well as to give the shopper a better and faster check-out experience.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

Many shoppers use self checkout because they feel they are more in control of the process. As noted in the various articles, self-checkout is not the fastest or most effective form of checkout. Unfortunately, many retailers introduced self checkout as a labor-saving versus a customer service initiative. The key is to ensure that the system and the personnel are aligned to delight the customer and bring the customer back.

W. Frank Dell II, CMC
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

Checkout is a negative, but required shopping process. For some reason, most retailers believe self scan is for small purchases. Further, many retailers have dumbed down the checkout process and missed a real opportunity. In the world of self service, the customer interface is lost with self scan. When will the cashier call the customer by name after they scan the frequent shopper card? Where can the cashier record items the customer could not find? Self scanning provides all the interaction of online shopping.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
9 years 9 months ago

The greatest value of self-checkouts to customers is that it puts them in charge of the process. That’s power, and power is a customer asset.

The greatest challenge to customers is the accuracy of the system and the speed and knowledge of the person ahead of you, i.e., time-consuming bungling that can require additional personal service by store personnel.

Stores should evaluate self-checkout systems accordingly to determine what makes the customers the happiest at the lowest cost to the store.

Matt Schmitt
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

Customer preference is the driving criteria. In supermarkets the shoppers who embrace self-checkout choose that approach while those who want full service go that way. Queues only factor in to part of the equation when the shopper is mentally fixed on their preference.

It’s similar to the old gas station model when self-service was introduced. There was a long transition period. Give them a choice until one (or the other) models falls off.

Concetta Phillipps
Guest
Concetta Phillipps
9 years 9 months ago
The biggest problem at IKEA is really that they need to steer some people clear of the self-checkouts. People ringing lots of furniture boxes and large items should not be heading to self-checkout, when they would be better served by a real checkout. The problem with that becomes, however, that people are coming to the self-checkout because of the long lines at the regular checkouts and IKEA-inflicted limits on the lines such as cash-only or card only. For me, self-checkout is a win at IKEA – since I’m so close, I tend to run in for a few items and that’s it. I want to be able to get through the line fast as a consumer, and it irritates the living daylights out of me when other consumers are not using the self-checkout to its fullest capacity because of improper use or lack of knowledge. I’ve helped people in line before understand how to use it because IKEA did not have a worker or supervisor for the lines. I’ve had to study several locations for… Read more »
Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
9 years 9 months ago

The greatest opportunity for self-checkout is finding a way to prevent theft. Currently, most systems depend on the consumer to scan each item. This is easily scammed by attaching home made bar codes over those on a package or by just bagging items without scanning them. The cure might be RFID checkout, but care would have to be taken to shield one customer’s purchases from a nearby package of another customer. I have seen people copy and print bar codes from cereal boxes on adhesive labels and then put these over the bar code on a whole tenderloin and pay $2.98 for a $107 package of prime beef. Good eating! Self-checkouts would tend to lose more money in areas where poor, tech savvy consumers abound (any major university)! Imagine a 12 pack for the price of a pack of bubble gum!

Gordon Arnold
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

People make mistakes all the time. When the system allows for a lot of mistakes to be made by many different parties, the time to change the system is overdue by the number of days it was implemented. Self-checkout as a success is measured by the impact the inherent mistakes have on the cost of goods sold. In order to keep it in place the parties of interest add the cost of removal prior to ROI as a further deterrent. To date, I have seen no reports of how it affects single stores on a department basis against social economic demographics. The added cost information is almost never closely scrutinized, even though the mistakes usually have favorite item types and sizes on a per store basis. What is constant is that the types and number of mistakes without self checkout is always much lower. And in this economy, every dollar counts.

Mark Burr
Guest
9 years 9 months ago
It does not surprise me that at this point in the survey, 63% say that the greatest benefit for self-checkout is for supermarkets. It also does not surprise me that over time this group also bemoans their usage let alone their existence. Further, the entire idea of self-checkout has been so mismanaged that the continued discussion of this type is not a surprise. Self-checkout more than anything else was sold from the beginning as a means to save labor. They do. The worst thing that retailers could have been sold on as a benefit of self-checkout is labor savings. Managed well, self-checkout is a substantial customer service enhancement for supermarkets. Unfortunately, supermarket retailers, in general, don’t take advantage of the biggest benefit. In addition, if Mr. Dennis did see what he claims, the retailer where he saw this aberration chose the wrong systems. A sound self-checkout system possesses the security within the system that completely rejects the possibilities described in theft. Self-checkout, implemented well, provides more lanes all the time. They eliminate service level spikes… Read more »
Stan Barrett
Guest
Stan Barrett
9 years 9 months ago

My biggest challenge is bagging, not checking. Self-checkout should be either limited to a very minimum of items, or staffed by baggers. Nothing worse than getting in line behind someone who has a full cart at self-checkout. Don’t even think of going through if alcohol is involved in your cart!

Criteria — is it better for the customer?

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

The challenge is not the store’s ability to have self-checkouts. It’s the ability and willingness of the customer to use them in a timely manner. I still feel more comfortable using a cashier at checkout.

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