Self-Checkouts Seek Change of Scenery

Discussion
May 13, 2008

By George Anderson

Self-checkout vendors IBM and NCR are betting that a change of scenery will give consumers new reasons to use the technology to get them out of stores.

According to a report on the Storefront Backtalk website, the vendors introduced smaller self-checkout systems intended to be deployed away from the front-end of stores.

The IBM AnyPlace Checkout system was being marketed as a means to deliver customer service in the form of smaller lines by positioning the unit in departments such as the deli and bakery.

NCR was pushing the value of the smaller units as being practical for stores including convenience stores, pharmacies and department stores.

The new IBM units, which are roughly half the cost of front-end models, are meant to handle smaller baskets and are wall-mounted. Fredrik Carlegren, IBM’s offering marketing manager for self-service, told Storefront Backtalk, “If you’re looking at a grocery, a few units (could exist) within any particular department.”

Greg Buzek, the president of IHL Group, said the new systems allow “self-checkout to move into other areas where it’s too costly today. We’re talking convenience and drug stores, places where you don’t have the labor savings to justify” the typical self-checkout system.

Discussion Question: What are your thoughts on the prospects of smaller self-checkout systems? Do you see greater opportunities in stores that have not typically used self-checkout before (convenience, drug, department stores) or in departments such as deli, bakery, etc. in locations that deploy the technology at the front-end?

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11 Comments on "Self-Checkouts Seek Change of Scenery"


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Liz Crawford
Guest
14 years 4 days ago
Self check-out and its cousin, vending, are finding greater consumer acceptance in many retail contexts. I believe that retail will be increasingly automated, bit by bit, until personal service becomes the dubious luxury of the rich. I say dubious, because not every consumer (even wealthy consumer, even Millennial consumer) wants to interact with a human. Humans get it wrong. Humans create another layer of purchase (the interaction itself), which is not always a positive experience, despite the breathless literature about it. Case in point: I have two American Express cards. One is green, one is gold. After my wallet was stolen from my purse (don’t ask) I called to report the stolen cards. The green card’s 800 number took my information efficiently; I was off the phone in a few minutes. The gold card’s 800 number directed me to a “representative” who pitched me long & hard on other products. I had to fight to get off the phone with this person (who was clearly reading from a script), and be certain that I wouldn’t… Read more »
Alison Chaltas
Guest
Alison Chaltas
14 years 4 days ago

Smaller, more shopper-friendly self-checkout setups is a big idea. The challenge with self-checkout today is that it doesn’t feel easier than waiting in line and letting a clerk do it for the shopper. In fact, many shoppers report it feels hard and even “scary.”

Smaller setups in locations throughout the store can be more approachable, emphasizing the benefit vs. the intimidating technology and leveraging location convenience. Plus keeping lines smaller at the front end can certainly reduce the perceived wait time, improving the overall shopper experience.

Of course, with every cool idea comes operational reality. The front ends of most stores are set up to drive incremental sales and manage shrink. This technology will require new merchandising approaches and creativity. The winners will be those who think about integrating the smaller checkouts into their overall merchandising scheme, moving beyond “just” creating more places to checkout.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
14 years 4 days ago

In my humble opinion, self serve checkouts represent the end of the customer service and basket growth in the retail industry. I do not see any benefit from a sales and consumer point of view. By installing self checkouts, basically we are saying that we do not want to upsell the customer anymore and we do not want to provide personalized service to our customers. We are also saying that we want the customer out of the store faster rather then have them shop for a longer period of time.

Retailers would be better served in hiring and training the right people for the final customer interaction in the store. Stores that have sellers instead of ‘cashiers’ or a machine will see increased basket and transaction growth (not to mention increased customer satisfaction and loyalty!). This is one instance where computers negatively impact the business.

Susan Rider
Guest
Susan Rider
14 years 4 days ago

This is the trend of the future. (Look at the airline kiosk lines) But you have to get it right! Most of the machines out there have problems a good portion of the time. There is nothing more frustrating to the consumer to go to a self checkout machine and it doesn’t work, then have to start all over in a long line. The focus should be on keeping the directions simple, clearly marked, and up all the time. People will gravitate to the ease of use and convenience.

Art Williams
Guest
Art Williams
14 years 4 days ago

I understand the cost savings attraction for the retailers but as a consumer I am totally turned off by self-checkouts. It’s not that I am against technology but I prefer the human interaction at least when it is positive. Our newest Home Depot makes you go through the self-checkout but has a cashier there to check you out in case you don’t want to use it. They only have one normal checkout lane and it is never staffed. Makes me want to go to Menards instead. Or better yet, use the Internet if we are not going to have any service anymore.

Anne Howe
Guest
14 years 4 days ago

I think multiple self check out areas would be a great help to big box stores to increase and encourage the quick fill-in trip visits. Also think it could would in convenience stores and gas station marts where long lines are particularly annoying at peak times when everyone is in a hurry. But, the technology MUST work or the annoyance factor will drive shoppers away forever!

Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
14 years 4 days ago
Having self-serve checkouts located throughout the stores makes a lot of sense, and I disagree with my fellow panelists who think this will reduce sales to consumers. I believe quite the contrary. Right now, if a person wants just a few items from a store, particularly a supermarket or a box store, they know that once they pick up a few items, they will have to wait in increasingly longer lines at the front of the store. Rather than do this, the consumer bypasses the store altogether, and visits a convenience store, or a store with a smaller footprint. If a consumer knows that they can grab a carton of milk, and a box of cereal, and checkout in the cereal aisle at a wall-mounted unit, the chances are greater the due to the convenience, they will continue to visit their local supermarket even when they only need a few things. Once in th store, the chances are greater that they will pick up items on an impulse. And I don’t know about you, but… Read more »
Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 4 days ago

Staying at a small hotel (only 8 rooms, with a 2-table restaurant), I noticed a notebook on the public bar. There was no bartender or cashier. Folks wanting refreshment wrote their drinks in the notebook and served themselves. At checkout time, the notebook was consulted for the bar tab.

Yes, there were guests who cheated. Yes, there were guests who thought a self-service bar was poor service. But the volume didn’t allow having a bartender or a $250,000 robotic serve system or full-time video surveillance or a $1 million RFID installation.

Don’t like self-checkout? Are you willing to pay more for personal cashier service? Do you ever use ATMs or do you only want a live bank teller? Ever eat in a restaurant or do you insist on a personal chef? Are you everybody? Are you most people?

Michele Dalpini
Guest
Michele Dalpini
14 years 4 days ago
Wow, am I the only cynic out here? Has no one thought of the theft/shrinkage side of this? There is quite a bit of “creative checkout” now, and that is with the registers up-front and somewhat being monitored. I know several people who work in grocery stores now, and I am always hearing about the scams the customers have already come up with for things without UPC labels: Donuts/bakery–they enter a smaller quantity, or actually have Danish (which costs more) but enter the cheaper donut code Take-out, hot, ready-to-eat foods are not covered by food stamps, so they enter a cold food number instead, and pay with food stamps. Produce–they enter the cheapest price code for similar items, such as the apples that are on sale, but they actually have a bag of a different variety. And the list goes on…. I have many years of retail experience, in sales, management, human resources, and from owning my own business. I see self-checkout as a negative; as someone else said, it’s like the owner telling me… Read more »
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
Guest
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
14 years 4 days ago
I’m with Joel. If consumers know that they have the option of getting in and out based on what they need and the ability to control the check out process, they may make more visits to the store and be more inclined to do some impulse buying too. I can’t tell you how many times I have left merchandise behind and left a store because of the way the check out process was working. This is a definite consumer benefit as long as it is but one of the options available. There will be those that want to check out with a cashier and have a more human interactive experience. You can’t take away that factor. It’s like the airlines. There are those who still will stand in line to talk to a ticket agent. Don’t take that away, but give those of us that like the kiosks the option to use them throughout the retail experience and you may make my visits to the store more frequent and more satisfying.
Robert DiLonardo
Guest
Robert DiLonardo
14 years 3 days ago

I agree that self-checkout is the future. However, equipment providers and retailers must address the security issues, such as barcode switching and shoplifting. Just yesterday, a story was published about a thief who had repeatedly substituted a low priced barcode for expensive stereo speakers.

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