Studies show consumers around the world view self-checkout (SCO) as a key component to making shopping faster, easier and more convenient. But where do we go from here? How will the next generation of technology build on what we have today?
New variations of self-checkout solutions are redefining its future and will ensure retailers are able to deliver an exceptional experience. From both a hardware and software perspective, retailers will have lots of choices to select the appropriate self-checkout solution to best meet the needs of their shoppers and ultimately their business. From a hardware perspective, one key initiative has been large order, automated scanning technology. Traditionally, self-service capabilities were geared toward a sweet spot of just a few items up to about a dozen. But what about shoppers who want the same convenience of SCO when they have a full shopping cart?
The NCR ScanPortal, now being trialed by Meijer in the U.S. as well as Tesco and Asda in the U.K., allows shoppers to place their items on a conveyor belt where they can then be automatically scanned from 360 degrees, removing the need for specific item placement orientation. Items are scanned, itemized and deposited in a collection area where shoppers simply pack and pay while the next person in line is able to immediately start unloading their items. An Attendant is on hand to assist with produce or age-restricted purchases such as alcohol.
A second development involves smaller footprint self-checkouts that accept card-based payments only and can be used strategically to offload store traffic, often for a single purpose or a seasonal pop-up type event. Today, we have grocers using this technology in their deli sections to offer shoppers a fast and convenient option to pay for a grab-and-go lunch without waiting for further assistance – or standing in line. Going forward, we see this technology with its small footprint debuting in convenience stores where shoppers can come in, grab a few items and scan and pay on their way out the door.
A third area of hardware development has been with convertible self-checkout configurations that can be transformed from cashier-assisted mode to self-service mode by pivoting the screen to face the shopper and a card reader to accept payment. This innovation allows retailers to dynamically offer cashier assisted or self-service lanes as foot traffic and staffing levels dictate. In small store environments, you can envision this being the only checkout option, being able to switch between self-service and assisted service to provide an always open checkout option that keeps up with the required throughput by flexing store checkout labor as needed.
From a software perspective, the addition of multiple imagers (cameras) into the scanner is paving the way for software-based security and convenience initiatives. To improve the age-old problem of properly identifying produce at the checkout, the imaging scanner works with the software to analyze the item being scanned and more thoroughly narrow down the pick-list of potential items. By eliminating the potential possibilities from hundreds to just a few, the shopper can complete the transaction more quickly and with greater satisfaction.
Having imagers in the scanner also creates benefits to security as we know it today. Today, much of security is based on weighing items as they are placed in bagging area. Now, software is used to give insight into what is taking place in the checkout and bagging space. The software uses the camera feeds to assess whether an intervention is needed and then sends that piece of video to an offsite monitoring center to verify what is taking place. Specific information can then be sent to the SCO attendant who knows exactly what to look for from a security standpoint and can take immediate action based on this information. For the customer, this may be less obtrusive as potential incidents are analyzed in real-time and false interventions are disregarded to avoid interrupting the checkout. That speeds up the process and creates a better experience for the shopper who doesn’t have to stop and wait for the employee to clear the system.
Whether it’s high velocity automated scanning or SCO solutions designed for specific retail environments or requirements, the success and acceptance of the technology is expanding the market opportunities and redefining the role of the solution. Software enhancements are being designed to enhance the shopping experience by greatly diminishing the need for assistance and increasing the speed at check-out while giving retailers heightened functionality.
The general acceptance of SCO solutions with 90 percent of those surveyed globally saying they use it suggests that shoppers are primed for the solution to be introduced in new retail formats and for new specific purposes. As software and hardware evolve, that growth will be coupled with more convenience for shoppers and a better return for retailers looking to grow their business.