Image of self checkout in supermarket
Futures tech

Self checkouts – what’s the future?

In Retail, there isn’t a consumer technology that splits opinion quite like self checkouts. Personally, I like the speed and ease of use (except for the ‘unexpected item in the bagging area’ message); they enable me to go into the shop, get what I want and get out again relatively quickly. Whilst the experience is ‘colder’ than using a manned checkout, the quicker transaction outweighs this. However this is not the case for everyone.

Retailers like self checkouts because they offer improved checkout speed, convenience and shorter queues but many shoppers much prefer the human interaction with the checkout operator. In Japanese culture, there’s a concept of omotenashi – outstanding hospitality as the original meaning is to entertain guests wholeheartedly. For some, this may be the only interaction with another person that day and, as an ethical retailer, this daily interaction is something were keen to keep.

Multiple retailers have tried varying tactics to get more out of their significant financial self checkout investment; the obvious one being situating the tills near to the store entrance to give the impression of a faster transaction – you’re nearer the door aren’t you?

So, what’s the future for self checkouts?

Self checkouts haven’t been the roaring success that many predicted. So what’s the next iteration of self checkout? Amazon are backing their checkout-less store concept by planning on opening a second store in Seattle and have plans to open similar stores in Chicago and San Francisco.

And it wasn’t going to be long until another big player entered the market. Microsoft are trialling a similar project with Walmart in the US but focussing on supermarkets, not just convenience shops.

IBM are looking at putting RFID tags onto products in a partnership with Shell and are trialling this solution in selected fuel stations. This solution identifies the product and price, regardless of if the product is in a shopping trolley, a bag or even if you’re carrying it but the packaging change brings its own challenges.

Several hardware vendors such as NCR and Fujitsu are offering cashless self checkout machines. Having a much smaller footprint, these ATM-sized checkouts offer card payment only in the attempt to speed up transactions and bust queues.

So, what are your thoughts? Do you actively make a beeline for a self checkout machine or will you only use a manned checkout? Let us know in the comments!

1 Comment

  • Daniel Beers

    When self serve checkouts first came out I loved the idea and used to make a bee line for them just so I could do it myself. Don’t know why as I use tills most days at work but it was new and an interesting idea. As time has gone on I tend to use them less and less due to the unexpected item in the bagging area and if I have an age related product or something that has security tagging on which means I am left waiting for the problem to be solved. I find there is 1 colleague looking after about 20 tills and you can see them not knowing which checkout to go to next. In the end I find it much quicker to go to a manned checkout as I am served much quicker and I don’t have to stand waiting around. I only tend to use self checkouts now if I have 1 or 2 item that I know won’t require me waiting for approval.

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