Unattended technology has become a common feature of many of our lives. Think of checking in at the airport, or using an ATM for all your banking needs – it is simply what we do these days.

In the same way, self-service checkout in retail has, over several years, become an institution in stores such as Waitrose and Tesco’s in the United Kingdom for example. But it has yet to become an everyday reality for us in South Africa.

As with everything in life, there are benefits and downsides. Let’s look at a few.
It’s cool to be able to avoid queues and just scan your purchases yourself at a device-monitored checkout counter. Quick and easy, and no one else is touching your shopping – a big bonus in a time of a virus. Of course, the most obvious advantage to a retailer is cost saving in the long run. There is the initial outlay to install kiosks , but, over time, the lower labour costs soon make up for it – which, with a bit of luck, will also result in a lower cost of goods to the consumer.

Because there is no human error factor, another benefit is the improvement in the quality of service, when using self-service technology. Machines don’t often make mistakes. And we all know that it is the ‘surprise and delight’ factor that keeps bringing customers back to the store.

A fringe benefit is that self-service technology also provides an opportunity for brands to educate customers on the benefits of their products. Even though there may be a commercial objective, a soap manufacturer can promote the benefits of handwashing, for example – something we all need in this time.

In restaurants, self-ordering and self-serving minimizes the number of people who may be handling your food. Even the Kruger Park uses devices to help alert you of the fact that your food order is ready, so that you can look at green pigeons in a tree, without worrying that your order getting cold. After all, what is a morning in the bush without a piping hot toasted cheese and tomato?

All of that said, there are a few important considerations when migrating to self-service technologies. For example. the kiosk or self-service device has to be located in a place which makes the technology a logical part of the customer journey. Research has shown that if the SST station is, for example, located at the back of a bricks and mortar store – a section infrequently visited by customers – they are much less likely to be used.
Furthermore, user experience is important. When it comes to interface design, straight forward, intuitive functionality works best.

And then, surprisingly, a human presence at the self-service station is an important success factor. Psychologically, it seems to be a reassuring feature for people. Some customers have questions, and some just seem to need human interaction. It is also interesting to note that the adoption of self-service technology seems to be higher when shoppers are aware that there is a physical store in their vicinity.

So, self-service technology will become an inevitable feature in our future. But data privacy remains a concern on many minds. Therefore, it is important to reassure – and ensure – that customers’ purchase-data remains anonymous and safe in the hands of the retailer. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3203487?seq=1

Time to embrace the future. But please, let us be reminded to sanitise, even when using kiosks. You are still entering your PIN or touching a device. Soon it will probably all just come down to a fingerprint – but even then, wash those hands, people.

Concerned about the safety of your employees and customers? Contact msleads@altron.com

Altron Managed Solutions
1 Vlak Street, Selby Ext. 5, 2092, Gauteng,
South Africa
PO Box 3591, Johannesburg, 2000,
Gauteng, South Africa
+27 (11) 373 4000