Retail customers the world over all want the same things from their in-store shopping experiences: convenience, choice, flexibility and accessibility.

One way to meet these expectations is through the self-checkout, where customers can scan the items they’d like to purchase at a self-service checkout, bag them, swipe their card or insert cash into the available slot to pay, and then go. Easy in and out, especially if they’re shopping for just a few items.

Self-checkout is the norm particularly in the European and US retail markets, having been introduced to customers there over two decades ago. In fact, these customers are already beginning to evolve beyond the traditional self-checkout model, while South African retailers have yet to board the self-checkout train, despite the many benefits these systems offer.

And it’s not for a lack of interest on the part of the retailers or lack of demand by the consumer. South African banking customers have already accepted financial self-service solutions for more routine transactions and are displaying a demand for this kind of convenience when they do their daily grocery shop too. They no longer want to wait in long queues. They want to have more choice and more control over their shopping journey.

Undoubtedly, the elephant in the room when it comes to a broad-scale implementation of self-service checkouts in local retail stores is the perceived impact it will have on jobs. What will happen to the friendly cashier or the packer at the till if customers begin scanning and bagging items themselves? Surely jobs will be lost?

Not so.

If anything, self-checkout provides retailers with the opportunity to upskill and redeploy their employees from front-end checkout duties to provide services elsewhere within the store; be it to answer in-aisle questions, maintain and replenish inventory and, above all, assist customers. With self-checkout, the entire customer experience can be redefined and enhanced to help increase customer satisfaction and encourage customer loyalty. We’re talking a total shift in service philosophy and transforming the end-to-end shopping experience.

There are no demographic boundaries with self-checkout either. All shoppers benefit equally from choosing self-service, no matter their age or tech-savviness, thanks to a user-friendly interface that intelligently guides the customer through the entire checkout process.

What about security, you ask? Well, with integrated features such as a security scale, a sophisticated self-learning and adjusting weight database, intervention lights and sounds, strategic store camera placement and attendant-monitoring tools, to name a few, retailers that use self-checkout technology often report reduced shrinkage. Money management is made easier too, as daily ’till takings’ always tally up. Furthermore, transactions involving legislated items, such as alcohol, cannot be finalised at a self-service checkout until they have been authorised by the on-duty attendant or supervisor.

In terms of floor space, it’s been established that retailers can fit four to six self-checkout lanes in a space normally reserved for three cashier-attended checkouts. And depending on the needs and demographics of the store’s customers in terms of cash-and-card and/or card-only transactions, some units can be installed on a wall, countertop or even as a pedestal mount.

The ideal model, and one that would probably best suit local retailers, could encompass a combination of self-checkout lanes for your small to medium basket customers with the traditional cashier-manned tills reserved for trolleys, all on offer in one store. That way, everyone wins.

Bytes Managed Solutions, in partnership with NCR, is at the forefront of self-checkout technology, having investigated the market for over five years already through extensive research, surveys, stats from abroad, as well as the implementation of successful pilot programmes in SA. The organisation is poised to help retailers join the self-checkout evolution.

Editorial contacts
Altron Bytes Managed Solutions
(060) 908 5286

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