They say that when a checkout works really well, it should feel like stealing. You walk into a store, you take a jacket, you leave. That’s it. That’s a good checkout. Ideally, the experience could turn “cashiers” into “butlers”, and “time in line” into more “shopping dollars.” In a recent study done by Time Magazine, 27% of shoppers will leave a store if they can’t find someone to help them, and 33% of shoppers will leave a store if they have to wait in line longer than 5 minutes. Service and time.
Uber is a $66 billion company because it’s the transportation company that best sells time, convenience, and service. In retail, there are trillions of products in millions of stores. So which store do I choose? First, there is the product. I have to like the product. But after that, I go to the store that best sells service and best sells time. Maybe I hate lines more than most, because I’m instantly reminded of the nightmares of shopping while 8 years old. By that, I mean spending what seemed like 10% of my 8-year-old self in stores waiting (and waiting and waiting), for my mom to finish shopping while hundreds of older women paraded around me. Needless to say, lines in stores terrify me. I think one of the most obvious ways en-route to that Bonnie and Clyde experience, is self-checkout.
Here are 5 reasons for self-checkout in retail stores:
1. Decrease lines. People don't like waiting in lines. With self-checkout, you completely shift the power away from the retailer to the shopper. Each shopper's smartphone can act as a POS. In addition, you can place multiple self-checkout kiosks within a store, each one capable of handling the same amount of customers as a cashier. Self-service is perfect to help combat spikes in customer traffic during the holiday season or in peak hours.
2. Better customer service. There's this perception among retailers that a "machine" doesn't represent good customer service. Giving time back to shoppers is definitely a service. David Dorf, Senior Director of Technology Strategy at Oracle, points out another reason, that as retailers "deploy these new technologies, they can begin to adopt a butler configuration instead." The butler is always in the background and is helping you, answering all the questions you may have, pointing things out that might be of interest, trying to make your life easier. And think of Apple Stores. For a couple of years, you've been able to buy off the shelf items using an app on your smartphone and walk out of the store with your merchandise, never having interacted with a salesperson. But in an Apple Store, if you do want to talk to someone, they aren't hiding behind a cash register, they are in the store, in the merchandise, conveniently located so they can help you.
3. Young people expect technology. Young graduates today who join the workforce, really have never known a world without internet. These people are in the growing legions of shoppers in stores. They want to shop in their stores, not their grandparents. The idea of scanning an item is a natural option. Surprisingly, a study done by NCR shows that 7% of millennial shoppers will only use a self-checkout. That stat is hard to believe, but even if there is some verity to it, retailers are not doing enough to make their in-store experience, a millennial experience. Young people aren't just preferring omni-channel, they are demanding it. They want to go into a store and feel the complete unification of their virtual and physical worlds. There was an article last year from the The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, shows this idea of an iSelf. In the next generation, you might be able to look at the cell phone as an extension of the human body. It's important that retailers understand that.
4. Labor cost. One less cashier, one more register.
5. Design. Traditional checkouts have a rather large footprint in retail locations, and aren't always the most aesthetically pleasing. Department stores and retail locations should aspire to be pinnacles of fashion and design, and consequently the technology in store should reflect that. Self-checkout means there isn't really a need to tender cash anymore, so you can get rid of clunky machines to tender cash, and cage like registers, and replace them with "sexy" looking devices across the store that align more closely with the brand's aesthetic.
Why haven’t retailers adopted self-checkout? Self-checkout is in movies theatres, grocery stores, and convenience stores. But often, where lines are longest, retail stores, self-checkout isn't used.
In the last century, the big change in retail checkout came by having the customer do more of the work. In the original model of, say, the grocery store, a person went into a general store, where the owner or clerk stood behind a counter and retrieved items the customer wanted from behind-counter shelves, then packaged those items and billed the customer or accepted payment. But that retail model was gradually replaced by the “supermarket” model, which puts products out on customer-accessible shelves. Now, the customer did the work of selecting items he or she wanted and taking them to a cashier for payment. Efficiencies galore. Customers aren't necessarily afraid of scanning an item, if it's going to be faster.
If brick and mortar retailers want to compete with online stores, revitalizing the in-store experience is going to be essential. Self-checkout is a step in the right direction.
To see the most cutting edge technology in self-checkout for retailers, it's worth checking out QueueHop.