Like it or loathe it, the Supermarkets “Self-Checkout” kiosks are one of the flagships of the digital revolution in our shops. Lets look at it quickly and see where its going.
A quick history lesson
Self- checkouts are not a new thing. They were first trialed by Walmart way back in 1996. It was 6 years later in 2002, that the first “Self-checkout” hit our shores in the UK at Marks and Spencer. The market leader supplying these in-store self checkout tills are NCR, which is a US based company specialising in pushing this digitisation revolution. A quick run through of NCR’s technologies show a wealth of other innovative solutions which we are just starting to see. (More on that in future posts )
At the moment ( as you can tell from the inoperative self checkout above), they are currently run using the windows operating system.
- The self-checkout is responsible for reducing the time that customers have to wait in queues. By increasing the number of available self checkouts, then even small stores can vastly increase their customers served.
- Typically most will have at least on service person to help customers who get stuck.
- Self-checkouts take up less space than regular checkouts.
- Arguably it reduces costs ( but I am sceptical of this for some of the reasons below)
What doesn’t work
- I must admit, even though I am a techie, I have on one occasion just left my shopping at the counter over a constantly erroring self-checkout. I have seen quite a few cases of “checkout rage” where customers are upset that they are being forced to “do work” to pay money, without any extra benefit.
- Without someone to over- see the items, theft is increasing. The Telegraph reported that an estimated £1.6 billion GBP is stolen using self-checkout
- Its slower for customers to checkout. Typically a employee working at a cash desk will be able to push through and pack items far quicker than a customer. And also offer that bit of personal contact which is known to increase goodwill to a company.
Where is it going next?
- Morrison’s recently announced that they are currently trialling allowing customers to pay for other things via self-checkouts including online ordering.
- In addition, they will also be able to read QR codes from mobile phones, so you will hopefully be able to redeem vouchers and offers straight from your phone. ( very exciting for us marketeers)