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RETAIL INSIGHTS
Advantages and Disadvantages of 6 Retail Self-Checkout Systems
by Thorbjørn Schmidt-Jacobsen
The right self-checkout systems can differentiate a retailer from competitors. In this post, you will learn about the pros and cons of 6 self-checkout options.

Successful use of a self-checkout system can differentiate a retailer from competitors, optimise the checkout process, and attract more customers. Self-checkout solutions have been key to retail success for years, especially for grocery stores and supermarkets. Still, it might be a challenge to decide what self-checkout system to choose.

When comparing self-checkout systems, the main aspects you should take into account are cost of space, their efficiency, and the customer experience they create. Advantages and disadvantages related to these aspects should be at the centre of your attention when considering different options.

At Sprinting Software, we develop advanced digital solutions for retailers who want to stay ahead of the industry. In this article, we have used our extensive insights into the retail space to create an overview of the most common self-checkout systems and their advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages and Disadvantages of 6 Retail Self-Checkout Systems | Sprinting Software

1. Express retail self-checkout counters

Advantages and Disadvantages of 6 Retail Self-Checkout Systems | Sprinting Software

1. Express retail self-checkout counters

Retail checkout counters are one of the most commonly seen types of checkout counters, seen in most stores today.

Advantages and Disadvantages of 6 Retail Self-Checkout Systems | Sprinting Software

The simplicity of self-checkout counters is one of its main advantages: the customer uses a machine to scan items and puts them in a bag.

The weight of the items in the bag is measured to confirm that the item scanned is the one added to the bag. Customers can pay for the items using cash or a card.

Cost of space

When it comes to cost of space, checkout counters definitely take up less space than registers. Since self-checkout is typically faster than registers, there is typically one queue per several checkout counters, which saves additional space.

However, compared to other self-checkout options, counters are at a disadvantage – they are one of the least optimal options when it comes to cost of space.

Efficiency

When it comes to efficiency, here are some of considerations about self-checkout counters:

  • Reduced wait times compared to using a cashier lane. However, the speed of transaction is significantly lower compared to some of the other systems covered in this article.
  • Reduced labour costs as one member of staff can overlook several self-checkout counters.
  • High customer engagement: buyers need to scan product barcodes and place products into a bagging area, and sometimes even weigh products.
  • An obvious disadvantage of self-checkout in general is shoplifting. A store that has 55 -60% of transactions going through self-checkout can expect losses to be 31% higher. However, with reduced costs and constantly improving security, this percentage is decreasing over time.

Customer experience

Speed of transaction, perceived control, reliability, ease of use and enjoyment are the most influential factors leading to customer satisfaction. Taking this into account, this form of checkout is at an advantage compared to cash registers, however it is behind other systems listed below.

As self-service checkout counters have been around for a while, most customers are quite used to this experience.

Even though self-checkout counters do optimise use of space, efficiency and customer satisfaction, its ease of use can be improved. According to a study, 74% customers say that difficulty in entering goods and frequent overrides were their biggest concerns with the technology. 59% of consumers said that they would be more likely to use self-checkout if the technology was improved.

Advantages and Disadvantages of 6 Retail Self-Checkout Systems | Sprinting Software

2. Mobile scanners and smart carts

Advantages and Disadvantages of 6 Retail Self-Checkout Systems | Sprinting Software

2. Mobile scanners and smart carts

A next-level self-checkout system compared to counters are mobile scanners and smart carts. They allow shoppers to scan goods as they add them to the shopping basket or cart using store-provided technology.

The customer just needs to take a smart cart or a scanner, and they are ready to shop. Some smart carts have built-in scales to enable customers to weigh products.

Cost of space

When it comes to cost of space, mobile scanners and smart carts are at an advantage compared to cash registers and counters. They undoubtedly take much less space.

Efficiency

Here are some considerations concerning the efficiency of this solution:

  • This system’s wait times are extremely low as the payment is made as soon as all items are picked up.
  • This system also reduces labour costs, however it is one of the most expensive ones in terms of technology as each shopping cart and basket needs to be equipped with its own scanner.
  • In self-checkout mobile scanners and smart carts customers sometimes need to weigh products, which can slow them down.
  • Shoplifting is still a concern with this system.

Customer experience

The main advantage of this solution is that it provides a real-time overview of how much all the items picked up cost. This is something that contributes to the practicality and enjoyment of this solution.

The speed of transaction, perceived control and reliability are also quite high when it comes to this system.

While more efficient than self-checkout counters, mobile scanners and smart carts can be more costly than some of the other solutions as they require more hardware.

Advantages and Disadvantages of 6 Retail Self-Checkout Systems | Sprinting Software

3. Self-checkout kiosk systems

Advantages and Disadvantages of 6 Retail Self-Checkout Systems | Sprinting Software

3. Self-checkout kiosk systems

Self-service kiosks are typically used in food retail and for selling clothes and bulky items, and entertainment venues.

Advantages and Disadvantages of 6 Retail Self-Checkout Systems | Sprinting Software

When used for selling food and similar items, the kiosks usually combine food order and inventory management software and POS hardware. They allow customers to select the items they want and pay using a card.

Cost of space

The cost of space for this solution is usually a good fit for fashion retail and especially good for pre-order or bulky purchases where the store personnel is picking the goods for you, but less so for supermarkets.

Efficiency

When it comes to efficiency, kiosks offer the following:

  • Reduced wait times compared to using cash registers. The customers can just walk in the store, order and pay without needing to wait in the line.
  • More efficient pre-order or bulky purchases where the store personnel needs to collect the goods and give them to the customer.
  • Convenient for food retail and restaurants since they enable customers to customise their order and have a clear overview as they are adding the items.
  • Reduced labour costs as one member of staff can overlook several self-checkout kiosks.
  • As the items are usually still handed out by employees, or can be picked up by accessing digital lockers, the risk of theft is minimised with this solution.

Customer experience

In terms of speed of transaction, this system is ahead some, but less advanced than some other options.

It is the preferred customer experience when it comes to prepared meals and bulky items.

Perceived control, reliability, ease of use and enjoyment are as optimal as they can be for customers using this system.

All in all, next to online pre-ordering and checkout, kiosks are one of the most convenient self-checkout options for retailers selling meals, and should also be considered for other types of products and stores.

Advantages and Disadvantages of 6 Retail Self-Checkout Systems | Sprinting Software

4. Self-checkout RFID scanner gates

Advantages and Disadvantages of 6 Retail Self-Checkout Systems | Sprinting Software

4. Self-checkout RFID scanner gates

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) scanner gates are a technical solution that we typically see used as a security measure to ensure that goods are not stolen. However, RFID is now getting a new use in modernising retail.

RFID scanner gates allow customers to scan an entire cart of groceries or other goods and checkout without stopping, just by walking through the gates. The customer pushes the cart into the gate, sees a list of items displayed on a kiosk screen, and pays by card, cash, or by scanning their palm.

Cost of space

RFID scanner gates are one of the most cost-efficient solutions when it comes to space. They take up much less space than the usual self-checkout counters.

Efficiency

When it comes to efficiency, here are some of considerations about RFID scanner gates:

  • Wait times are significantly reduced compared to most other self-checkout solutions.
  • Labour costs are also reduced as one member of staff can overlook several self-checkout gates.
  • With RFID scanner gates, there is no need for customers to take the items out of the cart, scan them, or bag them prior to leaving the store – they can just pay the check and walk through the gates.
  • Same as with other forms of self-checkout, the main concern with RFID gates is shoplifting. With RFID tags being easy to spot and remove, additional security measures are required to reduce losses with this solution.

Customer experience

72% of consumers surveyed for a global study ranked technology that allows them to reduce time spent checking out among their most coveted in-store retail technologies. RFID definitely fits the bill.

In terms of perceived control, RFID scanning is surpassed just by scanning solutions that allow the customers to see how much they will spend as they shop.

This self-checkout system is also among top ones when it comes to reliability, ease of use and enjoyment.

With RFID tags and scanner gates, retailers are successfully reducing shopping times and improving their customer experience. This self-checkout system can be quite costly due to the need to have tags for all goods in the store and scanning gates that can be quite expensive, but is very optimal in terms of customer experience.

Advantages and Disadvantages of 6 Retail Self-Checkout Systems | Sprinting Software

5. Self-checkout sensors and AI (Amazon Go)

Advantages and Disadvantages of 6 Retail Self-Checkout Systems | Sprinting Software

5. Self-checkout sensors and AI (Amazon Go)

When talking about self-checkout sensors, we should not fail to mention the brand that piloted them: Amazon Go.

Unlike most other self-checkout systems, stores with sensors do not require any registers or checkouts. To create one of the most optimal self-checkout systems, Amazon connected the most advanced machine learning, computer vision and AI.

When a customer enters the store, they scan their QR code available in the mobile app. Cameras follow the customer around, tracking what they picked up using computer vision. Smart shelves equipped with a variety of sensors confirm what the cameras “see”.

The items are added to a virtual basket, and customers are automatically charged as they exit the store.

Cost of space

Self-checkout sensors are one of the most optimal solutions when it comes to space – they take virtually no space except for the gate the customer goes through, which is needed in all stores.

Efficiency

In terms of efficiency, here are some advantages of self-checkout sensors and AI:

  • Checkout wait times are virtually non-existent with self-checkout sensors. However, there is a surprising potential time-related disadvantage.
  • Same as with other solutions, labour costs tend to be lower as the only checkout workers required by this solution are those in charge of security and theft prevention.
  • There is no need to scan items with this solution, so the solution is extremely efficient for both the customer and the retailer.
  • With many of cameras lining the stores, it is highly unlikely that many people will shoplift at the stores with this type of self-checkout.

Customer experience

In terms of the speed of transaction, this solution is ahead of all other solutions.

When it comes to perceived control, however, some people are concerned with privacy issues the Amazon Go self-checkout option entails.

Customers are linked to a name to track what they buy (which is normal with today’s self-checkout options). However, they are also visually followed around to track how they behave and what they do NOT buy. Some customers are not thrilled about the prospect of a company having a complete understanding of their choice patterns.

Reliability, ease of use and enjoyment are at their peak in this solution, which is confirmed by long queues in front of new AmazonGo stores. The large investment cost and need for remodelling the stores is most likely the reason for the slow market penetration for this type of solution.

Advantages and Disadvantages of 6 Retail Self-Checkout Systems | Sprinting Software

6. Mobile scan and go self-checkout apps

Advantages and Disadvantages of 6 Retail Self-Checkout Systems | Sprinting Software

6. Mobile scan and go self-checkout apps

A recent study showed that 60% of consumers globally would prefer having a “just walk out” self-service experience similar to Amazon Go. A more cost-efficient solution that requires an incomparably smaller investment in technology than self-checkout sensors is the mobile scan and go app.

This solution is very simple to use: the customer downloads the app and fills out their personal data and payment information. As the customer picks and scans goods in the store, prices are displayed and calculated. The customer pays in the app with a simple swipe and exits in the kiosk screen area.

Cost of space

Same as in self-checkout sensors similar to Amazon Go, mobile scan and go apps require no additional space for checkout.

Efficiency

When it comes to efficiency, here are some of considerations about mobile self-checkout:

  • With mobile scanning, wait times are non-existent. The customer scans a code on their phone as they exit the store, and queues are completely eliminated.
  • This system also reduces labour costs. Equipment costs are also reduced, as very little hardware is required and customers can use their own devices.
  • With self-checkout mobile apps, customers scan product barcodes on the go and they get a clear real-time overview of their spending.
  • Shoplifting is still a concern with this system, however intelligent scanning behaviour analysis can detect possible theft.
  • Compared to other systems, this is one of the most cost-effective ones, which makes up for potential losses more efficiently.

Customer experience

One of the advantages this solution has compared to most self-checkout solutions is that the customers scan their goods on the go, and the the cost of the items is calculated in real time. Finalising the purchase can be done anywhere in the store. This is something that contributes to the reliability, practicality, and enjoyment of using this solution.

The speed of transaction is in line with sensor-driven and RFID type systems, with an increased perceived control as the customer scans the items and can easily be removed from the cart, and replaced.

Advantages and Disadvantages of 6 Retail Self-Checkout Systems | Sprinting Software

Conclusion

Advantages and Disadvantages of 6 Retail Self-Checkout Systems | Sprinting Software

Conclusion

With 40% of consumers preferring self-service over human contact and the number increasing over time, retailers should consider adding some form of self-checkout to their stores.

Including 6 solutions outlined in this article, and more being created by innovative retailers as you are reading this article, there are many options available.

It is important for retailers to wisely weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each option and decide which self-checkout system is the best fit for their stores.

If you would like to implement a mobile scan and go solution in your store, we might have a solution for you. Contact us, and we can add your branding and preferred features to our standard retail mobile scan and go app.

Read next:

Read next:

Advantages and Disadvantages of 6 Retail Self-Checkout Systems | Sprinting Software

Thorbjørn Schmidt-Jacobsen

Director of Sales
Sprinting Software

Partner and Sales Director at Sprinting Software. Leads sales with the aim of growing the company together with many skilled colleagues. Highly experienced in digital transformation, business processes, cloud solutions, business strategy, global sales, marketing and customer relationship management.

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Interested in introducing self-checkout in your stores?

We can help. Contact us, and we can add your branding and preferred features to our standard retail mobile ScanGo app.

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