Self-Service Technology in Retail
Self-service technology like Scan & Go allows customers more autonomy when shopping while saving time, space, plus a good deal of other benefits. Read on for an overview of the various options retailers have when implementing self-service in their stores.
Self-service technologies that enable customers at brick-and-mortar retail stores to complete their purchase without human interaction are also referred to as self-checkout systems. This includes self-service terminals, self-checkout hardware scanners, and mobile self-checkout solutions.
Some of these have been around for quite some time, others are just starting to thrive. Let’s look at the various solutions and how self-service technology first came into use.
How to skip the queue aka the invention of self-checkout
Waiting in line has never been particularly enjoyable. That is why some great minds first came up with the idea of self-service technology in the early 1990s to save themselves and their customers some time and hassle.
These self-checkout systems were first used in libraries in the USA. Readers could borrow books quickly, easily, and autonomously by using self-checkout kiosks. This did not only leave them with more time to spend on their favorite novel but the librarians with precious hours for service and maintenance.
Due to the viability of this kind of service, self-checkout systems became more widespread and were soon used on a global scale.
The advantages of self-service technology
Creating a faster and smoother shopping experience in retail stores is the basic thought behind any self-checkout technology. However, implementing a well-coordinated solution comes with a lot more benefits than just saving time. Depending on the technology in use, this includes
- more extensive customer service,
- saving store space,
- little to no human interaction (hygiene!),
- data-driven, personalized recommendations,
- enhanced shopping experience, and
- greater variety of payment methods,
to name just a few.
But what kinds of technology are there and how do they differ from each other? To answer this, here is an overview of the four major self-service solutions currently in use.
As mentioned above, this sort of technology has been around since the nineties, when self-service kiosks first came into use in libraries. Today it is among the most common solutions used in retail stores around the world.
Customers move through the store and pick up their purchase, then proceed to the checkout area with self-checkout terminals. Here, they scan each product before placing it on a designated surface where the purchase is monitored using scales.
Payment is completed via the same terminal. Depending on the retailer’s preferences, either self-checkout cash terminals or self-checkout mobile payment terminals are used. Making NFC scanning technologies like Tap and Pay available during payment allows to speed up the checkout process even more.
Another approach involves customers scanning the items as they pick them up, using a handheld barcode scanner provided by the retail store. Here, the payment can also be completed at a self-checkout terminal or at a regular cash desk.
This way, the scanning process at the register can be skipped, but waiting lines may still occur. In view of the pervasive smartphone use today, however, Scan & Pay solutions with integrated mobile payment raise the self-scanning strategy to the next level.
What was once a handheld barcode scanner, is now a smartphone. Add a trusted payment provider into the mix and the shopping experience becomes smoother than ever. Using their own device to scan the barcode or QR-Code on the products, then paying within the same mobile app and receiving the receipt digitally, shopping in retail stores could not be more hassle-free for customers.
Mobile self-checkout solutions allow for independence in stores while enhancing the retail journey through a variety of benefits, such as data-driven recommendations or customer loyalty programs. Also, in terms of store detection, Scan & Go apps open up auspicious possibilities. So-called proximity marketing allows an indoor navigation module to navigate customers through the shop, localizing products on their list. This is made possible by installing iBeacons in the shop, which use Bluetooth to track customer devices via the mobile app.
Thus, it’s fair to say that Scan & Go solutions introduced a new era of shopping. Mobile self-checkout solutions have been developed for Android and iOS but also as web applications, usable via a mobile browser.
The height of self-service and are cashier-less stores, also known as unmanned 24/7 stores, container boxes, or digital self-service stores. These shops carry an assortment of everyday products and are fully digitized, thus not operated by people. Consequently, the complete shopping process is autonomous, with no service staff present.
There are various types of cashier-less retail stores, but especially the concept of unmanned self-checkout stores is becoming more and more popular, either using a Scan & Go smartphone app or self-checkout terminals. The costs for hardware and technology are rather low in comparison with others, and the wages for staff become redundant as well.