Self-checkout has been promoted as an answer to retail labor challenges since well before the pandemic, and consumers do find the notion of faster checkout appealing. The customer experience, however, “is still far from perfect,” according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The primary problem relates to scanning — delays that come from difficult-to-scan items, weighing errors and double-scanning. Consumers also encounter difficulties when applying coupons and paying, and waiting for an attendant to fix issues appears to be a major shopper pet peeve.

The WSJ article offered a number of solutions to improve the self-checkout experience:

  • Employing scan guns to make scanning easier for larger items or multiple items;
  • Providing customers with the ability to remove already-scanned items or providing associates with an app to remotely clear a transaction from their phones;
  • Tapping artificial intelligence to identify produce and other difficult to scan items quicker.
  • Repackaging some items to add barcodes;
  • Offering a discount for using self-checkout to offset the hassles and encourage use by those preferring full-service checkouts.

Shipments of self-checkout machines grew 25 percent in 2020 as retailers sought to automate processes to reduce labor costs and consumers sought out contactless solutions during the pandemic.

According to a survey of 1,000 Americans that came out in February from Raydiant, 36 percent greatly increased their usage of self-service kiosks over the last 12 months and 23 percent increased usage to a minor degree. Sixty percent indicated they prefer self-serve to cashier-assisted checkout.

The self-serve preference was partly attributed to pandemic-related demand for contactless solutions as well as to 85 percent agreeing self-serve tends to be faster. Negatives included efficiency — 67 percent reported a self-service checkout experience had failed for them. Sixty-five percent had concerns about the cleanliness of self-service options. The same 65 percent would prefer to use their smartphone to check out if the option was available.

A survey of about 2,700 U.S. consumers from PYMNTS and Toshiba that came out in September likewise found speed to be the primary motivation to use self-checkout. Shoppers were less likely to use self-serve kiosks when purchasing more than 25 items (60 percent), and when purchasing fresh produce (52 percent).


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