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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Rise of Self Checkout

I have looked at aspects of retail checkout for some time.  Examining methods like RFID tagging, in store hand held scanning, carts that scan their contents and replacements for the checkouts themselves.  We experimented with all of these in the innovation centers.  Worked with companies, like IBM, Motorola, Fujitsu, Nixdorf and NCR.  The entire idea has come a long way.  In my local Kroger there are now lines for the self-checkouts, unusual just a few years ago.   A good overview of the values and minuses in the Washington Post. Non-technical, with some useful statistics. 

1 comment:

Kevin said...

The WP article was interesting. I think as was alluded to in the article that self-checkout is more of an express option. If you have a few items-primarily prepackaged bar coded items- it is fast way to keep in line with the get in get a few items and get out. It is certainly perfect for when you need to pick up milk on the way home or the likes.
The article also mentioned RFID as a possible future of self-checkout. There are still some problems with RFID that seem to be real deal breakers, for example: cost of the tags, interference issues with the tags, and how to affix the tags cost effectively. But in the end it would still be great to load up a cart and wheel it out to the car without ever stopping to check out.
The one thing I thought the article really missed and it was reflected in the way they phrased the online poll, was the level of service or personal human contact factor involved. The article implied that people get no human contact at self-checkout, or even use it to avoid human contact. Further both the author to some extent and even one of the retailer execs seemed to indicate that self-checkout inherently meant a lower level of service. I would suggest that they actually go to a store and use the device. In particular they should go to a Home Depot. The attendants at HD somehow always manage to talk to me at least once during my self-checkout process. I’m convinced it is a result of training since in my last 15 trips I have been approach 15 times. The idea is to make sure that I still feel like someone is there to help me if I need it. So from my perspective I get out faster, and I still feel like I got personal attention. I’m coming back for sure. Stores like Wegmans who are concerned with excellent customer service can effectively leverage self-checkout devices to provide enhanced checkout speed with personal customer service.