Smart Store 101

Self-Checkout System 101

The technology powering self-checkout POS systems has advanced significantly over the years

What is a Self-Checkout System?

A self-checkout system refers to any technological solution that enables shoppers in physical stores to check out themselves, without the assistance of a store employee. The term is most commonly used to describe a form of check out station where shoppers can scan their items, bag them, and pay for their purchases themselves, without cashier assistance. Self checkout systems include both hardware and software components that work together in an attempt to provide an efficient and user-friendly customer experience. Self-service checkout terminals, or points of sale (POS), were first introduced in the early 1990s. The POS, which include barcode scanners, touch-screen monitors, payment card readers, and receipt printers, have since become very common in retail settings. 

The technology powering self-checkout POS systems has advanced significantly over the years, resulting in more accurate scanning, payment, and security procedures. Broadly, self-checkout systems can be seen in many different types of retail and service establishments, with varying degrees of complexity. The common thread is the empowerment of customers, enabling them to complete transactions at their own pace.

Why Retailers Are Adopting Self-Checkout Systems

Self-checkout systems in supermarkets and other retail establishments are being widely adopted as they contribute to a more efficient, cost-effective, and customer-friendly shopping experience. Here are some of the top reasons explained in more detail:


  1. Enhanced customer experience: Self-checkout systems help remove some of the friction from the shopping experience. Long queues at checkout counters have always been a concern for customers. These systems significantly minimize wait times by increasing the number of available checkout points, enabling shoppers to have control over their transactions. This convenience significantly improves the overall customer experience, leading to higher customer satisfaction and return visits.
  2. Improved efficiency: By automating the checkout process or shifting the responsibility of checkout from the cashier to the shopper, retailers can cut labor costs or reallocate their staff to more valuable tasks, such as assisting customers on the floor, restocking items, or managing inventory. As a result, stores can function more efficiently, which contributes to better store management and an overall more productive business operation.
  3. Cost savings: In the long run, self-checkout systems can lead to significant cost savings. With fewer staff required at checkout counters, the overall operational costs can be significantly reduced. Furthermore, with the decrease in the need for physical checkout lanes, retailers can effectively utilize this space for additional merchandise, increasing the opportunity for more sales.
  4. Increased sales: Retail environments equipped with self-checkout systems are more efficient, capable of processing more shoppers. Additionally, such stores see fewer cases of abandoned baskets, as it is easier for shoppers to complete their purchase. These two factors indicate the potential of  self-checkout systems to contribute to increased sales. 

The Various Types of Self-Chekout Systems: Not All Are Created Equal

Self-checkout is an incredibly broad category of solutions, covering everything from self-checkout POS (Point of Sale) systems to scan-as-you-go solutions on one end of the spectrum, and from smart carts to computer vision-powered seamless checkout technologies on the other end. The latter, where shoppers can simply walk out when their journey is complete, their payment being processed automatically via app, mobile, or credit card tap, represents the most technologically advanced form of self checkout. 

You can also rank self-checkout systems in terms of friction for the shopper. Self-checkout POS and scan-as-you-go are shift the responsibility for checking out from the cashier to the shopper. While they help reduce lines and offer more diverse checkout options, they add a certain level of friction. Other factors also weigh in when comparing and assessing self checkout technologies. For example, these systems’ ability to provide rich data about product choices and shopper behaviors in store. Smart systems such as those powered by computer vision AI offer the fullest “picture” by providing real time in-store data and supporting data-driven operations.  


How to Implement a Self-Checkout System

Implementing a self-checkout system involves several key steps, including the following:


  1. Choosing the right system: your business’s size and nature, shopper volume and product type and variety are important factors when deciding between the self-checkout systems available. Consider the requirements of your business and the experience you hope to deliver to your customers when selecting a solution.
  2. Considering the costs: The cost of implementing a self-checkout system can vary based on the chosen technology and the scale of deployment. For instance, self-checkout POS may be cheaper to install than more advanced technologies, with the tradeoff being more friction for shoppers. Smart carts can be cheaper to deploy than full store computer vision automation, but their maintenance costs add up, especially in large stores where dozens of carts are needed. Remember to consider both the initial setup costs and ongoing operational costs.
  3. Training staff and teaching customers: A successful implementation of technological checkout solutions also involves educating both employees and customers on how to use the system. For staff, this includes troubleshooting and maintenance procedures. For customers, clear instructions and readily available assistance can help ensure a smooth transition.
  4. Integrating with existing systems: Self-checkout systems should seamlessly integrate with your existing business systems, including inventory management and financial systems. This allows for real-time inventory updates and accurate financial reporting.
  5. Security measures: Implementing security measures is critical to prevent theft and fraud. This may include weight-sensitive bagging areas, surveillance cameras, and alert systems to notify staff of potential issues. For more technologically advanced solutions, security measures often include cloud security and data privacy considerations.

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