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Self Check-out, Savior or villain?

Freedom for the customers, savings for the retailer

The traditional consumer journey in a shop has been well established and has not change much in the last 20 to 30 years. It makes it easy for customers to find their way, from shelves to shelves, and eventually to a queue that will lead them to the counter. It may be time to re-evaluate the underlying assumption and offer more flexible, friendly and adaptable customer journeys. Self check-out can be a good customer experience, as long as it makes sense for... the customer.

What not to do

Supermarkets have been experimenting with self check-out for a while, but they have done so with the sole and very obvious motivation of cost reduction. All things being equal, letting the customer do the job of the cashier, will lead to fewer clerks per sales and improve profitability. I do not think there could be a worse reason to implement self check-out. The idea of such an action was enough to cause a backlash and prompted some angry customers to write a blog post about it. The key point is that those supermarkets have failed to redesign the client's experience, they just replaced cashier trained for the job by the clueless shopper.

How to overdo it

When you have a tonne of money, and you also run a data center business, you can design a highly sophisticated system, full of technology. That is in essence what Amazon did with Amazon Go. From the pitch and the video, it looks like you will need an equivalent surface of data center space as retail space to run the whole thing. It is OK for Amazon. If they do not sell products, they will sell cloud services.

So how do you do it?

The concept of self check-out is ideal in one situation: a customer wants to buy one product, knows exactly which one. This is the perfect case for self check-out because this is the ideal condition for the shopper. The client wants to get out, with the product they want, as quickly as possible, without any delay, any need for interaction, or questions.

Looking at the supermarket, e.g., another design flaw is to have dedicated hardware for the process. Customers will be triumphal to use their own devices to scan and pay for their products. Clients always appreciate a simple and friction-less process. All antiquated notions of login, basket, catalogue should be eliminated, to be replaced by a scan -> pay -> leave.

Are your customers honest?

The big question still remain do you want to protect yourselves from customer theft? If a Retailer currently has an anti-shoplifting system, it must be connected to its sales system to identify the item sold, easily done with RFID technology.

If a retailer does not have an anti-shoplifting system, self check-out will not make matter worst. It may, in fact, make matters better, as it creates a trust relationship between the customer and the brand.

It is, indeed, a sensitive topic, and brands must analyse it carefully. The cost of the anti-theft may be higher than the actual cost of customer theft, that is mostly lower than employees theft.

Come see us at CES Asia

If you want to experience self check-out, come meet us at CES Asia, June 7, 8 and 9. We have implemented a friction-less, simple and engaging self check-out process. Try it live at our booth.

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