Self-checkouts have come in and out of fashion in the retail world over the last several years, and with good reason: They can be a double-edged sword for any retailer who implements them.
Consumers looking for speedy checkout love them. In a 2015 survey by Consumer Reports, three out of four consumers who had used one said it had saved them time. But shoppers surveyed were annoyed with certain quirks – a unit that didn’t work properly, a shopper ahead of them taking too long, and not being able to find an employee to help when there was a problem, to name a few.
For retailers, self-checkouts reduce front-end labor, but they can also cause back-office headaches. From counting and managing funds by hand to stranding significant idle cash, manual management of self-checkouts can be a real drag on productivity.
Recently, though, some retailers have decided to bypass the issues associated with cash-laden self-checkouts by implementing cashless units. These units perform all the same functions as traditional models without the high cost of cash associated with them.
Speedy checkout and no cash to worry about? Seems like a simple choice – but maybe not. The pros of these machines can be pretty intriguing for retailers:
Less maintenance on the machine – Units don’t have to be opened nearly as often as units that accept and dispense cash, meaning less wear, tear and repair.
Minimal labor – Store employees don’t have to add, remove or count cash or coin in the units, vastly reducing the labor associated with manual management of self-checkouts.
Less risk and loss – Units don’t have to be opened to add or remove cash during store hours, reducing exposure risk. If a unit doesn’t dispense cash, it can’t dispense the wrong amount, reducing loss.
But then there’s a con – one that most retailers value above all else: customer opinion. Some retailers have tested cashless self-checkouts and enjoyed the ease of use on their end but ultimately removed the units at the end of the trial period because of customer complaints.
Shoppers became frustrated when they weren’t offered the option to pay in cash or receive cash back, and some even cancelled out their entire transactions at the self-checkout to go to a manned checkout lane where they could finish it with cash, impacting customer service across the front end.
No matter what type of unit you implement, it’s important to understand your stores, their cash use and the customers who visit them. Customers typically use a self-checkout for smaller transactions with fewer items, and the Federal Reserve tells us that cash is used most often for small-value payments. In many areas, a self-checkout customer is likely also a cash customer.
What’s the typical mix of customers and cash in your stores? It can vary significantly throughout your chain, so studying a variety of stores to determine your technology needs is always a smart choice. Creating an infrastructure that offers you the flexibility to implement a variety of technologies where they’re needed – and only where they’re needed – can’t be overlooked. If you're thinking of selecting new technology, our white paper can help you navigate the process.