In a hurried panic, you rush out of work at 5, just in time to stop at the grocery store before your dinner party at 6. You forgot chocolate chips for the desert you have committed to baking. Kroger is on your route home, so you run in, grab the missing ingredient, and dash for a self-checkout machine. As you approach the registers, long lines stream from the cash wrap. You scan the area for a self-checkout machine, but they seem to have disappeared.
If you share my feelings for self-checkouts, this scene may appear dreadful to you. I find myself using the SCO’s for almost all my shopping. Maybe it’s because I am always in a hurry, or tend to shop for only a few items at a time? Either way, I appreciate having the option to checkout at my own pace with little human interaction. On the other hand, the frustration of “not bagging my items” properly can be nerving and a bit of an annoyance at times. Also, while attempting to avoid the awkward cashier conversation, by using the SCO, can instead become elongated due to the number of times a cashier code needs to be entered to continue scanning my items. Sound familiar?
Obviously, SCO’s have both pros and cons. Some of the more apparent benefits include saving in labor costs with little cashier intervention, and a smaller POS footprint. The space of one or two normal lanes can be replaced with four-six self-checkout machines. However, the cons of SCO’s include slowdowns at the cash wrap, lack of replacement parts available, small secondary market, and the increased prices as an SCO is generally more expensive due to custom building and automation.
At the beginning of this post, I cited Kroger for a reason. In a recent article, “Kroger Testing A Self-Checkout-Less Grocery Store,“, the largest grocery chain in the U.S., is experimenting with a change in their POS landscape. By removing SCO’s, Kroger is exploring the option of rewarding customers who make high volume visits. SCO’s tend to benefit single or double households looking for a few items at a time, rather than incentivizing the shopper who may have less time for multiple shopping visits and minimal disposable income.
While I would selfishly miss the self-checkout machines, I think Kroger’s initiative is spot on with the development in Customer Loyalty programs. These self-checkouts have been around since 1987, yet their popularity did not peak until 2000. Interestingly, a trend that was supposed to revolutionize point of sale is instead maturing in the industry as fast as it entered. So, what is next??
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