It would hardly be a surprise if many small and medium-size retailers were to feel daunted by the challenge of offering their customers the same type of Self Service experience they have become used to when shopping in larger retail outlets. The footprint of traditional Self-Checkout systems (SCOs), allied to the capital cost of the hardware and the not insignificant outlay on software, has so far confined such solutions to the very largest retailers.
The demand from customers for a more rapid service experience is however growing inexorably, and retailers, of all sizes, ignore this self service revolution at their peril. Embracing this revolution can bring the retailer real benefits in efficiency and customer loyalty. A Self-Checkout can reduce checkout wait times by up to 40%, thereby greatly enhancing the shopping experience, and allowing checkout personnel to be redeployed to other functions. Many surveys show that customers associate the provision of Self- Checkouts with enhanced customer service, and are increasingly expecting to find this option in many different retail environments. In one recent survey 35% of consumers stated that they wanted to be able to have access to SCOs in Convenience stores.
On the face of it, developments in recent years had begun to put SCO solutions within reach of the smaller retailer. The new generation of express Self-Checkouts significantly reduced both the cost and the footprint required in the store. But until very recently software remained a barrier. Traditionally Tier 3 and below retailers have looked to the Reseller channel for their EPOS solutions. Self-Checkouts need to interface to the retailer’s EPOS application via a piece of software called a Transaction Broker – however precious few applications available through the channel have contained this link due to the significant development costs involved, thereby ensuring that Self-Checkout systems have remained predominantly a direct sales product for the major manufacturers.
Finally however new channel-ready applications are beginning to emerge which contain an integrated Transaction Broker, thereby offering a complete solution for the smaller supermarket, encompassing both SCO and EPOS hardware and software, and thus enabling SCOs to be added simply and easily as part of an EPOS refresh.
The range of Self-Checkout systems available is also constantly evolving
There is now a wide range of options to suit many different retail environments and offering a range of features and functions and different physical footprints. For the smaller store, options such as placing the basket above the bagging area minimizes the floor space required, and convertible units are now on the market which offer the facility to switch between self service and manned service as demand dictates. Card only kiosks are the latest development. These take space saving to new levels, can be either wall or pedestal mounted, and offer a rapid cashless function for high throughput environments.
Independent supermarkets, Convenience stores, and a range of other retail outlets can now begin to consider whether Self-Checkout is something that would enhance their customers’ shopping experience. Guidance however is needed for any retailer thinking of venturing down this road. The case still needs to be made, on a store by store basis, as to whether the investment is justified. Analytical tools are available which take the retailer’s sales data to produce a report indicating whether installing SCOs in a particular shop location makes sense, and recommending how many and what type of units should be installed. Retailers interested should seek out an experienced partner who can lead them through the decision-making process and give guidance about the many hardware and software options that are available. The rewards however can be considerable with shorter queues, faster transactions, better stocked shelves and happier customers.
SPC is ideally placed to provide this guidance. With nearly 10 years experience of Self-Checkouts, SPC can offer a proven solution based around hardware from NCR, the global market leader in Self Service automation, along with a combined EPOS and Self Checkout application which is tried and tested in the independent supermarket and convenience store sectors. As an NCR Interact Premier Solution Provider, SPC can provide all the support required from the industry experts, coupled with the flexibility of a partner who understands the pressures and requirements of the smaller retailer.