Waiting in line at the cash register is annoying. But why would you make your customers do so when there is a solution?
This is part 3 of 4 in our new mini-series about the future of commerce in London.

The future of transactions – self-checkout

What does the future of omnichannel commerce hold? Karoline Lotz Jonassen went to London to gain inspiration on how retailers are meeting customers’ needs in Europe’s biggest shopping mecca.

This is the third article in a mini-series about the future of commerce. In this episode, she explores self-checkout.

the future of commerce in london

I am clearly not the only one who hates waiting in a long line just to pay. According to a recent worldwide study, long lines for payment checkout are the leading pain when shopping in-store.

Self-checkout solves the pain in an easy and convenient way.

It is not for all customers, which means it is not always easy for brands and retailer to get it right the first time.

Self-service checkout

There are especially two ways of executing self-checkout in retail – mobile self-checkout and self-checkout counters – both are a part of the rising consumer trend of self-service.

Self-checkout counters are the ones I’m used to in my local supermarket with – as the name suggests – a counter.

Whereas mobile self-checkout is also known as scan-and-go.



Self-checkout counters in the fashion industry

I can’t remember the last time I used a traditional checkout desk in my local Føtex on Vesterbrogade. Instead, I always use self-checkout.

On the contrary, I always wait in line to be served by the staff at the checkout counter, whether I am in a high-end or mainstream fashion store in Denmark. It gives me a lot of time to reconsider my purchase...

But in London, I was positively surprised to find self-checkout at my disposal in fashion retailers as well.

Urban Oufitters: Self-checkout counters

During my trip, I visited Urban Outfitters on Oxford Street. I know Urban Outfitters to be among the digital frontrunners in the fashion industry. And Urban Outfitters is typically in the Top 10 of digital retail brands in UK according to Gartner.

Urban Outfitters has implemented self-checkout counter – a solution which reportedly is exceeding expectations.

Unfortunately, the self-checkouts were closed in London due to COVID-19, so I did not have a chance to try it out myself.

But I was still excited to see that self-checkout has made its entrance to the fashion industry as well.


Self-checkout with RFID

Instead of trying self-checkout, I went for the YouTube experience and tried the self-checkout counters through the eyes of influencers.

It left me quite impressed with the solutions. Both Zara and Uniqlo offer next-level self-checkout.

When you go to the self-service checkout counter in Uniqlo or Zara, you simply put the items on the counter. You do not have to scan a single item or anything!

The companies use RFID to enable wireless scanning letting the product information appear automatically on the screen allowing you to complete your payment.

Benefits with RFID tag

Both Uniqlo and Zara have made the payment even more simple and frictionless than we have seen grocery stores do it.

Three benefits with RDIF

  • Automation
  • Data accuracy
  • Productivity

When you keep in mind that this is not the only benefit of RFID, this could become an important competitive advantage for retailers in the future.

Especially when it comes to bigger stores who sell a fairly high number of units per transaction, have a high footfall, and see tendencies of lines forming in front of the cashier.


Mobile self-checkout

Mobile self-checkout is something I have only seen in the grocery industry. However, it is definitely a part of the future of transactions and we have seen it in Sainsbury, Amazon, Coop and Salling Group.

Have you ever thought about how many times an item is put in and taken out of a basket in a classic grocery transaction?

First you take the items from the shelf and add them to your cart.
Only to take all items out again once you reach the cash register.
Then comes all the scanning and the nipping.
For you to finally put all the items back in your bag.

Somebody thought right when they wished to simplify this journey...

Sainsbury’s scan-and-go

After many hours of insights and inspiration in the stores of London, I decide to make one last stop – a self-service snack stop.

I headed to Sainsbury’s to try out their smart shop solution.

Sainsbury’s solution has many similarities to Coop’s Scan and Pay and Netto’s Scan’N’Go.

While checking off snacks on my list of cravings, I used Sainsbury’s app to scan the products before putting them into my bag. Reaching the till I pass the queue and simply scan the QR code to pay in the smart app.

Do you remember the Nectar loyalty program I wrote about in the first episode? They connect this data as well, making it easy to collect points and creating a seamless experience for me as a customer.

In the first year of the Smart Shop solution, Sainsbury’s saw more than 100,000 transactions per week in 68 test stores. This is impressive!

Reportedly the numbers have kept on growing as Sainsbury’s are to roll out Smart Shop in the majority of their 770 stores by the end of 2020.

Amazon go

An in-store self-checkout that I am yet to experience is Amazon Go.

The mobile solution was launched four years ago and differs greatly from European solutions in their way of scanning products – as there is no scanning needed.

You more or less simply add the items to your bag and leave the store. All friction removed.

The mobile checkout has seen an uplift under the COVID-19 pandemic, as we wish to limit our contact and maintain social distancing.

There could probably not have been a better time for the Danish retailers to launch this than now.


Benefits of self-checkout

The core concept of mobile self-checkout is convenience. But it also comes with in-app value-adding services.

It is a perfect opportunity to push other differentiators such as online receipts and grocery lists, personalised inspiration, and members’ offers and bonus’ in-app.

This is the single most important thing when it comes to self-checkout. It is time-saving and convenient for customers with a small basket of items wanting to get through the store as fast as possible, and it serves as an important service and differentiator.

With a mobile self-checkout solution, brands and retailers will automatically be able to gather valuable information on customer behaviour which can be used to optimise the in-app personalisation, marketing, and in general to optimise the business.

Releasing resources
Even though a supervisor is needed for self-checkout, the store staff can handle more customers at the same time, and brands and retailers can save unnecessary expenses related to staffing the old-school checkout counters.

disadvantages of self-checkout

Whether you wish to invest in mobile self-checkout or counters, the initial investment will be quite big and you need to make a plan for ongoing optimisation of the concept.

Human interaction
Although self-checkout releases your store staff from the counters for them to be available on the shop floor, we all know that some customers do not want personal help. Implementing self-checkout means that you lose that last chance for human-to-human, up-, and cross-selling.

With that said, mobile self-checkout is a great opportunity to showcase personalised up and cross-sale suggestions. This is definitely one of the reasons we have not seen many checkout counters outside groceries where the budget relies more on up- and cross-sales.

Theft and human mistakes
Both kinds of self-checkout come with a risk of theft and human mistakes. This is something that retailers need to defend themselves against. This could be another one of the core reasons we only see self-checkout outside grocery stores to a small extent, as the items are often more expensive.

About the london series

Karoline Lotz Jonassen is an E-Business Consultant at IMPACT and helps our clients develop their e-commerce strategy, digital concepts, and roadmaps to optimise their returns on digital investments.

As part of the Omnichannel Index 2020, Karoline went to London to gain insights and inspiration on how retailers are meeting customers’ needs in Europe’s biggest shopping mecca.

She has tested in-store apps, conducted self-checkout, and spoke with staff regarding their digital touchpoints in-store.

In the next segment, Karoline will look at single-view of data.

karoline lotz johannesen er e-business consultant hos impact