Sat. May 25th, 2024
  • Self-checkout usage represented 30% of transactions in 2021 according to FMI, an industry group. However, despite being offered by 96% of the retailers surveyed, the technology continues to face challenges.
  • Issues with self-checkout technology include mysterious error codes, theft and the need for staff to monitor both customers and machines.
  • Frustrations with the system have led some retailers to add restrictions or remove the option completely. Walmart has removed self-checkout kiosks in some locations, while Target has limited the number of items customers can scan in some of their stores.
  • Emerging technology aims to improve the self-checkout experience. Amazon’s “just walkout technology” uses sophisticated cameras to allow customers to shop and leave without having to check out. Japanese fashion retailer Uniqlo uses RFID chips in price tags to power their self-checkout system.
  • Despite its disadvantages and customer frustrations, it is unlikely that self-checkout will disappear, due in part to ongoing labor shortages.

As the busiest time of the year for retailers, the holiday shopping season has brought increased scrutiny to self-checkout systems. Complaints about the technology have led to calls for discounts and other incentives for customers who use self-checkout. Some retailers, like British supermarket chain Booths, have been removing self-checkout from the majority of their stores in response to customer backlash.

Even though self-checkout technology was designed to reduce labor costs and free up staff time, it has actually resulted in a new form of tedium for workers who now have to monitor self-checkout stations and intervene in case of errors or theft. Walmart has been testing a location-by-location approach and in some cases, it has removed self-checkout kiosks. Target, on the other hand, has introduced limitations on the number of items customers can scan at self-checkout stations.

Faced with the challenges of self-checkout, some retailers are turning to new technology. Amazon’s “just walkout technology”, used in more than 70 stores across the U.S., allows customers to shop and leave without having to check out. Similarly, Japanese fashion retailer Uniqlo has embedded RFID chips in price tags to power their self-checkout system.

Whilst self-checkout technology has its issues, it is unlikely to disappear due to labor shortages. Indeed, some customers enjoy the convenience it provides. Whether the future will see a growth or decline in self-checkout usage remains to be seen, but for now, it remains a fixture in many retailers’ offerings.

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