With the numbers of self-checkouts (SCOs) in C-stores increasing on an almost daily basis, retailers without self-checkouts really need to consider whether they are missing out. Although the reality, according to the ACS, is that only 2% of stores offer self-service checkouts, more and more stores are considering whether they should install a self-checkout. Here’s HTEC’s top five things to consider before you make a decision about installing one!
1. Your customers
You know your customers best. Do you think they will appreciate the option of a self-service till? Are your customers often in a hurry? Do they like to pay by card or contactless? SCOs seem to be more popular among those who are keen to get in and out quickly, and by those who welcome new technology being among the early adopters of new technological innovation – often driven by time saving tools.
Generally, the more successful SCOs which we’ve installed have been in an urban setting, with a high-percentage of people keen on adopting new technology or in a hurry. These types of people are generally happy to serve themselves, if it means they save time.
However, SCOs don’t tend to work so well in more community-orientated stores where customers aren’t in a hurry and are happy to stop and chat and take their time. Those customers are less likely to be concerned about waiting for a few minutes to get served and may well feel that there is value in taking their time to be served and appreciated.
2. The average basket size and what’s in it?
What are you selling? What’s the average basket size in your store? SCOs tend to work best when customers are buying a small number of items – usually up to five items - and can carry them easily without the need for a basket or shopping bag.
SCOs also work better when the items bought are packaged and can be easily scanned. Expecting people to look up several bakery or fresh items is a big ask and if a customer has several of those items, the chances are they are more likely to wait for some help. Those items are likely to require assistance by lots of customers and so they may well prefer to wait and have the hard work done for them.
However, if you sell a high proportion of standard, barcoded items, then a SCO is likely to be more successful.
3. Card / cash ratio
This links back to your customers and their profile. If your store benefits from a higher number of cash transactions, then being served is, in our view, more likely to be popular. HTEC have installed a number of card-payment only self-checkouts, which have been popular in stores where the card payment ratio is high. We’ve also worked with Costcutter to install the first Fingopay payment terminal – allowing customers who have pre-registered to pay by thumbprint – doing away the need for card or cash payment altogether!
If you don’t know these values, HTEC can help you to do the analysis through your POS. If you’d like some help to understand this, give us a call.
4. Age approvals
Items like alcohol, tobacco and lottery tickets are always going to need some specific age approval assistance and customers buying those items usually know (or learn very quickly) that they have to wait for a member of staff to approve them. If your store has a high number of customers who buy these items, then SCOs can work – as long as there is a member of staff dedicated to doing it and getting them through the process quickly. This tends to work better in larger stores where a member of staff can be dedicated to this role – especially during busy times. However, if a single member of staff is trying to serve a line of customers whilst being expected to go off and complete age approval transactions at the same time, SCOs can end up taking more time and creating bigger queues. This can lead to annoyance and frustration for everyone involved and it might be sensible to think hard about whether an SCO would work for you.
And finally, we get to your staff - one of your most important assets. We all know that SCOs can help free-up staff time to serve customers who want to have a conversation or to help manage stock replenishment. In fact, reports show that staff appreciate having the option of SCOs as it gives them more time to be on the shop floor and welcome customers. But let’s face it, there’s always the occasional customer who needs some support to put their items through a SCO, regardless of how straightforward and intuitive the process is.
So, how would your staff feel about the installation of a SCO? How much will it affect their day-to-day workload and are they happy to adapt? In the early days, people were concerned about SCOs taking away jobs - or meaning a reduction in hours, but these days, that’s not always the only reason for installing an SCO. But it’s a great idea to talk to your team and to understand their views on the subject before you make any decisions!
Armed with these handy hints and once you have thought it through, if you are interested in installing a self-checkout, please do get in touch. HTEC have a wealth of experience and knowledge in the convenience and forecourt sector and can provide advice on whether an SCO really is the best option for your business. For more information, please contact Dave Pearce on 02380 689491.