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The pros and cons of self-checkout vs. checkout-free

Report shows that both contactless options have advantages and drawbacks.
People doing grocery shopping at the supermarket, isolated on white background

When it comes to contactless shopping, self-checkout kiosks and checkout-free experiences offer different advantages and drawbacks, which convenience store operators must consider.

The pros of self-checkout kiosks are a more streamlined purchasing process, particularly for customers with fewer items — making the shopping experience more convenient. Such kiosks also allow for a more private and selective shopping experience that requires less interaction with staff, according to Sam Vise, co-founder and CEO of Toronto-based Optimum Retailing, a provider of in-store experience management solutions.

For retailers, this technology enables them to save on labor costs and alleviate issues with staffing shortages and employee turnover that many stores are facing in the current economic climate. On the other hand, retailers can face increased theft and find that technical issues, such as scanner malfunctions or software glitches, frustrate customers and require staff assistance.

Self-checkout has been around for 30 years and "everybody knows the recipe," noted Andrew Radlow, chief revenue officer at Berkeley, Calif.-based Grabango. However, he said the advantages of checkout-free experiences like Grabango are that the system takes care of checking out, and retailers eliminate shrink because the system accurately understands everything the customer has selected, whether it's in their pocket, backpack, bag or shopping cart.

Offering another perspective, Frank Beard, senior marketing and customer experience manager at Standard AI, said the San Francisco-based company believes the self-checkout vs. autonomous checkout debate is a false dilemma. Standard AI is seeking to bridge the gap.

[Read more: "Canadians have mixed feelings on AI in grocery"]

"That's why we acquired a self-checkout company. Kiosks provide a great entry point to self-service retail and can be rapidly deployed for immediate results. But there's a catch: Where do retailers go from there? The technology roadmap for self-checkout has always ended at self-checkout, but retailers are also curious about the new autonomous technology that they see being deployed. There's never been a way to bridge the gap between self-checkout and autonomous retail," he said.

In February, Standard AI reached an agreement to acquire self-checkout solutions provider Skip, and with this move, the company plans to offer retailers a middle ground.

"Going forward, it won't just be self-checkout vs. autonomous. There's a middle ground where computer vision will be used to deliver a lot of value. For example, you'll see new products that provide deeper insights into theft, out-of-stocks and more," Beard said.

This article first appeared at CSNews

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