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Scanning the Self-checkout Space

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The trend of self-checkouts is fast catching in India. Here’s a look at what’s driving the adoption and who are the front-runners

Bengaluru: In the dynamic domain of Indian retail, where a surplus of manpower is readily available, and customers seldom seem to be in an urgent hurry at the checkout counter, the emergence of self-checkout systems might appear paradoxical. Why, then, are these self-service kiosks making their mark in the retail sector? The answer to this question unfolds across multiple dimensions.

Firstly, self-checkout facilities usher in a new era of truly contactless shopping experiences within the store, aligning with evolving consumer preferences for minimal physical interaction.

Secondly, they serve as a strategic solution to prevent store staff from being overwhelmed by long queues, particularly during peak seasons such as festivals and end-of-season sales, thus enhancing operational efficiency.

Thirdly, the adoption of self-checkouts liberates the store’s workforce, allowing them to engage more effectively with customers on the sales floor, thus enriching the overall shopping experience.

Lastly, these technological advancements underscore a brand’s commitment to cutting-edge innovation, positioning them as industry leaders and catering to the tech-savvy preferences of their clientele.

One of the primary concerns frequently associated with implementing self-checkout systems is the potential reduction in the requirement for human staff. However, as aptly shared by the spokesperson of Reliance Retail Ltd.’s recently introduced brand Yousta, technology helps in enhancing customer experience and optimize operational efficiency. The systems are designed in a way that augment, adjust and complement manpower and technology. Staff supports check outs as and when required and are also deployed in other areas such as customer service, store upkeep and so on.

Earliest Adoption of Self Checkouts

According to NewsOK, developing a working self-service checkout took three years and five million dollars. The first self-service checkout machines then called automated checkout machines or ACM, were set up in a Kroger store in Atlanta in July 1986.

Flashback 2020, when the world was ensuring social distancing to its maximum owing to Covid-19, the implementation and acceptance of self checkout was understandable.

As mentioned on statista.com, in a survey regarding the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on in-store self-checkout in India conducted in September 2020, majority i.e. 52% of the respondents had never tried it but they said they would like to try. About 25% of the respondents reported that they had used it during the pandemic.

As cited on knowledge-sourcing.com, the self-checkout systems market was estimated at $ 11.041 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 19.44% to $ 38.295 billion in 2027. “NCR Corporation introduced self-checkout kiosks in 1986. They were introduced to reduce waiting time and enhance the checkout experience for customers. Some Indian brands such as Big Bazaar, Decathlon, and Pantaloons have embraced self-checkout,” shared Vidhya Krishnaswamy, vice president and head of CPRD (consumer products, retail and distribution), India Business Unit, Capgemini.

BigBasket, an online retail and grocery chain, went one step ahead and opened their self-service offline store with AI-enabled computer technology platform that recognizes fruits and vegetables without using barcodes, she shared.

“A growing trend suggests that consumers are moving towards self checkout options, taking greater control of their in-store transactions. This shift empowers consumers to tailor their shopping experience to their preferences. In response, brands are expanding self-checkout features within their mobile apps, elevating the in-store journey. This aligns with hyper personalization strategies, allowing brands to offer tailored promotions and pricing,” Ajay Aggarwal, head of retail at Nihilent Limited explained.

“Ultimately, this approach contributes to enhancing customer lifetime value. Several brands, including Amazon Go, Walmart, K-Mart, Best Buy, and others, have embraced self-checkout optionsfor their customers. In Europe, this service is currently provided through proprietary devices, with a transition to app-based functionality on the horizon,” Aggarwal added.

In India, supermarket chains were the early adopters for self-checkouts. Leading the way was HyperCity way back in 2017. The other prominent names who offered this service before the onset of Covid19 were Decathlon, BigBazaar, SunnyBee in Chennai, Myntra’s Roadster Go etc.

When we take a look at the current retail landscape in India, the big names like Reliance Retail, Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail, Decathlon etc. have adopted the self checkout feature at their stores and going by the dynamics, a many others are going to follow suit.

The article was first published in the September issue of IMAGES Retail magazine. Get a copy of the issue here.

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