Technology launched at FMI's Marketechnics will help retailers favour better customers over the cherry-pickers who usually hurry through the express checkout.
Until quite recently, retailers had to watch cherry-pickers, with their one or two purchases, hurry through express checkouts, while their better customers stood waiting in a line. Then along came self-checkout systems � into supermarkets anyway - but they were quite bulky. Now, smaller, more versatile ones are on the way.
The new U-Scan terminals from Optimal Robotics have been significantly reduced in size and are available in a variety of configurations - ranging from one to five bags. This means that they can be extended from the traditional four-terminal footprint to six terminals, while still being supervised by a single attendant. The systems are being shown at the Food Marketing Institute's (FMI) Marketechnics Show on February 3-5, in San Diego.
U-Scan will also be demonstrating its Mobile Attendant, a handheld device that enables attendants to perform a range of cashier functions while away from the checkout. It is also able to capture signatures, which means that shoppers can sign electronically when making credit card transactions.
Other sectors too
Meanwhile, NCR believes that other retail segments, including home improvement, drug and wholesale club retailers, are now also ready to move into self-scanning. Home Depot is already piloting NCR's new Fastlane self checkout, and BJ's Wholesale Club intends to pilot it in a store in April. FastLane offers a smaller footprint and can be upgraded to feature small- and large-order bagging areas and a new take-away conveyor belt without having to reinstall the core system. It incorporates touch screens and scanners, and can accept cash, cheque, credit, debit and coupons. It can also be programmed in multiple languages.
Retailers using self-checkouts report that from 20% to over 40% of transactions are now processed through them. And research conducted for NCR a few months ago confirmed that over half of consumers responding said they have used a self-checkout machine. According to the FMI, close to 20% of food retailers had self-checkouts installed in 2001.
Improves customer satisfaction
Gartner Group Senior Retail Analyst, Jeff Roster, agrees that self-checkouts are having an impact on customer satisfaction. "There's nothing more frustrating than going into a retail establishment and seeing 15, maybe 20 lanes and not enough checkers to take advantage of the equipment," Roster says. "Self-checkout technology allows you to go in and take care of yourself at your own speed."
What about Europe?
Another NCR study of UK, French and German retailers indicates that even though they have yet to use it, 70% of those surveyed would use a self-checkout machine if it became available where they shop, and 41% would be more likely to visit a store that offered it.