The State of Self-Service Checkouts
COVID-19 Resources

The State of Self-Service Checkouts

Feb 19, 2021

Much of life has conformed to pandemic conditions in the past year, and shopping has as well. One preference that shoppers have shown in the past year, and embraced pre-pandemic, is self-checkout. 

Self-service checkout kiosks meet several criteria of safety-conscious shoppers. These machines allow shoppers to complete their in-store visit without a single direct human interaction. Self-checkout kiosks are an alternative to waiting in line for a cashier, and may cap off a seamless shopping experience.

These benefits noted, what role should self-checkout play within your point-of-sale operations?

Human cashiers provide a friendly interaction and full-service experience that a self-checkout kiosk simply can’t. A completely cashier-less store, a la Amazon Go grocery stores, may not work for your business. You may not want to let your cashiers go, either. 

Even so, providing self-checkout kiosks can regulate crowdflow, move customers through your location more efficiently, and increase revenue.  Every business must determine where their ideal split of human cashiers and self-checkout kiosks lies.

To help, we wanted to provide you feedback from shoppers themselves. Our 2021 State of Self-Checkout Experiences report picks the minds of 1,000 American consumers, asking them everything you need to know about self-checkout experiences.

Key Findings 

Self-service checkout usage has dramatically increased.  36% saw a major increase in usage while 23% saw a minor increase.

Most expect their usage to increase in the upcoming 12 months.  34% expect a major increase while 18% expect a minor increase

Self-Service checkouts have failed for many consumers. 67% have had one fail when using it.

Bad experiences are why consumers choose not to use self-service checkouts. 25% said they would choose not to because they’ve had bad experiences while 21% said in the past they were slower. 

Most believe self-service checkouts are faster than waiting in line. 85% believe strongly that they are typically faster.

Consumers would prefer to use their smartphone to checkout and pay. 65% strongly agree that their usage would increase if this option was available. 

Consumers worry about the cleanliness of self-service options. 65% strongly agree with this concern.

Consumers prefer self-checkouts over store associates if given an option. 60% of consumers prefer them.

Part 1: Self-Service Checkout Usage 

Any location manager evaluating the self-service checkout kiosks must ask: do customers actually use these kiosks? To what degree do they prefer self-checkout over having a cashier scan and bag their items?

Our data suggests that customers utilize self-checkout frequently, and that usage of self-service kiosks may continue to increase.

Consumers are using self-service checkouts a lot, and usage has dramatically increased.

Our findings suggest that almost half of the shopping population use self-checkout exclusively. When asked how often they use a self-service checkout kiosk when it is available, 48.7% of respondents said “basically all the time”. 

30.6% of respondents said that they use self-service checkout kiosks “some of the time”. These respondents could adjust their checkout habits based on the length of cashier lines, the nature of the items they are purchasing, or other personal preferences. These shoppers embody the need to have both self-checkout kiosks and live cashiers in a store.

Only 3% of respondents said they “don’t use [self-checkout] and don’t want to”. These findings show that having self-checkout options is not a competitive advantage, but a competitive requirement.

Chart 1 - Final

We found that the pandemic has accelerated the use of self-service checkout kiosks. A significant segment of shoppers don’t want a cashier potentially touching their credit card for manual entry, handing them change, handling their goods, or interacting with them in other ways.

These are realities of shopping today, and may help explain why 36.3% of respondents saw a “major increase” in their use of self-service checkout kiosks in the past year. Another 23.5% of shoppers saw a “minor increase” in their self-checkout habits.

While many respondents saw no change in their use of self-checkout over the past year, there has been a clear uptick in self-checkout kiosk usage.

Most shoppers expect their usage of self-service checkout kiosks to increase in the upcoming 12 months. 

Increased usage of self-service checkout kiosks does not appear to be a fad. 34.1% of shoppers said they anticipate a “major increase” in their usage of self-checkout options in the following year. 18.7% more expect a “minor increase” in their use of self-service checkout kiosks. Whether for fear of germs or love of the efficiency of self-checkout, these sentiments are noteworthy for in-location experience managers.

Chart 3 - Final

Summary: 

It is clear to see that self-service checkout kiosks are now a must-have option for more than half of shoppers. As usage increases, shoppers may gravitate (consciously or not) towards retailers who allow them the option of checking out on their own.

But what about those respondents who do not utilize self-service checkout kiosks? What are their complaints, and are their gripes with self-checkout ones that can be addressed?

We asked them.

Part 2: Why Shoppers Do (or Don’t) Use Self-Service Checkout Kiosks

It turns out that having a self-checkout option for customers is not nearly as important as having a good self-checkout option for customers. 

Poor interactions with self-service checkout kiosks have shaped the opinions of many who prefer to rely on cashiers. So what exactly turned these customers off of self-checkout kiosks?

There are also numerous ways to deploy self-checkout, and our data proved revealing about which channels shoppers most prefer.

As a store manager, knowing the specific gripes and likes of the shopping public could be a significant advantage when crafting your self-checkout experiences.

Self-Service checkouts have failed for many consumers. 

Perfection is a high standard for anything, including self-checkout kiosks. Still, reliability is key if any technology is to achieve widespread adoption. Yet 67.3% of respondents to our survey said that they have had a self-service checkout kiosk “not work” for them when they tried to use it. 

The precise nature of what “not working” meant for these customers could shed light on the reasons that some shoppers shun self-checkout experiences.

Chart 4 - Final

Slow and ineffective kiosks drive customers away

As an in-location experience manager, you want to know how to improve what is in your control. When it comes to customers utilizing your self-checkout experiences more frequently, you must ensure that your machines are not excessively slow, and that they work.

25.1% of respondents said they’re most likely to avoid a self-service checkout kiosk if it doesn’t work. An additional 21.9% of shoppers will not use a self-checkout option that is slower than they deem reasonable.

Some customers may avoid self-checkout no matter the quality of the experience. 19.9% of respondents simply desire the human interaction that a cashier provides, and for this reason may not use your self-checkout kiosk.

Chart 5 - Final

Most shoppers see self-service checkouts as faster than waiting in line for a cashier

Though safety has become increasingly relevant, many consumers see a clear benefit in checking themselves out: speed. Scanning, swiping, and bagging on one’s own means expending extra effort, but many are willing to do it so that they do not have to wait in line for a cashier.

41.5% of respondents to our 2021 State of Self-Checkout Experiences report said that “self-service checkouts are typically faster than waiting in line [for a cashier]” is a “very accurate” statement. An additional 44% of respondents said that the statement is somewhat accurate.

This shows an overwhelming shopper sentiment that self-checkout is a more efficient checkout option than the traditional cashier. So, again, why would a shopper avoid your self-checkout kiosk?

Chart 6 - Final

Consumers worry about the cleanliness of self-service options. 

Along with malfunctioning or slow machines, your customer might avoid using your self-service checkout kiosk because they fear it is unclean. 30.9% of survey respondents found the statement “I worry about the cleanliness of self-service checkout screens” to be “very accurate”. An additional 36.4% of respondents said that the statement was “somewhat accurate”. 

These concerns prompted Raydiant to partner with Coastal Health to sanitize all of their touchscreen, Kiosk, and Virtual Room solutions. Coastal Health’s antimicrobial film helps reduce 99.99% of germs that contact the surface of your self-checkout solutions. This is a feature that you can let your customers know about through messaging on or adjacent to your self-service kiosks.

Raydiant’s line of solutions also allows you to generate QR codes through which customers can interact with your signage and kiosks in a fully-contactless manner.

Chart 7 - Final

Customers are comfortable checking out with their own phone

Self-checkout cuts down on human interactions and does not require another person to interact with your items, but customers remain hung-up on the cleanliness of stationary self-checkout screens.

33.7% said it was “very accurate” to say that they would use self-service checkout options more often if they could scan their goods with their phone. Another 29.7% of respondents found this statement to be somewhat accurate.

Equipped with this insight, you might consider whether phone-checkout integration is worth the investment.

Chart 8 - Final

Summary: 

We now know that customers overwhelmingly perceive self-service checkout kiosks (and other self-checkout options) as faster than waiting in line for a cashier. We may intuit that these respondents view humans cashiers as synonymous with lines, while they generally do not associate self-checkout with waiting.

We also know that some shoppers still avoid self-checkout, despite the greater efficiency. The data tells us that their avoidance stems from slow, broken, or unclean self-checkout options.

Ensuring the functionality, speed, and cleanliness of self-service checkout kiosks may therefore be a top priority of managers who want to increase usage of their self-checkout options, not to mention the revenues that can come from more efficient checkouts.

Part 3: Self-Checkout Is an Integral Part of Retail’s Future

All of our data tells us that self-checkout experiences are critical to the retail experience of 2021. Customers now demand these options, and may shop elsewhere if you do not provide them.

This demand for self-service checkout kiosks and other types of self-checkout makes cashierless checkout an integral feature of retail’s future.

Consumers prefer self-checkouts over store associates if given an option. 

Circumstances like line lengths and items being purchased vary. But, all things being equal, we wanted to know whether customers preferred a cashier-assisted checkout or a self-directed checkout experience.

59.8% of respondents said that they prefer self-checkout, while only 34.5% of them said that they prefer a cashier-assisted checkout. 

It’s clear as a cloudless day: the majority of customers today prefer checking themselves out.

Chart 9 - Final

Customers are deciding where to shop based on self-checkout options

No longer does a shopper judge your store’s checkout processes solely on convenience. As health has become a foremost concern to shoppers, your ability to provide strong self-checkout options could directly affect how many customers visit your locations.

49.4% of respondents said that they are more likely to visit a store with a self-checkout option over one that does not, all other things being equal. To repeat: half of consumers will visit your competitor’s store if they have self-checkout and you do not. 

Chart 10 - Final

Conclusion

Investment in your business must be forward-looking and data-driven. At Raydiant, we see first-hand how businesses have exercised ingenuity and invested where it most counts to get through lean times.

The findings of our 2021 State of Self-Checkout Experiences suggest that investment in self-service checkout kiosks is one of the soundest bets you can make. Whether you do not have any self-checkout options or you are considering upgrading or expanding your fleet, consumer-derived data shows great demand for quality self-checkout experiences.

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