Overcoming Lost Sales at the Self-Checkout Line

July 29, 2015Perry Kuklin

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The concept of self-checkout is a good one in theory. It can benefit consumers who are wanting to get through the transaction process more quickly. And it can benefit retailers by providing more checkout stations with less labor costs. Unfortunately, the added convenience and labor savings come at a pretty hefty price tag. A recent CPGmatters article, summarized by RetailWire, highlighted The Hersey Company’s reaction to the multi-billion dollar loss in impulse sales brought about by the growing popularity of self-checkout stations.  Frank Jimenez, senior director of insights driven performance at Hersey calls it “an operational solution and a merchandising challenge.” It’s a challenge that merchandising has to solve.

The source of the problem.

When you look at the structure of a typical multi-server, multi-queue setup you see customers who are kept occupied and engaged with organized in-queue merchandising displays that continue the shopping experience while driving impulse sales. Contrast this to the self-checkout environment. Here you will typically find an unsystematic waiting line, if not a somewhat chaotic one. And because most self-checkout experiences lack defined queues, they also lack the impulse sales-building opportunities that come with in-queue merchandising. The situation is a lose-lose for customers and businesses. Customers become disengaged with the shopping experience and instead focus on finding the first available checkout station. When a checkout station is not readily available the wait becomes an ordeal filled with negative thoughts fueled by anxiety because they have nothing else to focus their attention on. Many retailers are now turning to a single line queue for their self-checkout areas to recapture customer engagement and impulse sales.

Here’s why:

A single line queue instills fairness.

The best way to ensure a fair waiting line and checkout experience is to setup a first-come, first serve system which occurs naturally when you utilize a single waiting line.

Average wait times are less.

With a single line queue, none of your customers will be at risk for enduring an unusually long wait due to the person in front of them not being able to use the self-checkout system correctly or scanning an item twice and having to ask for help. Instead, all waiting customers will continue to flow to the other available checkout stations.

A single line queue is less stressful.

In the retail environment, a single-line queue does away with the need for customers to make any decisions beyond their product selections because right in front of them is a clear and orderly line that eliminates jockeying (line switching) or the frustration and stress that comes from choosing the wrong line.

In-Line Merchandising

Merchandising regains attention.

A single-line queue at self-checkout can bring impulse merchandising back into the mix. Even a short wait can benefit from exposure to impulse merchandise, engaging the customer and putting profits back in the hands of the retailer.

The customer experience is better.

A single line queue will enrich the overall customer experience. It not only decreases actual wait times, but perceived wait times as well. The single line queue for self-checkout is a win-win for customers and retailers alike. Managers can provide the best shopping and checkout experiences for their customers while deterring reneging, balking, and jockeying for a positive effect on customer morale translating to increased sales, repeat business, and positive customer reviews. Learn more by downloading our latest Quick Guide, “How to Maximize the Success of Self-Checkout Lines in Retail.”

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