Snacks & Candy

Enhancing the Customer Experience with Self-Checkout and Queuing

The Hershey Company

The convenience store channel has slowly begun to adopt self-checkout registers, presenting unique merchandising challenges. Self-checkouts typically have less space for products to be displayed than a traditional checkout counter, and they require more focus from shoppers to scan products, which can reduce unplanned purchases. Nicole Capes, Senior Manager of Transaction Zones at The Hershey Company, shares how retailers can correctly balance labor efficiencies and shopper satisfaction while still providing the opportunity for unplanned purchases. 

Why are more c-store retailers utilizing self-checkout?

Many c-store retailers are looking to self-checkout to help consistently provide a fast, easy and convenient checkout experience. Self-checkouts enable customers to pay how they choose, ultimately driving loyalty. Of the c-store chains that have invested in self-checkouts, roughly 15%of transactions go through self-checkout registers, almost doubling from three years ago (Source: C-store Front-end Shopper Deep Dive, 2023). Self-checkouts also allow retailers to redeploy labor from the front-end to better serve shoppers in other parts of the store. According to Caitlin Reineke, Pre-Sales Engineer at NCR, retailers can save/redeploy roughly 70 labor hours per week with three cash-enabled self-checkout terminals at their front-end.

What’s your advice for c-store retailers that are considering adding self-checkout?

When approaching any front-end project, it’s important to look at it from three lenses.

  • Consider productivity and how sales would be impacted.
  • Consider operational efficiencies, including how to improve queue wait time.
  • Consider whether the project will enhance the shopping experience.

I also recommend engaging a technology provider like NCR to pinpoint the best solution. For example, some self-checkout machines only accept credit cards. However, c-stores still have a high cash utilization rate so stores may need machines with a cash option.

What are tips for building a self-checkout merchandising strategy? 

It’s important to have a merchandising strategy when self-checkout terminals are installed to avoid a suboptimal shopper experience, added cost and time to retrofit and a potential loss in unplanned purchases. Sixty-four percent of front-end purchases are unplanned (Source: Hershey Shopper Insights), and adopting self-checkouts without a merchandising strategy can reduce front-end sales by up to 20% (Source: IRI 2020, retailer masked). To avoid this, stores should ensure core categories and repetition at each self-checkout terminal to meet shoppers’ needs. Customers do not like to interfere with other shoppers’ space, so products should be within arm’s reach of the transaction space. Once customers are in the process of checking out, which lasts about 65 seconds for a two- to three-item basket, they would rather forego a desired item than look for it. Therefore, it’s recommended to place the top categories, brands and pack types at every register. 

Shoppers often like to treat themselves at the end of their shopping journey, and self-checkout registers should allow customers to do so. While 63% of shoppers surveyed were very interested in self-checkout, that interest declined by 7–9% when terminals did not contain items for purchase (Source: Grocery Store Manned/Self-Checkout Shoppers n=1005). Shoppers expect the same experience, regardless of their checkout choice.

What else can retailers do to increase conversion on unplanned purchases?

To boost conversion on unplanned purchases, retailers have a powerful tool—queueing. When executed correctly, queues not only navigate shoppers to their desired choice of checkout, they also encourage shoppers to dwell, even when a line is not present. While product shelves along the wall near the front-end capture shopper's attention (15 seconds on average), this engagement almost doubles to 28 seconds in queues (Source: C-store Front-end Shopper Deep Dive, 2023). Shoppers are much more likely to visually engage with product when it is near them, and ultimately convert more often (42% at queue stores vs 35%). The confined spaces of small-format stores, combined with increased dwell times, allow shoppers to explore and make unplanned purchases.

To conclude, the synergy between queuing and effective self-checkout merchandising presents valuable opportunities for retailers to enhance the overall shopping experience and increase conversion on unplanned purchases. When seamlessly integrated, thoughtful queueing strategies and self-checkout merchandising are key factors in consumer engagement and purchases near the register.

This post is sponsored by The Hershey Company

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