Snacks & Candy

Optimizing the Self-Checkout Experience

A Q&A With Nicole Capes, Senior Manager of Retail Experience at The Hershey Company.
The Hershey Company

Self-checkout terminals inside convenience stores can enhance the customer experience, especially when merchandised effectively. Nicole Capes, Senior Manager of Retail Experience at The Hershey Company, shares how retailers can strike the right balance between creating efficiency for the shopper while still providing the opportunity for unplanned purchases. 

Why are c-store retailers moving toward utilizing self-checkout?

Many businesses are looking to self-checkout to help consistently provide a fast, easy and convenient checkout experience. Sixty percent of shoppers prefer self-checkout because they feel like it's faster. Self-checkout provides flexibility and enables consumers to pay the way they choose. Ultimately, when self-checkout enhances the shopper experience, it drives customer loyalty.

It also allows retailers to redeploy labor from the front end to 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. Finally, consider shopper satisfaction and whether the project will enhance the shopping experience. I also recommend leaning on 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 inside the store so stores should consider whether they need machines with a cash option. 

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

It’s important to have a merchandising strategy in place when self-checkouts terminals are installed. This helps to avoid a suboptimal shopper experience, added cost and time to retrofit and a potential loss in shopper conversion. Sixty-four percent of front-end purchases are unplanned (Source: Hershey Shopper Insights), and adopting self-checkout without a merchandising solution 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 another shopper’s area so products should be within arm’s reach of the transaction space. Shoppers will also use the first available terminal, regardless of what products are placed nearby. And once customers are in the process of checking out, which only lasts an average of 65 seconds for a 2-3 item basket, they would rather forgo a desired item than go find it. For these reasons, we recommend placing the top categories, brands and pack types at every register. 

We also know that shoppers oftentimes like to treat themselves at the end of their shopping journey, and self-checkout locations should provide the opportunity for customers to do so. In fact, while 63% of shoppers surveyed were extremely and very interested in self-checkout, that interest declined by 7 –9% when the terminals did not contain items for purchase (Source: Grocery Store Manned/Self-Checkout Shoppers n=1005). Shoppers expect to be offered the same experience, regardless of their choice of checkout.

How is self-checkout continuing to evolve?

We’re starting to see an increase in 3D camera technology that allows shoppers to checkout without scanning their items. Store employees seem to like this option and shoppers love that the process is highly intuitive. There are a lot of different types of technology for self-checkout, but it’s important that c-stores retailers choose the technology that best meets their customers’ needs and drives conversion.

This post is sponsored by The Hershey Company

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