The research project, Self-Checkout in Retail: Measuring the Loss, was undertaken by Adrian Beck, Professor Emeritus at the University of Leicester, and provides a comprehensive analysis of the impact self-scan and self-pay technologies (SCO) have on retail profits, as well as highlighting insights on how retailers can minimise the potential risks.
Driving innovation instore
With the retail industry undergoing a digital transformation, many retailers are turning to new technologies to simplify the purchase process for customers and create a seamless instore experience. Over the past 15 years, the move towards cashier-less point of sales, where shoppers can quickly scan and pay for items through an App on a smartphone, has garnered significant interest.
The customer experience is, thanks to these technologies, becoming more interactive and personalised, creating a faster and more independent checkout journey. The use of SCO systems also provides retailers with significant opportunities to improve store productivity and it is estimated that in the next few years even more ‘self-service’ shops will open. For example, Amazon is already planning to open 3,000 cashier-less stores worldwide by 2021, similar to those already operating in Seattle and Chicago.
While SCO technologies are shown to enhance the customer experience and offer retailers impressive productivity savings, they may also have a negative impact on profitability, as highlighted by the ECR’s Self-Checkout in Retail: Measuring the Loss report.
SCO and retail loss
Data analysed by the ECR study, from 13 retail companies based in the US and Europe and two suppliers of SCO technologies, revealed a greater use of SCO technologies resulted in higher rates of retail loss.
The research included three types of SCO systems: Fixed (the consumer scans items at a self-service kiosk), Scan and Go (the customer is supplied with a scanning device provided by the retailer) and Mobile Scan and Go (the customer’s own mobile device is used as a device for scanning items). It found that stores where 55-60% of transactions went through Fixed SCO saw retail losses increase by 31%, while Scan and Go systems were likely to result in increased losses of up to 18% more than those retailers not using SCO technology.
While the adoption rate for Scan and Go technologies continues to be low, accounting for only 2.82% of all transactions recorded by research participants, the research found use of the technology resulted in high levels of customer error. In fact, the greater the quantity of products in the shopping cart, the higher the risk of either scanning an item more than once or not scanning an item at all. The report found that in a shopping cart containing 50 products, there is a 60% chance that there will be at least one error made, while in a shopping cart containing 100 items there is a 9 in 10 chance that the shopper will have made at least one mistake.
Reasons for retail loss
According to the ECR, the most likely causes of losses relating to SCO technologies include failure to scan items; mis-scanning items (for instance, scanning a kilo of grapes as one kilo of carrots); walking away before completing the payment process; incorrect scanning of promotional or multi-variety products; barcode switching; and coupon frauds.
The extent of the potential loss suggests that there is still much work to be done to ensure SCO technologies are delivering the benefits anticipated by both retailers and technology providers. This requires a careful assessment of the risks and benefits that may arise from investment, starting with a more realistic and considered review of the potential ROI and measurement of SCO losses.
In addition, retailers need to carefully consider how and where these technologies will be used and develop a coherent organisation-wide strategy that recognises the potential value of a customer-friendly and ‘frictionless shopping experience. With careful consideration, retailers can define the approach required to ensure these technologies contribute to business growth, and do not become an unacceptable drain on profitability.
Mike French, Business Unit Director at Checkpoint Systems UK, said:
“With more than 50 years at the forefront of loss prevention, Checkpoint Systems is committed to actively supporting the development of knowledge in the retail sector. As a key sponsor of the ECR Group, the findings of this report provide interesting reading on the opportunities and challenges facing the adoption of self-scan and self-pay technologies. We strongly support the recommendations made in this report and look forward to working with the ECR and the wider retail industry to evolve technology in store and continue to better the customer experience.”
About Checkpoint Systems, Inc. (www.checkpointsystems.com)
A division of CCL Industries, Checkpoint Systems is the only vertically integrated RF/RFID solution provider for retail. With consumer demands accelerating at an extraordinary rate driven by technology, Checkpoint delivers intelligent solutions – bringing clarity and efficiency into the retail environment anytime, anywhere. Through a unique offering of software, hardware, labels, tags and connected cloud-based solutions, Checkpoint optimizes retail operations and efficiencies with real-time intuitive data delivered throughout the supply chain and in-store resulting in improved profitability and an enriched consumer experience. Checkpoint's intelligent retail solutions are built upon 50 years of radio frequency technology expertise, innovative high-theft and loss prevention solutions, market-leading software, RFID hardware and comprehensive labeling capabilities to brand, secure and track merchandise from source to shelf.
About CCL Industries
CCL Industries Inc., a world leader in specialty label and packaging
solutions for global corporations, small businesses and consumers, employs
approximately 19,000 people and operates 150 facilities in 25 countries on six
continents with corporate offices in Toronto, Canada, and Framingham,
Massachusetts. For more information, visit www.cclind.com.
 According to Deloitte Research, "Global Powers of Retailing 2018. Transformative change, reinvigorated commerce", p.7
 Forbes, "The Year With No Cashier? Amazon Reportedly Planning To Open More Amazon Go Stores This Year”, https://www.forbes.com/sites/deborahweinswig/2018/02/23/the-year-with-no-cashier-amazon-reportedly-planning-to-open-more-amazon-go-stores-this-year/#6e9d733d152a
 Bloomberg, “Amazon Will Consider Opening Up to 3,000 Cashierless Stores by 2021”,
Checkpoint Systems, a division of CCL Industries, addresses two critical issues for its customers: Improving Profitability and Improving Consumer experience. With consumer demands accelerating at an extraordinary rate driven by technology, Checkpoint recognizes the challenges faced by its customers in the rapidly evolving retail market. We deliver intelligent solutions – bringing clarity and efficiency into the retail environment anytime, anywhere. Through a unique offering of software, hardware, labels, tags and connected cloud based solutions, Checkpoint optimizes operational efficiencies through analysis of real time data captured throughout the Supply Chain and in store then translating this to clear concise actions and tasks.
We provide end-to-end solutions enabling retailers to achieve accurate real-time inventory, accelerate the replenishment cycle, prevent out-of-stocks and reduce theft, thus improving merchandise availability and the shopper’s experience. Checkpoint’s solutions are built upon 48 years of radio frequency technology expertise, innovative high-theft and loss-prevention solutions, market-leading RFID hardware, RFID software, and comprehensive labeling capabilities, to brand, secure and track merchandise from source to shelf. Checkpoint’s customers benefit from increased sales and profits by implementing merchandise availability solutions, to ensure the right merchandise is available at the right place and time when consumers are ready to buy. Checkpoint operates in every major geographic market and employs 4,500 people worldwide.