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Self Checkout Systems in Retail

Self checkout systems let customers scan items and pay for their purchases without the help of store employees. Self checkout kiosks can help retailers save cost while delivering a better customer experience.

This article explores the benefits and setup of self checkout systems, the self checkout process, and how to implement it in your retail store.

Why retailers are adopting self service checkout systems

A 2019 customer study by SOTI showed that 73 percent of participants favor self checkout. With a self service POS system, your customers get faster checkout and a better shopping experience. Meanwhile, you can sell more and allocate your resources better.

Shorter lines and faster checkout

Long checkout line is the top customer pain point based on a customer survey by Capgemini in 2019.

Payment checkout is the leading pain point for customers

As your business grows, your stores get bigger and the checkout lines become longer. To handle this, you’ll need to dedicate more space to checkout counters and assign more cashiers. If customers check out themselves, retailers can lower wait times and reduce the queue.

A user-friendly self checkout POS is much faster than waiting for a cashier to look up the customer account and bag the items.

Better store capacity

Self checkout kiosks take up less space than regular checkout registers. This means you can place many kiosks into a smaller area while your checkout capacity remains the same. The reduction of queues further minimizes the space you need for processing order.

Small retailers can save real estate costs. On the other hand, massive retail chains have even more opportunities to showcase their premium products.

Self checkout systems in retail

Improved customer experience

Self checkout POS gives your customers another way to complete their shopping experience with more control.

Customers who are in a hurry may prefer speedy checkout and minimal human interaction. With self service checkout, they can buy while listening to a podcast or relaxing from a busy day at work.

If your self service POS includes the option to switch language, this makes it easier for customers who speak a different language to check out. They can follow the instructions on the screen to scan items and pay instead of struggling to communicate with the cashier.

Increased staff productivity

With self checkout systems, one employee can watch multiple kiosks at the same time. As a result, retailers can cut back on the number of cashiers and save the cost during slow periods. You can keep up with customer demand while your staff can focus on creating an excellent shopping experience.

Instead of spending time behind the cashier lane, now your staff can take on other activities. They can restock shelves, reorganize merchandise, and consult the customers better. Now you have a well-organized store with excellent staff, a welcoming environment to the customers.

What a self checkout kiosk looks like in retail

Customers choose self checkout for its convenience, so your self checkout system needs to help customers complete the transactions with minimal staff support.

Self checkout kiosk setup

A self checkout setup usually includes:

  • Self checkout software: Some POS systems can switch between cashier assisted and self service modes. Other POS software requires further customization. The self checkout POS should include essential checkout features and an option to request support from a store attendant.
  • Self checkout machine: Specialized self checkout kiosks with multi-touch capability
  • Barcode scanner: Build into the checkout unit or a connected handheld device, barcode scanner is the staple of self checkout systems. Customers can add items to cart instantly instead of searching and manually selecting from the product list.
  • Payment terminal: Self checkout stands usually include an integrated terminal to help customers pay by credit card and other contactless methods. Some kiosks also have a cash dispensing device to support cash payment.
  • Receipt printer: Compact receipt printers that fit with the kiosks. Customers can get the receipt right after they complete checkout.

Depending on your business, some retailers also include a bagging area in the self checkout kiosks.

4 steps of a self checkout process

The self checkout process in a retail store usually includes the following steps:

Step 1
The customer interacts with the welcome screen to start checkout.
Step 2
They scan the products.
Step 3
They pay for their order.
Step 4
The customer completes checkout and gets a receipt.

Let’s go into the details of each step.

Step 1: Start self checkout

Some systems let customers start checkout immediately by scanning a product.

Other self checkout POS might ask customers to log in with their membership details or continue as a guest. The customer can scan their card, search for their email, or input their membership details into the POS screen to start the checkout.

Step 2: Add products

The customer can scan the product barcode to add items to cart. If there are issues with the barcode, they can look up the product on the POS screen or get a store associate to help them.

During this step, if the self-checkout system includes a packing area, the customer will have to put the correct item into the bagging area before they can continue checkout.

Scan products during self checkout

Step 3: Select payment options

The customer chooses how they will pay for the purchase. If the customer selects credit card, they should proceed to use the integrated payment terminals.

In addition to cash and credit cards, some retailers also accept store credits or gift cards and other vouchers on their self checkout terminals.

Step 4: Complete the purchase

Once the order is complete, the POS kiosk will print a receipt for the customer. They can keep this receipt for security checks and future product returns.

The self service POS should sync the complete order across the rest of your retail system. Real-time sync ensures that you always have the correct sales, inventory, and customer information.

Your POS should return to the welcome screen after a complete purchase. It should also time out after a period of inactivity.

Self checkout POS screen

Implementing self checkout systems in your retail stores

Consider your goals before implementing self checkout

It’s tempting to roll out self checkout kiosks across your stores with their potentials to save costs and boost sales. However, implementing a self checkout system requires a large upfront investment from retailers.

To truly see a high return on investment, your kiosks need to be intuitive and flexible to customer needs. Otherwise, your customers will just return to the regular checkout counters.

In addition, retailers should understand that self checkout systems are just one way to address the increasing demand for self service and more ways to shop with your brand.

When coming to your store, some customers want a speedy process while others desire human interactions. By offering both self checkout and regular checkout, your customers can decide on their preferred method. They will feel more in control and satisfied with their experience.

Implement self checkout systems

Implement self checkout systems by phase

Just like any new business processes, self checkout implementation should take a phased or “crawl, walk, run” approach.

You can begin with a pilot project and test self checkout technology in a subset of your stores. You can set up a checkout area with both regular and self checkout and start monitoring customer experience in this area.

For example, you can collect data to see which checkout options customers prefer based on various times of the day, days of the week, the number of items, or product categories. Now you have better insights to allocate your sales staff to each checkout area during the day.

In addition, you can check how customers use the checkout system. For example, your sales staff can provide you with the most common problems that customers run into when they use self checkout. They can also gather any feedback about the user interface. Based on the feedback, you can improve your checkout software or the layout of the kiosk.

Retail self checkout systems

Once you have the proof-of-concept success, you can begin to roll out self checkout systems to other locations. You’ll need the IT capability and necessary training to deliver a consistent shopping experience across all locations.

Choosing a customizable self checkout solution gives you the flexibility to adapt your business to ever-changing customer demand.


Self checkout systems have a lot of benefits for retailers:

  • Shorter lines and faster checkout
  • Better store capacity
  • Improved customer experience
  • Increased staff productivity

Retailers should consider the goals and processes before implementing self checkout and roll out the technology in phases.

If you’re looking for a self checkout solution that’s adaptable to your retail business, please talk to one of our business consultants. Together we can build a best-fit solution for your requirements.