Grocery Self-Checkout

Here we will see about the Grocery Self-Checkout

Buying grocery now got more interesting and quicker with the advent of technology. Self-checkout is certainly one of them and this article illustrates this process, customer experience and compares with other alternatives. It also covers usual queries while getting to know such technological innovation in lucid & crisp way.

Grocery self-checkout (SCO) is shortened form of ‘buying grocery with self-service checkout’ and synonymous to assisted checkouts. As the name suggests, customers can buy grocery from shopping mall in traditional way and then the billing & payment are done through a machine without any other personnel operating them. 

Grocery Self-Checkout

The customer needs to follow couple of simple steps in such kiosks:

  1. Carry all required grocery items in basket till kiosk
  2. Place items one by one over the scanner as per given direction so that bar code is scanned which is also a weighing scale
  3. Touch screen monitor in front shows item name, code, weight, price etc.
  4. Once scanned, place in right side carry bag /basket stand
    1. Certain items like vegetable, fruits might require additional selection on touch screen since product quality can be non-standardized for machine to understand automatically
  5. Items prices get added up and final amount is reflected
  6. Customer chooses to pay by card/UPI/cash from respective slots (different for card insert, ATM card PIN punch, cash deposit , coin return , receipt print etc.)
  7. Leaves the kiosk with packed items’ bag

Adoption & Application Grocery Self-Checkout:

  • Countries like Italy, Russia, Spain, Japan , Germany , Singapore, USA, China are initial adopters of this SCO technology. 
  • Based on current usage , it is estimated that by 2025,  1.2 million self-checkout units will be installed worldwide. 
  • Companies like IBM, Fujitsu, NCR etc. have invested in building SCO modules with their own software in-built. 

Advantages:  Customer and Retailer Perspectives

Based on a survey carried out by IDC(International Data Corporation) in 2014, the primary motivators (advantages in decreasing order) for consumers to use SCO are:

  1. Less queue than conventional staffed billing kiosks
  2. Faster checkout 
  3. Customer intending to maintain privacy of bought items
  4. Control over payment method , item scanning pace and how the packing is being done
  5. No interaction with staff required, especially useful during pandemic
  6. Learning is easy ( generally a centralized staff roams around to demo to new customers)

The primary motive of supermarket owners to implement self-checkout is optimize cost in long run. By minimizing or even zeroing out staffs for check out process, the owners tend to invest heavily on technology only to realize the comparative advance in long run as initial investment on such technology is quite high. 

Disadvantages To Grocery Self-Checkout: 

The adoption of SCO is not very fast and that can be attributed to below disadvantages of SCO:

  1. Error rate while scanning is higher especially in non-linear use cases inducing delay in the process
    1. It also leads to manual intervention of central staff at times diluting the primary flavour of SCO
    2. At times, Barcode also is not read accurately by scanner
    3. Not that flexible and if linearly operated correctly at every step, then works fine
  2. Certain products like alcohol require staff approval either in the form of swiping their card or from backend approval is required- delaying the otherwise seamless experience. Even using coupons or food cards like Sodexo can complicate the payment part of SCO
  3. Cancellation of already scanned items is not that easy and again require manual staff intervention
  4. The final receipt does not reflect any coupons earned and at times, payment method is only via card/UPI due to cash dispensing part not working as expected.
  5. The underlying process flow is series/sequential in nature and no way parallel processing can be achieved to enhance process efficiency
  6. Inconvenient if one intends to use personal shopping bag
  7. Being inexperienced and untrained in scanning items, sometimes Customers feel inconvenience for checking out Promotion Items, such as ‘Buy one Get one’ offers, where mistakenly scanning is done only once.  Also a different variety of a product, with same price is sometimes erroneously picked up as offer item

Grocery Self-Checkout at Next Level

Listed are some advanced level approaches on top of the usual Self-Checkout process:

Approach and Key ConceptsEfficiency and Customer Experience
Scan and Go:Portable barcode scannerScanning while shoppingDownloadable information from Scanner to Checkout KioskPayment and Receipt at Checkout KioskPhone App as substitute to scannerMakes shopping experience simpler, faster and convenientRunning tally of items helps Customers to keep track of spendingFor stores, it costs less as compared to installing a separate Self-Checkout lane
Hybrid Checkout Systems:Offers both the options: Cashier Operated Model and Self-Service ModeAvailability of Cashier operated mode helps inexperienced Customers perform traditional way of item checkoutAvailability of Self-Service mode encourages faster transactions for Customers experienced in self-service operationsCustomer preferences are taken care of to make everyone equally comfortable
RFID Based Scanning Gates:Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) scanner gates RFID tag attached to an item, is integrated to motion sensorCheckout by passing through the gatesCustomer pushes the cart into the gateList of items displayed at Kiosk ScreenPayment by Card, Cash or Scanning PalmEnsures goods are not stolen – efficient anti-theft system using motion detection techniquesFacilitates checkout without stoppingEfficient for multi storeyed building
Smart Carts:Grocery Carts use Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technologiesIntegrated Cameras, Sensors, Scales, Barcode ScannerIntegrated GPS capabilities enable communication with main hub Sometimes coupled with Mobile AppsSmart Carts can drive profit, by use of artificial intelligenceNavigates customers to specific products, ensuring hassle free search of itemsSuggests items based on past purchases and current selectionsProtects shops against thefts


  1. What’s the implementation status of SCO in developing countries like India, China?

During Pandemic in 2020, Chennai’s Sunnybee retail chain adopted SCO ; the hardware and software were developed by WayCool Labs. Initial customer response was positive as per company insider press release. China retail stores , in this aspect, has been veteran in implementation. Evidently, a lot of developing market is open for such technology to penetrate.

  1. What is the cost estimate of self-checkout systems?

As per a study of MIT, a typical 4 lane self-service checkout kiosk set up cost is $125,000 VS equivalent traditional staffed cash register or POS system costs around $3000 . Hence, benefit can only be realized in long run.

  1. What is the technology behind?

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is the core technology behind self-check out system. 


According to a report produced by McKinsey, 79% of US Customers are willing to continue the Retail Self-Service Checkout usage, beyond the pandemic. While Speed, Usability and Reliability are critical factors towards successful installations of self-checkout, they are not sufficient to get the full potential of this solution in near future.

Best practices of Grocery checkout systems should focus on:

  1. To ease customer experience through usage of technology enabling parallel processing and migrate from staffed system to SCO inclusive of regular customers
  2. Scalability is a concern in such system since investment cost per machine is quite high and lack of parallel processing mandates installation of multiple such kiosks in single super Mart
  3. The response time improvement is another factor is RFID based vending machines, stationed at different airports, have achieved. Hence the supply chain can be optimized in the sense that check-out happens each time item is selected to avoid duplication of efforts.
  4. Last but not the least, any solution must be customizable enough, depending upon circumstances like Product Values and Product Volume, Customer Density, Store Structure, Complexity of the Process, Hardware and Software Cost, Flexibility and most importantly Customer Satisfaction.
Grocery Self-Checkout

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