Many independent and small mom-and-pop grocers maintain that it’s a good thing to not have
self-checkout. They believe that it’s part of what makes them special, and it helps create
customer loyalty by keeping their stores focused on personalized service.
This point of view certainly comes from a good place, but there are two big problems with it:
1. A refusal to provide self-checkout deliberately ignores more than a third of today’s
customers, who now use self-checkout regularly at other stores. They prefer self-
checkout for many personal reasons, including to avoid lines, checkout faster, maintain
more privacy and visibility into pricing, and even bag their own groceries.
2. The grocery industry, like many others, is facing a massive labor shortage that’s making
it difficult or impossible to keep stores properly staffed. Demographic trends show that
this is a permanent new reality that will not go away in the coming years. Thus, adding
self-checkout is a smart way to serve customers who want self-service while creating
improved labor efficiency by freeing up store associates to provide in-aisle customer
service, curbside pickup, and other personalized services.
To delve deeper into these issues, let’s take a look at some statistics and trends that many
independent grocers and mom-and-pop stores find surprising.
Self-Checkout Stats You Need to Know
Over the past few years, use of self-checkout has increased dramatically among consumers, and
58% of shoppers now use self-checkouts and plan to continue. 1 In fact, 35% of all grocery
customers now use self-checkouts regularly 2 and not just for the occasional times when lines at
traditional checkout lanes are long. In fact, only 49% of grocery customers still prefer traditional
checkout lanes. 3
There are a number of key reasons why many grocery customers now use and prefer self-
- 67% of them say they prefer self-checkout because it’s faster. 1
- 51% of them use self-checkout because it means no waiting in line. 1
- 27% say they prefer to bag their own groceries. 3
- 23% say self-checkout lets them see prices better. 3
- 19% prefer self-checkout because it’s better for social distancing. 3
- 18% prefer self-checkout because it offers better privacy. 3
- 17% like self-checkout because it avoids employee interactions. 3
These aren’t tiny proportions of your potential customer base. These represent large portions
of the total grocery market, and you ignore them at your own peril.
If your goal is to provide truly personalized service, then you need to consider these customers
and show that you care about their needs and preferences too. Refusing to install self-
checkouts sends a clear message that you’re not interested in serving their personalized needs,
and it gives them a good reason to start shopping down the street or across town where they
can get the self-service options they want.
Adding self-checkout doesn’t mean you’re giving up on your commitment to personalized
service. It’s another way of delivering it, and when you make it clear to your customers that
you’ve deployed a self-checkout lane because it’s part of your strategy to serve all types of
customers and to free up some of your staff to provide other personal touches throughout your
store, it’s a message that resonates with people. We’ve seen it firsthand as we’ve advised many
of our customers and helped them launch self-checkout successfully.
The Labor Shortage Factor
If you’re managing and operating a grocery store these days, you probably don’t need us to tell
you about today’s widespread labor shortages. It’s gone from being difficult to attract and hire
new workers to nearly impossible in some places.
In fact, while the grocery industry has recovered a bit from its labor woes during the pandemic,
grocers are still facing nearly 50% turnover, including 67% turnover for part-time employees. 4
Overall, grocery retailers are facing a worker shortage of up to 20%, 4 and with all demographic
trends pointing to this as a permanent new reality, there is very little chance that this will
change significantly in the years ahead.
On top of this, wages are skyrocketing, making it tough for grocers to cover the cost of hiring
and retaining workers, even if they can attract enough of them. With major grocers and 12
states instituting $15 minimum wages, plus retailers such as Target now offering $24 for some
starting positions, competition for labor and related costs have reached historic highs.
To help alleviate the strains caused by these pressures, self-checkout is arguably the best tool
grocers have available, especially with a growing number of customers now wanting and
preferring self-service when it’s time to pay and go.
Rather than trying to staff stores at the same levels as years past, grocers need to be looking at
ways to do more and still deliver personalized service with less staff; self-checkout is one way to
help that cause. By reducing some of your labor dependency and costs while freeing some of
your workers to perform other store operations and customer service tasks, you can make the
best of a tough situation.
Exploring Self-Checkout for Your Stores
Self-checkout may have never been part of your store strategy in the past. Maybe it was even
unthinkable. But now’s the time to rethink old assumptions and get ahead of the latest trends,
because we need to be doing everything we can to make sure independent and smaller grocers
are able to survive and thrive in the years ahead.
To learn more about adding self-checkout to your store and find out about easy and affordable
ways to do it with solutions such as Zebra’s MP7000 scanner scale, connect with our experts at
Data Cash Register. Every day, we’re on the front lines with stores and with our grocery
technology partners like Zebra, helping the industry adapt quickly to a changing world, and
we’d be glad to help you do the same.