Off the Shelf provides a platform for Retailers and Consumer Packaged Goods companies to discuss and gain insights on the pressing problems, trends and solutions.

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April 26, 2011

Self-Check out: Will it be the future of Indian retail stores?

Last weekend on Saturday, my mother asked me to accompany her for the monthly grocery purchase to the closest retail store from our home-'D-Mart'. We went to the store in mid-morning around 11am thinking it would be relatively less crowded. But I guess, everyone's thought process was exactly like us and the retail store was buzzing with people. Yet, due to effective and now well placed self-service practice in organized retail stores in India, we did not take too much time to finish purchasing our grocery (Just 30 mins!!). But then it was the time for the herculean task of standing in serpentine queue of billing. It took us approximately 50-55 minutes to finally reach the counter and pay the bill. Though there were 5 different counters with cashiers working as fast as they could, the waiting time was still very high.

Suddenly my mother asked a very innocuous question- "Why do we need to stand in queue? Why can't we have a system where we can swipe the product as and when we purchase, pay the bill on our own and then go? We are spending (or wasting) more time standing in queue than it took us for purchasing items".

It triggered my thinking. 'Check out' being last point of contact with consumers; convenience and pleasure at this point can surely improve satisfaction of consumers by few folds. How can Indian retail stores leverage this opportunity? How can this convenience be provided?

Self-checking out can be one option. So what is Self-Checkout mechanism? In colloquial term, it can be defined as any machine/scanner/system which will allow consumers to scan products themselves while picking them up from shelves.

Some form of self-checking out mechanism has a presence in western world. However, same cannot be said for India. But yes, with invasion of organized retailing and consumers embracing the usage of technology, there is a need and requirement of provision of a self-operating scanner or a self-checkout machine.

In my opinion; the way advent of ATMs minimized total time spent at a bank, in similar fashion; installation of Self-Checkout system will also minimize time spent at a retail store. This will in turn be a key to improve the consumer service and satisfaction.

However, like any other IT implementation, a self-checkout mechanism will have its own advantages and disadvantages. Let's put it down:

Advantages

·         Reallocation/freeing of store employees. Thus they can focus on other operational aspect of store

·         During hurry or lesser number of items to buy, faster payment and check out for consumer

·         Another School of thought: Self-Check out/Payment may not be as fast, but the active participation of consumer in the scanning process will surely result in time appearing to pass faster. Thus a happy consumer J

·         Form of privacy for some consumers in buying some personal items/products/goods

Disadvantages

·         Inefficiency of consumer to operate the machine

·         If there is no re-allocation of store employees then possibility of loss of labor

·         Security issues with the self-checkout machine

·        Self- checkout not feasible for huge/big items (e.g.: electronic gadgets like TV/Refrigerator)

 

So what do you think? Will 'Self-checking out' be the future of Indian Retail?

Leaping ahead, as the buzz word all around is Mobile, will 'Mobile-check out' or 'M-check' out also be a thing to look forward to in Indian Retail scenario?