Tips for Safeguarding the Self-Checkout Space
Self-checkouts seemingly went from being a novelty to being absolutely everywhere over the last few years. Due in part to the pandemic, in part to customer preferences and now a lack of ready retail labour, self-checkouts now account for almost 40% of all checkout lanes in the US. But the rise of self-checkout is hardly limited to the US. In fact, the global market for self-checkout technology is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 11.6% between 2021 and 2026.
But along with the rapid adoption of self-checkout came a rapid rise in theft at the self-checkouts themselves. US grocery giant Wegmans recently shut down its mobile payment app due to shrink, while European news outlets recently seized on a VICE story profiling students who steal up to £345 (€400) per month via self-checkout.
Clearly, there's a demand for the convenience self-checkout offers, so retailers can't exactly reverse their course. But what can retailers do to strike the balance between convenience and a frictionless experience – and the staggering losses that come with it?
Look Before You Leap
Before implementing a new policy or solution, retailers may want to consider a measured, strategic approach to the challenge of shrink at self-checkout.
‘The rapid rise of self-checkout was a reaction to what retailers believed customers wanted.’ said Ned McCauley, Director of Smart Sensor Technology at Sensormatic Solutions. ‘Now they're reacting to self-checkout being a huge source of shrink. These quick reactions may deliver short-term gains, but they often have a negative impact on the customer experience and, if we're looking long-term, on the bottom line.’
This tendency to react – rather than strategise – can result in hastily-implemented plans that ultimately harm the shopper experience and the brand. Instead, McCauley urged retailers to first understand the data their stores are generating.
‘Self-checkout undoubtedly increases shrink by some degree, but how much of your shrink really comes from self-checkout?’ he asked. ‘Do you have a firm grasp of what's being stolen via self-checkout versus other areas of the store – or by other methods? If you do, you'll know if self-checkout is truly your biggest problem area. If you don't have that firm grasp, however, you may spend time and money trying to solve a problem you don't truly have.’
But if self-checkout is a major source of your shrink, what can you do to stop it?
Upgrade Your Arsenal
Once you've done your due diligence and determined that self-checkout is a major source of shrink, it's time to consider investing in solutions that deter opportunistic thieves from taking advantage of this vulnerable area.
One method that can have an immediate impact is to add a bit of friction between bad actors and your merchandise. You don’t have to forfeit protecting products with Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) hard tags and labels just because self-checkout is being implemented.
Consider seamlessly integrating label deactivation and hard tag removal capabilities into the self-checkout experience, which would allow you to maintain EAS product protection while sending a strong message to would-be shoplifters that you are serious about merchandise protection. Shoppers can easily remove EAS hard tags from purchased items during the self-checkout process; by using a convenient one-piece tag, like the Sensormatic InFuzion tag, shoppers never come into contact with pins. Also, by installing RFID-enabled detachers you can ensure that the merchandise purchased matches the tag being removed, preventing the swapping of lower-priced items for more expensive merchandise.
Another best practice to consider is deploying public view monitors in the self-checkout area. Installing these monitors in and adjacent to the self-checkout area serves as a powerful deterrent to would-be shoplifters by letting them know that the area is being actively monitored. Also consider leveraging your CCTV systems to actively monitor this area. No one wants to be caught stealing on camera, and these extra sets of 'eyes' will make shoplifters think twice about stealing.
Lastly, you can deploy an sales assistant or two to the self-checkout area, either to oversee the process or to check receipts. Additional staff may also help to reduce unintentional theft at self-checkouts, as they can assist shoppers with transactions if needed. Adding staff may be an especially attractive proposition in Latin America, where stores rarely have difficulty in filling shifts. But in the rest of the world, where retailers are still struggling to find enough sales assistants to fully staff all their shifts, this may be untenable – or even impossible.
Also, in the near future, retailers may be able to leverage Computer Vision technology at self-checkouts. This technology is evolving to monitor for criminal behaviour associated with self-checkout, such as item concealment and non-scanning of items. Partnering with an innovative solutions provider that can work with you to identify the actual pain points that are plaguing your self-checkout area that may be addressable with Computer Vision technology.
The challenges associated with self-checkout are most likely here to stay, and that includes endemic shrink. Fortunately, there are a range of solutions that can be deployed to mitigate it. You can deploy solutions such as Computer Vision and public view monitors, ‘hardening the target’ through the use of merchandise protection technology and integrating hard-tag removal and label deactivation into the self-checkout process to get a handle on self-checkout shrink and potentially deter would-be thieves before they act.
But these are just a few of the ways you can counteract bad actors inside your stores. To find out more about the factors driving shrink around the world and get actionable insights on the tactics and technologies that leading retailers are using to overcome it, get your copy of our latest white paper, Secure Retail in the New World today.