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IKEA Kills Self-Checkout In The U.S. For An Unusual Reason: It Was Too Secure And, Therefore, Too Slow

August 15th, 2012

Self-checkout in the U.S. has been hit with conflicting reactions, with some retailers—such as Walmart—loving the machines and promising to sharply increase their use. But other chains—including Kroger, Albertsons and Big Y—are removing the units. And both sides cite the identical reason for the opposite move: improving customer service.

Self-checkout has also had more than its fair share of security issues, including incidents at both Home Depot—involving the Secret Service—and at Costco.

Self-checkout advocates, such as Dusty Lutz, general manager of retail self-service solutions at NCR, argue that most unsuccessful self-checkout deployments are the fault of the retailer, which often doesn’t monitor or maintain the systems properly. “You need to have clear and reasonable objective-setting and reporting,” said Lutz, who would not comment on specific customers such as IKEA. “You don’t want to force (self-checkout) on customers not ready for it.”

One example he cited was reducing interventions, which Lutz said can be done by allowing the item to be automatically and instantly accepted, while a store associate does a visual age verification (often just by looking at the customer and seeing if he or she is obviously above-age) as the order is processed. Done properly, that age-intervention item wouldn’t delay the line—or the customer—at all, he said. But it takes training and management attention to make that happen and to make it work.

The situation at IKEA would seem to support Lutz’s argument, in that the chain knew how to make self-checkout work for its customers, but logistics made it difficult to bring that to the U.S. stores.

IKEA is also experimenting with an unusual security traffic-light system in about 1,000 self-checkout lanes in Germany—a trial that began in February, according to a report from Planet Retail.

“Each traffic light is equipped with three lamps: a green, an orange and a red one. If the checkout is not used, all lamps are switched off. As soon as a customer starts to utilize the checkout, the orange lamp lights up and remains activated. Every time the customer scans a product, the green lamp flashes up so employees can see that the customer is scanning items,” the report said. “The red light flashes up if assistance is needed. Once the customer has paid, the orange light goes out. If it does not, this means the shopper wants to leave without paying.”


One Comment | Read IKEA Kills Self-Checkout In The U.S. For An Unusual Reason: It Was Too Secure And, Therefore, Too Slow

  1. ViiVa Marketing Says:

    In Singapore, We observe longer queues and more frustrated customers at the self checkout POS lane. The staff are also equally frustrated because the system throw up exceptions at the slightest “mistakes” made by the customers. For Self checkout POS to substitute traditional staff operated POS, technology vendors must focus on customer experience.


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