Tactical Advice

Is Automated Checkout the Way of the Future? — Quick Take

Retailers are embracing automated checkout in ways that may change how consumers shop.
Is Automated Checkout the Way of the Future?

Automation makes for efficiency. It can be an unsettling force, as it has the ability to wipe out redundancies that people have come to rely on, but that’s the way it goes with technology.

Grocery stores are relying on wireless handheld devices for inventory management instead of pencil and paper, and the ATM has reduced the need for bank tellers in the financial industry. Now, automated checkout is poised to do the same in retail.

Andrew McAfee, an MIT principal research scientist and Harvard Business Review blogger, recently saw something curious while visiting his parents in Chicago: Their Walgreens had no cashiers.

I’ve seen plenty of self-checkout stations, but they’ve always been accompanied by at least one human cashier to accommodate customers who for whatever reason — unfamiliarity, techno-fear, the desire to chat, whatever — don’t want to deal with a machine. I assumed the same would be true at this Walgreens. Mom and Gene were adamant that it was 100% self-checkout, so we got bundled up and walked over to get the straight dope.

They were right and I was wrong. There are six NCR self-checkout kiosks at the entrance / exit, and no cashiers at all there. There are human cashiers at the photo lab and the pharmacy and customers can take their purchases to these two locations if they want, but at the main checkout area you can’t get rung up by a person any more.

The NCR machines accept cash and credit / debit cards, and Mom and Gene told me that they work pretty well most of the time. A friendly and helpful Walgreens manager named Tony, who came over when he saw me taking pictures, agreed. He said that his store had been cashier-free for a couple years, and was one of only three in the country to have taken the leap to 100% self-checkout. The machines were easy enough to use and pretty reliable, he said, and didn’t change the amount of shoplifting one way or the other because “if people are going to steal, they’re going to steal.”

What do you think? Will retailers always need the human touch of a cashier, or will the automated checkout machines do the trick?

Read more about McAfee’s experience with automated checkouts on his blog.

For more great stories from around the web, visit our list of 50 Must-Read IT blogs.

Sign up for our e-newsletter

Security

Heartbleed: What Should Your... |
One of the biggest security vulnerabilities has almost every user and every industry...
Why Businesses Need a Next-G... |
Devices investigate patterns that could indicate malicious activity.
Review: HP TippingPoint S105... |
Next-generation firewall can easily replace a stand-alone intrusion prevention system....

Storage

The New Backup Utility Proce... |
Just getting used to the Windows 8 workflow? Prepare for a change.
How to Perform Traditional W... |
With previous versions going unused, Microsoft radically reimagined the backup utility in...
5 Easy Ways to Build a Bette... |
While large enterprises have the resources of an entire IT department behind them, these...

Infrastructure Optimization

Businesses Must Step Careful... |
Slow and steady wins the race as businesses migrate IT operations to service providers,...
Why Cloud Security Is More E... |
Cloud protection services enable companies to keep up with security threats while...
Ensure Uptime Is in Your Dat... |
Power and cooling solutions support disaster recovery and create cost savings and...

Networking

Securing the Internet of Thi... |
As excitement around the connected-device future grows, technology vendors seek ways to...
How to Maximize WAN Bandwidt... |
Understand six common problems that plague wide area networks — and how to address them.
Linksys Makes a Comeback in... |
The networking vendor introduced several new Smart Switch products at Interop this week.

Mobile & Wireless

Mobility: A Foundational Pie... |
Other technologies rely on mobile computing, which has the power to change lives, Lextech...
Now that Office for iPad Is... |
After waiting awhile for Microsoft’s productivity suite to arrive, professionals who use...
Visualization Can Help Busin... |
Companies need to put their data in formats that make it consumable anytime, anywhere.

Hardware & Software

Review: HP TippingPoint S105... |
Next-generation firewall can easily replace a stand-alone intrusion prevention system....
New Challenges in Software M... |
IT trends such as cloud, virtualization and BYOD pose serious hurdles for software...
Visualization Can Help Busin... |
Companies need to put their data in formats that make it consumable anytime, anywhere.