Self-Scanning and the Impact on Retail Shrinkage

Self scanning and retail shrinkage

A growing number of retailers are going down the self-scanning route for their retail customers, but how is that impacting on their shrinkage levels?

This is the next natural progressive step for retailers. It wasn’t that long ago when a customer would have to ask a member of staff to get their items held behind a counter or had someone put petrol into their car. Now customers pick their own items in shops on open display and take the responsibility to pay for their petrol after they put it into their car.

There are 2 main types of self-scanning systems

  • Stationary Self Service Checkouts – a fixed device that the customer takes their purchases to, scans the barcode of each item and pays for them
  • Portable Self Service Platforms – a hand held device which can scan the barcodes of the purchases as a customer moves around the shop and pay for the purchases immediately at the end of their shopping experience

There are a number of reasons that retailers are installing this new technology

  • Convenience for the customer
  • Saving time that staff need to be at a check out (one supervisor can man four check outs instead of one)
  • Employing less staff (reduction in recruitment and wages costs)
  • Looking more tech savvy than their competition
  • Competitors have already installed them

A lot more research needs to be conducted to confirm the exact impact the self-scanning systems have on retail shrinkage. According to the research from ECR (Efficient Consumer Response) Group, which included responses from UK retailers and a US retailer, they found the shrinkage rate actually went down by 0.12% when comparing shops that had Self-Scanning installed.

One of the main reasons that became clear is that it was a direct correlation to the number of items that were scanned. Customers that scanned their own items were more likely to ensure all of their purchases were scanned. This could be due to the novelty value of scanning your own items, not wanting to be dishonest and scanning at a slower rate than someone working at a till scanning the items. In some stores the rate that items are scanned at the till can lead to barcodes being missed.

Another reason that staff have higher levels of items not scanned can be put down to sweet hearting which is not scanning barcodes for family and friends.
What was also identified within the research was that those items that had not been scanned by customers were due to frustration of a barcode not scanning properly or genuinely believing the barcode has been scanned when the data has not been captured.

The security measures in place to ensure that there is minimal shrinkage with Self-Scanning systems include:

  • Self-scan supervisors monitoring self-scan systems
  • CCTV also monitoring customers
  • Weight sensitive tills
  • Hard tags that need to be removed on expensive items
  • Separate self-scan space to control the movement of customers and limiting means for entrance and exit

Hearing “Unexpected item found in the bagging area” can be frustrating for customers and needing a supervisor to confirm age related items and still remove tags, the Self-Scanning systems will grow from strength to strength and currently it does not seem to have an impact on the retail shrinkage levels. As previously stated this is a relatively new technology in the UK and more research does need to be completed.