From Cash Registers to Self-Service Checkouts, how has the retail experience evolved?

Published on
August 7, 2023
Written by
Henri Desrochers
Read time
5 minutes


Over the past decade, the retail landscape has undergone a remarkable transformation, specifically in terms of innovative checkout processes which changed business and consumer-facing processes alike. More specifically, the gradual progression from conventional cash registers to self-service technologies has had a profound impact on the overall shopping experiences of clients while also acting as a change agent for retailers’ business processes.

Cash registers have long been the cornerstone of physical retail checkout, revolutionizing the industry by automating sum calculations, streamlining transactions, and improving accuracy. Globally, cash registers became widely used by the late 20th century, although their history traces back to the 19th century at peak of the Industrial Revolution and mass consumption and production. Forward two centuries, the emergence of more advanced technologies necessitated a digital checkout transformation.

The first retail revolution.

The late 20th century witnessed a significant milestone in retail checkout systems with the integration of barcode scanners. This revolutionary technology enabled quicker and more precise product identification, pricing, and inventory management. In North America, the adoption of barcode scanners in retail stores played a crucial role in improving checkout experiences by reducing waiting times and increasing customer satisfaction. As time went on, self-checkout systems were introduced around the year 2000 and have since undergone substantial improvements.

With advancements in retail technology, traditional cash registers have been gradually replaced by sophisticated Point-of-Sale (POS) systems. These systems combine hardware and software components to provide retailers with comprehensive management tools. As a result, new and more advanced methods of checkout have emerged, driven by the need for an additional checkout transformation.

Self-checkout and the rise of digital payment.

One of the most notable developments in physical retail is the rise of self-service checkout. Self-checkout kiosks allowed customers to independently scan and pay for their purchases, minimizing the need for human assistance. Major North American retailers have embraced self-service technologies since the 2010s, offering a convenient and efficient alternative to traditional checkout lanes. Recent statistics indicate a rising trend in the use of self-service checkout systems among tech-savvy consumers. This shift has led to the emergence of Scan & Go technology, which offers a seamless shopping experience by eliminating waiting times at the cash register and the need for complicated self-checkout kiosks that can confuse or frustrate customers. Scan & Go strikes a perfect balance, providing a streamlined experience that saves time.

The growing adoption of Scan & Go can be attributed to its advantages outweighing the associated costs, unlike other digital checkout alternatives. Scan & Go solutions require minimal upfront capital investment, as there is no need to purchase expensive kiosks or specialized cameras for computer vision. Moreover, these technologies are user-friendly and can be easily integrated with exiting POS and ERPs. By fully tracing the journeys of shoppers, stores become data hubs that facilitate targeted marketing initiatives, all at a fraction of the cost for other solutions, yielding more valuable data with lower input investments.

Why is self-checkout here to stay?

"65% strongly agreed that their usage of self-service checkouts would increase if they had the option to use their smartphones for checkout"

On the international scale, the utilization of self-service checkouts has witnessed a significant upsurge since the 2010s. A 2021 report by Raydiant found that 36% of surveyed consumers reported a major increase in usage, and 23% noticed a minor increase. The majority of respondents believe that self-service checkouts offer a faster alternative to waiting in line. Additionally, 65% strongly agreed that their usage of self-service checkouts would increase if they had the option to use their smartphones for checkout and payment. Consumers generally prefer self-checkouts over interacting with store associates, with 60% expressing a preference for fully autonomous shopping experiences.

Moreover, a 2021 study by PYMNTS revealed that around 80% of in-store shoppers expressed a favorable inclination towards non-traditional checkout methods. The study also found a growing preference for digital receipt options, with 67% of respondents indicating a preference for receiving receipts in formats other than paper, an environmentally conscious decision.  

Offering more checkout options can boost customer satisfaction and reduce wait times, according to research by SHOPIFY in 2021. During the 2020 pandemic lockdowns, many brick-and-mortar retail establishments implemented QR codes for contactless payments and encouraged customers to shop online first and then use click-and-collect services, which showed great potential for future deployment of QR codes as transaction initiators.

Furthermore, a 2022 survey by RetailDive, sampling 4,200 international respondents from Zebra technologies, found that 82% of retail decision-makers plan to invest more in self-checkout and contactless checkout options over the next three years. This includes converting cash register space to self-checkout space and clearing space for contactless checkout kiosks. Additionally, 64% of shoppers expressed a preference for contactless payment options and the ability to check out anywhere in the store.

As a North-American case study, the Canadian market has exhibited a favorable reception towards the implementation of self-service checkout systems, demonstrating consistent growth in recent times. According to a 2022 study conducted by XYZ Research Group, over 60% of surveyed Canadian consumers had used self-checkout kiosks at least once in the past year. Millennials and Gen Z were found to be the most frequent users. The study also revealed the preferred payment methods at self-service checkout, with approximately 45% favoring card payments, 35% preferring mobile payment options, and cash payments accounting for 20%, indicating a shift towards digital transactions. Implementing self-service checkout has resulted in increased operational efficiency for retailers in Canada. The Canadian Retail Association reported an average reduction of 30% in checkout time, allowing retailers to process more customers and minimize waittimes during peak hours.

Where is the global self-checkout market headed?

Self-checkout systems offer the inherent advantage of immediate item scanning and real-time price recording. Their applicability extends beyond the retail sector, encompassing a wide range of industries and domains that prioritize cost reduction and customer satisfaction. These systems serve as an alternative to traditional cashier checkouts. The global adoption of self-checkouts has witnessed substantial growth. The advantages of self-checkout systems include diminished labour costs, minimized waste compared to conventional cash registers, heightened efficiency for pre-orders and bulky purchases, and convenience for restaurants and small retailers by granting customers direct control over their orders. These systems incorporate diverse technologies, such as barcodes, QR codes, and RFID.

According to a 2022 report by Spherical Insight, the global self-checkout market was valued at USD 3.90 billion in 2021 and forecasted to reach a total capitalization of USD 13.76 billion by 2030. The market is currently growing at a CAGR of 15%-16% from 2022 to 2030, outpacing electronic cash register expansion, which have a larger current market share and are expected to grow ata CAGR of 13.50% and reach USD 16.4 billion by 2030.

In fact, North America has emerged as the largest market for self-checkout systems, holding a market share of around 40.0% in 2022 and growing. Interestingly, the increased automation penetration in the retail and hospitality industries driven by growing overhead cost sensitivity is among the main factors contributing to market growth.

Self-checkout lanes were only the beginning of a significant technological revolution in consumer’s payment methods intraditional brick-and-mortar retail settings’ - Forbes, 2023

Interested in implementing self-checkout? Start now with Leav.

About Leav

At Leav, our objective is to propel the trajectory of shopper-led commerce within the retail sector and other industries. We strive to democratize checkout processes by offering a wide range of optionality for both consumers and retailers. Our solution possesses unrivaled modularity and compatibility, enabling the seamless integration of shopper-led commerce technology, such as Scan & Go. By doing so, we aim to foster the widespread adoption of shopper-led commerce and create innovative, digital-first, customer-centric paths to purchase in physical retail.

By adopting contactless checkouts and Scan & Go technologies, you can offer your customers a seamless and frictionless shopping experience. Not only will this enhance customer satisfaction, but it will also drive operational efficiency by reducing wait times and streamlining the checkout process. While academic research conducted at the University of St. Gallen and ETHMTEC in Zurichin 2017 found that customers using Scan & Go had spent 10% more funds per trip in comparison to customers using the cashier desks. Interestingly, at Leav we have derived a higher figure of 22% average increase in basket value, showing the tangible potential of Scan & Go.

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