A staff member at a retail store is sticking a printed label onto a shelf edge. The label contains barcode information for scanning purchases.

Self-checkout: the key to improved customer experience in retail

In order to better the customer experience - and boost efficiencies – retailers are turning to technology. Here we take a look at how self checkout (SCO) and shop and scan technology are transforming our shopping behaviour.

But what’s driving the change in retail? It all comes down to customer experience. The most annoying things for retail customers are busy stores and waiting too long to be served.1  Almost a third of shoppers say they are irritated by long queues - with over a third of them unwilling to wait longer than five minutes in a queue.2

The rise of the self checkout

Across Europe, retailers are rapidly scaling-up the number of Self Checkouts in their stores3. With 36% of retailers saying that they are planning to invest in SCO hardware and software,4 forecasts estimate that the European SCO market will see a compound annual growth rate of 13% until 2026.5

Increasing awareness and a positive response from consumers are key factors driving the adoption of these systems. Add a growing consumer preference for card-based payments and other cashless, contactless transactions and you can see how SCOs fit into this convenience mindset perfectly.5

But if self checkout is destined to save customers time, it has to work smoothly.  That means all products must be easy to scan, which requires easy to read barcodes, intuitive touch screens and staff available to help in the event of a problem.

Enabling easier self checkout of unpackaged goods

Customers buying loose produce like fruit or vegetables need to label their purchases easily when they choose them and, to guarantee successful scanning at a self checkout, they must be able to attach clearly visible barcoded labels to their goods.

Similarly, products packaged in store such as bread, cheese or deli items often don’t always have a flat surface, which can make it difficult enough to read barcodes printed in-store. But if they’re not printed cleanly, it increases the likelihood of error messages at the checkout and the need for staff intervention, which impacts on the customer experience.

In addition, European Union food labelling rules exist so that shoppers can get comprehensive information about the content and composition of the food they buy. That means that some products from overseas need new labels in order to meet to local regulations. Given that clarity is key to understanding what’s in the food we buy, it’s important to label these goods in such a way that the information – and the barcode - is always easy to read. 
A female member of staff at a retail bakery store is standing arms folded looking to camera. A Brother label printer is in the background.

Ensuring that shop and scan works for your customers

Another step in improving the customer experience has been the advent of in-store systems that enable customers to take goods off the shelf and scan them as they shop using a handheld scanner.

Inspired by the expansion Amazon Go's 'shop and just walk out’ concept, retailers have been drawn to the idea of offering a frictionless customer experience, with self-scanning to a smartphone seen as a way of offering a similar customer experience at a fraction of the cost.

Such shop and Scan systems allow customers to pack shopping directly into their own bags as they shop, removing the need to unload and repack it all again at the checkout. And, with payments made directly via the customer’s account in a smartphone app, they even eliminate the need to queue and pay at the checkout.  And it’s an idea that’s gaining traction, with 57% of retailers reporting that customers prefer to use the safety of a smartphone app rather than using store-owned scanners.6

Retailers also recognise a growing trend for customers to gather information that helps them make informed choices about the products they are buying. By scanning product barcodes in-store, customers can now have that information delivered directly to their smartphone screen.6 But, in order for that information to be accurate, it’s important that self-printed barcode labels are both robust and readable.

Given the increase in customer convenience - and the easy delivery of information - 60% of retailers are either already offering self-scanning or looking to launch it imminently. 6

Self-scanning customer experience is only as good as the quality of your labels

It’s clear that self-scanning retail solutions are set to become mainstream in the future. But if Self Checkout and Shop and Scan systems are to become the norm, their success depends on how quickly and reliably customers can scan their shopping and process their payment.

Ultimately, any self-scanning system is only as good as the quality of the barcodes it’s asked to scan.

When selecting label printers for loose goods or shelf-ends, we recommend those that offer clear readability and are smudge resistant.

Brother's range of hard-working, hard-wearing mobile printers are built for everyday use on the busiest shop-floors - letting you create the crisp, clear barcodes your customers need to take full advantage of your Self Checkout or Shop and Scan system.

Find out today how Brother has helped a wide range of retailers to overcome challenges of all shapes and sizes. Visit our retail business solutions.


1.    https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/life/1465226/shoppers-queue-only-five-minutes
2.    https://www.dssmith.com/packaging/about/media/news-press-releases/2021/7/the-birth-of-fusion-shopper
3.     https://www.ccv.eu/en/2021/consumers-take-the-lead-with-self-service/
4.    https://www.digimarc.com/blogs/AI-Self-Checkout-Big-for-European-Retailers
5.    https://www.kbvresearch.com/europe-self-checkout-systems-market/
6.    https://www.scandit.com/blog/european-retailers-recognize-its-time-to-scan-go/

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