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Understanding the Impact of Self-scan Technologies on Retail Losses

Understanding the Impact of Self-scan Technologies on Retail Losses

When retailers ask shoppers to take responsibility for both scanning and paying for items they wish to purchase, using either a mobile device (provided by themselves or the store) or at a self-scan checkout, the well-worn phrase: ‘what can possibly go wrong?’ springs to mind.

In 2006, when the last round of self-scan systems were being piloted, seemingly the answer was ‘very little’. Early adopters found that store productivity was considerably improved (fewer staff hours required) and there was no evidence of an increase in shrinkage that could be directly attributable to self-scan. Indeed, one supermarket retailer, Big Y in USA, reported that they found their own customer’s error rate was lower than their cashiers. Moreover, the perception of customer service was thought to have improved as customer interactions grew with self-scan systems.

Fast forward to 2017, and not only has the use of self-scan systems grown dramatically but also the way in which it is now being used in the retail environment has changed profoundly. Today, what is meant by self-scan has expanded to include scanning and paying using a smart phone, to where there are now stores where you can only pay by self-scan methods, where the supervisor to self-scan checkout ratio has grown from one to four to, in some cases, one supervisor to more than 12 checkouts. Finally, with now millions of shoppers using self-scan every day, awareness that a simple mistake such as not scanning an item is rarely detected, the temptation and the scale of risk is growing considerably.

The aim of the research, being undertaken by Professor Adrian Beck at the University of Leicester, is to understand, from data gathered from around 10 participating retailers: the scale and nature of the increased risk associated with various self-scan systems; calculate the extent of the loss; estimate what percentage of loss is malicious Vs non malicious; review the ways in which retailers and technology providers are going about trying to manage these losses; and identify new intervention ideas. 

The results from this study are expected to be shared with the members of the ECR Community Shrink and OSA Group in the first half of 2018.