Wawa goes big on self checkout tech

Discussion
Photo: Getty Images/aimintang
Oct 14, 2021

Retailers and their tech partners have introduced a number of next-gen checkout solutions recently, promising to get shoppers out the door faster than ever. But convenience store Wawa is finding success with an accelerated checkout solution that has been around for a while.

Wawa has added self-scan checkout kiosks in 61 of its locations after a successful pilot, and the kiosks are slated to appear in more stores soon according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. All Wawa locations that open in the future will have a self-checkout option.

While self-scan checkouts have been common in grocery stores since the late 1990’s, opponents point to their downsides.

A study of 13 major UK and U.S. retailers, including Walmart, found that large retailers making half of their sales through self-checkout kiosks stand to lose millions due to theft, according to Newsweek. However, some claim that newer theft prevention solutions give retailers more visibility into the checkout process to cut down on shoplifting.

Over the last decade, new consumer demands for convenience and new technological capabilities have led to the proliferation of a slew of new hands-off/automated checkout solutions.

For instance the Sam’s Club Scan & Go app has proven popular with customers. It allows shoppers to use their personal smartphone to scan the UPC on products while shopping, then pay in-app and show a digital receipt to an associate to confirm payment.

Scan and go technology has not proven successful everywhere, though. Sam’s Club’s mother company, Walmart, ended a pilot of the technology in its mainline stores in 2018.

Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology, which allows in-store customers to pick up products and leave the store, paying automatically with no scanning or associate interaction, has also begun to be scaled to more locations. Amazon announced last month that it would be launching the technology in two Whole Foods locations, according to Engadget. The technology had previously only been in use in Amazon Go and Amazon Fresh stores.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see self-checkout technology being more widely used in the years to come or will retailers cut back on deployments? Do you see a specific form of self-checkout becoming the de facto standard at retail?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"The general trajectory in retail is for more automation so I believe self checkout-style systems will grow over the next few years."
"The cost of shrink associated with self checkout will be balanced with the lower labor cost needed for self checkout."
"Automated self-checkout does not mean a one-size-fits-all application for all classes of trade."

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13 Comments on "Wawa goes big on self checkout tech"


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David Naumann
BrainTrust

With the ongoing labor shortages, retailers will continue to explore technological options to automate as much as possible in stores. Convenience stores are a prime environment for shelf-checkout solutions, as the products are designed for easy scanning and the customers value convenience. However it will require staff for monitoring to prevent theft and to check IDs for alcohol purchases. Self-checkout, scan and go and Just Walk Out technology will continue to see increased adoption and it is the future of retail.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Self checkout divides consumers. Some hate it and others love it. It does create problems, such as theft, but there are ways of minimizing that. However the general trajectory in retail is for more automation so I believe self checkout-style systems will grow over the next few years. In grocery stores, the best systems (aside from Just Walk Out technology, which is expensive and complex) allow customers to scan on their smartphones when putting things in their carts. Not only does this save customers the hassle of having to load and unload groceries at the register, it also gives a retailer intelligence on individuals shoppers – including the order in which they put groceries in their carts, etc.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

Self checkout technology will continue to be deployed, albeit gradually. The most likely version to be deployed in the next five years (because of the cost factor of some of its competing technologies) is scan and go. Just Walk Out is expensive at this time.

Melissa Minkow
BrainTrust

Self checkout is just as time-consuming, if not more so, as having a person ring you up. Scan and go and JWO technology are not only efficient and convenient for the shopper, but they also give the retailer more access to the consumer. Specifically, using POS technology to incentivize shoppers to download the retailer app is a smart way to establish an ongoing relationship with shoppers. This will definitely be the future of checkout – everybody wins.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

In the beginning of self checkout, it was all about convenience. It was never intended to replace employees. However there is now an opportunity to use the technology to cover for a labor shortage. Fewer employees available could mean longer lines, unless there is this option. Still, the retailer must provide someone to assist customers who have a problem.

David Spear
BrainTrust

Testing and learning from a variety of formats of scan and go, Just Walk Out, and pay in-app is good for the retail industry and the innovation ecosystem supporting it. Some technologies will work better in larger big box formats vs smaller convenience formats, but as retailers are always looking to trim labor costs, scan and go self checkout is trending up. All this said, there is a trade-off between a positive/rewarding experiential element of human contact at checkout and a neutered scan and go experience.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Am I on the schedule today? Geez, we hear about this “cutting edge” idea over and over and years later we read that the kiosks are ripped out again. The promise is there of course, but if cashiers have to go through training about what goes in a bag and why, then why is it no problem if we put raw meat that might have blood dripping from it next to produce when we bag our own groceries? I don’t know of anyone who likes to go through self-serve and, while the labor shortage gives it cover, I doubt customers will ever flock to the technology.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

Self-checkout will continue to grow if for no other reason then its impact on labor cost. Will there be potential for increased shrink? The answer is yes, but retailers will new ways to combat it.

Zel Bianco
BrainTrust

On a recent trip to Washington, DC, I made a few stops at both Wawa and Sheetz and was met with a long line at both retailers. Self-checkout will at least tend to shorten the line as many shoppers are in fact, not standing six feet apart and many are not wearing masks and the significant shortage of workers, make this a technology that makes sense. To order food at Sheetz, you need to use a kiosk anyway, why not make the entire transaction fast and easy instead of having to wait on line anyway?

Harley Feldman
BrainTrust

When I go shopping, almost all of the stores with self-checkout have more and more people in the self-checkout line so there appears to be a demand for the service. As more people become comfortable with the self-checkout process, it will continue to grow. The idea of checking out with a cell phone while in the store will definitely be used more over time. The cost of shrink associated with self checkout will be balanced with the lower labor cost needed for self checkout.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Speaking of (from the other thread on Theranos) “too good to be true”: I don’t really see “Scan-n-go” (and its ilk) ever really catching on … I just think it’s too lacking in control to prevent shoplifting and other forms of fraud.

Am I being unduly pessimistic? Probably, but “think twice, adopt once…”

Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust

Self checkout (SCO) will continue to grow for several years to come. There are explicit cost savings that translate into higher store margins, including shelf space and labor costs. It’s predicted that SCO will grow at rates of 13-20% depending on your source at least for the next 5 years.

No matter how much people like or dislike self checkout, the tech serves a very important need and demand. Expect to see more of these in most stores, especially those with many registers per store such as groceries. SCO also serves as the interim stage to reach Just-Walk-Out technology advances. Watch for kiosks, but hybrid SCO, clustered SCO (one of the most popular) and other variations will all be part of the checkout mix for most retailers going forward. Wawa is on the right track.

John Karolefski
BrainTrust

Automated self-checkout does not mean a one-size-fits-all application for all classes of trade. What works well in supermarkets may not fare well in convenience stores, and vice versa. I expect lots of tests in coming years until the right form of automated self-checkout is selected for the right trade class.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The general trajectory in retail is for more automation so I believe self checkout-style systems will grow over the next few years."
"The cost of shrink associated with self checkout will be balanced with the lower labor cost needed for self checkout."
"Automated self-checkout does not mean a one-size-fits-all application for all classes of trade."

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