The Battle of Convenience: Checkout Free vs. Self-Checkout Systems

Photo of Self Checkout Systems

The Battle of Convenience: Checkout Free vs. Self-Checkout Systems

Both checkout free and self-checkout solutions aim to make shopping faster and more convenient, sure. But they operate in very different ways. Which begs the question: is one better than the other?

As the human world merges more closely with technology, the way humans live changes. And the way we shop for goods is no exception. Today, retailers of all types—grocery stores, convenience stores, travel rest stops, and more—are introducing more convenient shopping options. Checkout free or self-checkout solutions simplify the checkout process and augment the shopping experience by:

  • Reducing wait times
  • Enabling customers to enjoy a hassle-free, convenient, and cashierless shopping experience that is available 24/7

Both checkout free and self-checkout solutions aim to make shopping faster and more convenient, sure. But they operate in very different ways. Which begs the question: is one better than the other?

Today, we’re exploring the differences between checkout free and self-checkout systems, the benefits and drawbacks of each, and what the future might hold for these competing technologies. Understanding the pros and cons of these two technologies can help you make more informed decisions about what your customers expect from their shopping experience and how your autonomous store can meet their demands.

Checkout Free Systems

We've all seen or used self-checkout systems. They're great, but what if there was an even more seamless and frictionless option rather than having to scan your own items? Checkout free stores enable shoppers to purchase items in-store without having to wait in line or stop to scan or pay. And this technology is on the rise—especially in convenience stores (c-stores). A recent survey reports that customers expect convenience stores to be contactless and fully automated in the next two decades.

We can’t blame them! Checkout free systems, often called cashierless checkout, enable shoppers to choose the items they want to purchase and simply walk out of the store. The system then automatically charges the shopper and sends a receipt via SMS or email. 

This sounds like a much more efficient and enjoyable shopping experience, doesn’t it? No more long lines, no hassle, and no clunky checkout process. Sign us up! 

The Benefits of Checkout Free Systems:

  • Customers can enjoy the ultimate shopping convenience that is available 24/7
  • Shoppers can grab the items they need and leave the store without having to stop to scan or pay 
  • Retailers save money by reducing labor and operational costs
  • Retailers can optimize store layouts to maximize inventory and product displays, leading to greater revenue
  • Store owners are equipped with in-store shopping analytics to further optimize planograms, layouts, and product placements

The Drawbacks of Checkout Free Systems:

  • They can be complex if you don’t have the right tools or partner to help you implement them
  • Privacy is often a concern when checkout free technology uses biometrics (Note: AiFi’s checkout free systems leverage camera-only computer vision with keypoint tracking technology , enabling 100% shopper anonymity*) 

Self-Checkout Systems

Self-checkout systems are widespread across many industries and store verticals. They’re one of the most common checkout options other than traditional cashier systems. Being able to scan and pay for purchases themselves provides shoppers with autonomy and increased convenience. Yet while they’re widely adopted, nearly 67% of shoppers have experienced a failure while using self-checkout machines. 

And it’s easy to see why. Self-checkout systems require customers to stop and scan each item they want to purchase. This can be a bit time-consuming, and mistakes can be made if items are scanned incorrectly or not at all. We’re all humans, after all! 

The Benefits of Self-Checkout Systems:

  • Reduces wait times for shoppers
  • Lowers costs for retailers, saving money on labor and equipment overhead
  • Increases floor space for additional inventory

The Drawbacks of Self-Checkout Systems:

  • Requires customers to take care of their own checkout process
  • Can often be confusing for customers due to technical difficulties and may require employee assistance
  • Increased potential for theft if not leveraging the right security tools

Checkout Free Vs. Self-Checkout Systems: The Truth

So, which checkout solution offers the most convenience? The most obvious answer is checkout free systems. With the ability to simply walk out of the store and automatically be charged for the items they’ve chosen, shoppers don’t have to spend any time in line or actually purchasing their items. It’s a seamless process that dramatically speeds up the checkout process. Ultimately, the convenience of checkout free systems enable customers to do less. And when 66% of today’s shoppers report they would spend more if their purchasing experience was more convenient, retailers would be remiss to not consider a checkout free solution.

While self-checkout stations require more action from the shopper (and still need to be staffed) these checkout options are only slightly less convenient. However, 60% of shoppers prefer self-checkout systems over traditional cashier-assisted checkout. 

Which brings us to our final consensus: both checkout free and self-checkout systems: 

  • Provide a greater autonomous shopping experience
  • Reduce long lines and wait times
  • Enable retailers with flexible checkout options to reduce labor costs and overhead
  • Help optimize store layout and product placements

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide which checkout technology will work best for your store and your target market. Check out AiFi’s three store solutions to get a feel for the possibilities: 

Final Thoughts

The battle between checkout free and self-checkout systems is not a matter of which is better, but rather which will work best for your store and your customers. Both solutions offer convenience, autonomy, and reduced wait times for shoppers, while also helping retailers optimize their store layouts and reduce labor costs. As technology continues to advance, it's important for retailers to stay up-to-date and offer the latest checkout solutions to provide the ultimate shopping experience for their customers. 

With AiFi, retailers can explore the latest hassle-free checkout possibilities and find the perfect fit for their business. Request a demo to see AiFi in action.

*AiFi's platform is open and we can work with partners to help customers integrate biometrics when desired.

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