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22 January 2024

Retail is Phasing Out Self-Checkout and Turning to Simulation Through Nvidia Omniverse to Give Customers a Better Shopping Experience

By Bobby Carlton
Retail

The retail landscape is undergoing a transformation, with smart retail technologies and advanced simulation tools like Nvidia Omniverse leading the charge. One notable shift is the reconsideration of self-checkout systems by retailers, aiming to strike a balance between meeting customer demands and minimizing losses from theft.

During the pandemic, self-checkouts gained popularity, especially among younger shoppers, driven by social distancing measures. However, concerns about theft have made some retailers cautious about adopting or expanding self-checkouts. Sylvain Charlebois, director of Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab, suggests that incentivizing customers is crucial to address the perception that they are doing someone else’s work without compensation.

Charlebois emphasizes the need for grocers to find the right balance between convenience and experiential compromises. While self-checkouts may not be entirely phased out, retailers are actively exploring models to enhance the store exit experience.

The Retail Council of Canada’s Michelle Wasylyshen acknowledges theft as a major challenge for retailers, with escalating inflation and organized crime contributing to increased losses. As the retail landscape evolves, self-checkouts are also evolving, with some stores opting for a mix of self-checkout stations and traditional cashier lanes.

Adrian Beck, an emeritus professor at the University of Leicester, highlights that while some grocers report losses of up to 25% due to self-checkouts, significant labor savings have been achieved simultaneously. A 2022 industry report by Beck reveals that global retailers estimate approximately 23% of store losses are attributed to a combination of theft and customer error at self-checkouts.

Walmart’s withdrawal from mobile ‘scan-and-go’ in 2018 due to “unacceptable losses” exemplifies the challenges faced by retailers. Target, on the other hand, is testing a self-checkout policy based on the number of items purchased. London Drugs confirms its commitment to self-checkouts, strategically adding them to locations with high demand.

“We continually look at ways to provide our customers with the best shopping experience and that includes adjusting the checkout area in stores,” said Josh Havens in a Business Insider interview.

While Walmart Canada maintains self-checkouts across all stores, the approach varies among retailers according to a CNN article. “Walmart removed self-checkout machines at some stores in New Mexico earlier this year. ShopRite pulled them at a Delaware store after customer complaints. Wegmans last year ended a mobile app that allowed customers to scan, bag and pay for groceries while they shopped after reporting losses. Costco said it’s adding more staff in self-checkout areas after it found that non-members were sneaking in to use membership cards that didn’t belong to them at self-checkout.”

Retail is Phasing Out Self-Checkout and Turning to Simulation Through Nvidia Omniverse
Retail is Phasing Out Self-Checkout and Turning to Simulation Through Nvidia Omniverse

In June, Loblaw-owned stores introduced receipt checks, sparking customer backlash. A Leger poll in August revealed divided opinions on security measures, with less than half of Canadians believing that retail stores are implementing the right amount to prevent shoplifting.

Simply Stepping Back to a Customer Facing Checkout Isn’t That Easy

Transitioning from a self-checkout process in retail to a customer-facing checkout experience poses a significant challenge for retailers. The shift requires not only a physical redesign of checkout areas but also demands a comprehensive reevaluation of operational processes and staff training. Customer-facing checkouts introduce a more interactive and personalized element, demanding a higher level of customer service.

As much as retailers wants to eliminate losses through a customers facing checkout and customers want a more person to person checkout experience, that transition of stepping back isn’t that easy. At least not without technology. Newer technologies can help speed up the checkout process, but at the same time, won’t move customers through the line so fast that they miss out on those high margin items typically seen at checkout. Plus there is training involved.

Simulation plays a crucial role in this transition by providing a virtual environment where retailers can test and refine the new customer-facing checkout processes. It enables them to identify potential bottlenecks, optimize workflows, and train staff effectively before the actual implementation. By leveraging simulation, retailers can mitigate risks, enhance the customer experience, and ensure a smoother transition to the new checkout process for

Using Nvidia Omniverse to Help Retailers Move Away from Self-Check Out and Create a Better Customer Checkout Experience

Simulation using Nvidia Omniverse presents a transformative solution for retailers seeking to move away from traditional self-checkout systems and design a more effective and customer-centric checkout process. Nvidia Omniverse provides advanced simulation tools that can significantly enhance the design and optimization of the customer experience at checkout. Here’s how Omniverse can assist retailers and the advantages it offers:

1. Virtual Prototyping:

Omniverse’s virtual prototyping capabilities allow retailers to create detailed retail experience, realistic simulations of checkout environments, including store layouts, checkout counters, and customer interaction points.

Advantage: Retailers can visualize and iterate on different checkout configurations virtually, experimenting with the placement of self-checkout stations, traditional cashier lanes, and other elements. This helps in identifying the most efficient and customer-friendly retail layout.

2. Customer Flow Analysis:

Simulation tools in Omniverse can simulate customer flows within the store, considering factors like store layout, aisle placement, and checkout queue dynamics.

Advantage: Retailers can analyze and optimize customer traffic patterns, ensuring a smooth and efficient flow from product selection to checkout. This aids in minimizing congestion, reducing wait times, and enhancing overall customer satisfaction.

3. Smart Retail Integration:

Integration with smart retail technologies allows retailers to simulate the implementation of innovative technologies such as AI-powered checkout assistance, automated inventory tracking, and personalized customer interactions.

Advantage: Retailers can explore and refine the integration of cutting-edge technologies to streamline the checkout process, improving accuracy, speed, and personalization. This also enables retailers to stay ahead in the competitive retail landscape.

4. Realistic Customer Behavior Modeling:

Omniverse’s simulation capabilities can model realistic customer behaviors, considering variables like shopping habits, preferences, and interactions with both traditional and self-checkout options.

Advantage: Retailers can gain insights into how customers interact with different checkout systems. This allows for data-driven decision-making on whether to enhance traditional cashier lanes, optimize self-checkout stations, or introduce a hybrid approach tailored to customer needs.

5. Efficient Staff Training:

Simulation can be utilized for training staff on new checkout processes, providing a virtual environment where employees can familiarize themselves with updated workflows and technology implementations.

Advantage: This ensures that staff members are well-prepared for changes in the checkout process, reducing the learning curve and potential disruptions in service. It also contributes to improved staff efficiency and customer assistance.

6. Cost-Benefit Analysis:

Retailers can perform cost-benefit analyses within the simulation environment, considering factors such as technology investment, labor costs, and potential losses from theft.

Advantage: By simulating different scenarios, retailers can make informed decisions on the financial implications of transitioning away from self-checkout. This strategic approach aids in optimizing resources and maximizing returns.

Along with using simulation for customer experiences, retail giants such as Lowes and Kroger’s are both turning to simulation and Ai to help them reevaluate how their customers navigated a store from the moment they stepped in through the doors and the moment they exited after making their transaction, creating a smart retail experience.

Nvidia Omniverse provides a powerful suite of simulation tools that empower retailers to design and implement a checkout process tailored to the evolving needs of both the business and the customers. The advantages lie in the ability to visualize, analyze, and iterate on various aspects of the customer experience, leading to an optimized, efficient, and technologically advanced checkout process. As retailers navigate the challenges of self-checkouts, Nvidia Omniverse holds promise for creating a more effective and secure checkout process.

FS Studio has an amazing simulation team well versed in Nvidia Omniverse tools, and we are here to help you get started. To learn more about our work in simulation for retail, reach out to Bobby Carlton at bobby.carlton at fsstudio.com.