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Checking Out All the Options

Contactless shopping experiences come in many forms, each with different benefits and drawbacks.
A customer using a self checkout kiosk

Five years ago, Amazon Inc. made headlines with a new retail concept that allows customers to just walk in, shop and walk out without having to stop at a checkout counter or scan their own items. At first glance, convenience store retailers wondered if the concept would take off and what it would mean for the channel. Today, c-store operators themselves are increasingly adding a mix of checkout options to their stores. 

Ranging from the traditional staffed checkout counter to self-checkout kiosks to checkout-free solutions, the purchasing process at convenience stores is evolving. The multitude of options brings questions, with operators left wondering which is the best fit for their stores.

[Read more: Convenience Store Retailers Embrace Contactless Checkout Experiences]

According to industry leaders, all the options come with their own pros and cons.

For example, self-checkout kiosks offer a more streamlined purchasing process, particularly for customers with fewer items. They also allow for a more private and selective shopping experience that requires less interaction with staff, explained Sam Vise, co-founder and CEO of Toronto-based Optimum Retailing, a provider of in-store experience management solutions. On the other hand, retailers can face increased theft and find that technical issues, such as scanner malfunctions or software glitches, frustrate customers and require staff assistance.

With checkout-free experiences like Grabango, the system takes care of checking out, and retailers eliminate shrink because the system accurately understands everything the customer has selected, whether it's in their pocket, backpack, bag or shopping cart, pointed out Andrew Radlow, chief revenue officer at Berkeley, Calif.-based Grabango. However, the convenience channel has always prided itself on knowing its customers, so some retailers fear the loss of that personal connection with contactless shopping of any form.

In the end, checking out is not a one-size-fits-all experience. What works for one convenience store operator and its customer base may not work for another, so it's best to pilot solutions to work out the kinks before embarking on a full rollout.  

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