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How Self-Service Retail Has Advanced and Helped Consumers Amid the Pandemic

June 9, 2021

Self-service kiosks and other devices have become a commonplace at many retail sites over the years. From kiosks at fast food restaurants that accept orders to self-checkout aisles at grocery stores, self-service retail has never been more visible than now.

The self-service or unattended retail industry has especially become more essential during the global pandemic. Self-serve kiosks and other unattended items help reduce human interactions and have been preferred by many during the pandemic. But the industry is still evolving, and there’s a potential for new developments further down the road. Some of these changes include efforts in making kiosks safer and making people feel comfortable with them.

Significant Growth

The self-service retail market has been growing in value in the past few years. PYMNTS.com reports that the self-serve market will likely grow to about $46 billion in value by 2027. The growth includes a compound annual growth rate of about 7 percent from 2020 to 2027.

Meanwhile, people are continuing to use more contactless payment solutions. PYMNTS.com also states in the same report that the contactless payment market is currently valued at $40 billion and will likely grow to $100 billion by 2026. Self-service kiosks and other stations can support contactless payment methods, making the industry likely to keep on growing in prominence.

What Makes Self-Serve Retail Useful?

People are finding self-serve retail stations to be safe during the pandemic, but there are many other positives worth noting. These include benefits that support the retailers:

  • Self-service stations help businesses save on labor costs.
  • It is easier for businesses to serve more customers when they have kiosks and contactless stations on hand. Customers can access these features at any time while a business is open, including during off-peak hours.
  • Customers will have more control over their purchases. They will see everything available at a site, or they can select different payment methods for whatever works.
  • The risk of errors is minimal through self-serve spots. People can confirm their orders before paying for them, plus there’s no risk of someone mishearing or misinterpreting someone’s request.

More Consumer Spending

Self-service stations can also potentially increase sales numbers at businesses that offer them. Research and Markets writes that self-service kiosks can increase customer spending by about 30 percent on average. The rise is from people being more willing to spend money on purchases because they have more control over their orders.

Self-service kiosks could help reduce the income hit that stores have experienced as of late. Customers have been using physical stores less often in the past few years. The trend had been around before the pandemic, but the pandemic has accelerated that concern.

Meanwhile, people are more willing to buy products on kiosks, voice-activated devices, mobile devices like smartphones or tablets, and call centers. They want control over their orders, and they especially want more options when buying products. Self-service stations will be critical to how well businesses can thrive as the economy evolves and shifts.

When Will Businesses Adopt Self-Service Stations?

While self-service kiosks have become critical for sales during the pandemic, businesses that have explored these have held off on introducing them. Many enterprises have delayed their 2020 plans for introducing kiosks, as they saw limited revenues that year. They hope to bring in new stations in 2021 and 2022. The increased demand for these stations will especially make it where businesses will want to fast-track the development of new kiosks.

A General Concern of Cleanliness

There is one worry surrounding self-service retail spaces and how effective they can be. People aren’t interacting with others when checking out, but they are interacting with tables, trays, and touchscreens that others utilize each day. Some customers may also be using carts and baskets that others keep touching. They use them to store their purchases before bringing them to these kiosks to finish their orders.

The point proves that not all self-service retail items will be completely clean. But the perceived risk that customers have about these self-service features is lighter than if someone were to checkout with another person in a spot. Still, people might be more comfortable with using these kiosks if they know everything in those spots are clean and safe to use.

New technologies are still in development to make these self-serve spots cleaner. UV-powered antibacterial coatings or sensors may be utilized around these stations to keep them clean, for example. But business employees may still need to clean off these stations on occasion to ensure everyone stays comfortable.

NFC Technology Could Reduce the Risk

Another solution that could make self-service kiosks cleaner and more appealing entails NFC support. Kiosks could use NFC payment systems that allow people to purchase items through a completely contactless method. The customer can specify one’s order and wave a product over a sensor as necessary. The person will then waive a phone or other device linked to a payment account to pay for the purchase.

Amazon has been utilizing such a system at its Amazon Go stores. The “Just Walk Out” system lets people shop while being monitored by weight sensors, security cameras, and identification tags on items in these stores. Amazon’s system also uses deep machine learning to identify what items were purchased and what needs to be restocked the soonest.

While most businesses likely won’t have technology as advanced or complex as what Amazon uses, it is possible they could start working with more unique systems that reduce contact points. The general goal of the self-service industry will be to eliminate all contact points, providing an environment that everyone will feel comfortable with.

The growth of the self-serve industry will be worth exploring. People appreciate having more control over their orders. Businesses are also finding their own benefits through these systems. Expect the field to keep growing and to expand with new technologies that will make self-service stations more convenient and sanitary. Trends show that these kiosks are growing in popularity, so taking advantage of that trend will be critical to success.

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