Customers pay for their shopping at self-serve checkout counters inside an Asda supermarket. Trend shows that more shoppers intend to use self-scanning devices to reduce their need to queue. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Large retailers like Selfridges closed their stores early on during the pandemic and others were forced to follow suit all over the world. While this was temporary, it will had a significant impact on sales even for those fashion retailers with a strong online presence.

Grocery and pharmacy retailers were certainly seeing some upsides. Demand for Ocado’s online grocery in the UK currently exceeded the slots available by 1,000 percent, and the retailer shut down its app and website to redesign processes and create more availability. Other traditional UK players such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s saw such demand for essentials and long-lasting products that they were rationing all items to three per person and two per person on higher demand items.

And this was happening across Europe and across the pond in the US and in other regions around the world.


Staff were re-tasked from fresh produce counters to shelf re-stocking as items flew off the shelves faster than staff could replenish them. Customers were queuing outside stores before they opened as well as in-store with their trolleys waiting to pay. Overall, it did not make for a great customer experience, but shoppers have generally been accepting... so far.

It seems that more shoppers intend to use self-scanning devices to reduce their need to queue. This also reduces the number of people needing to go to staffed checkouts, will eventually benefit all shoppers and staff.

Getting customer sign in

Some retailers are already actively promoting this self-service model and putting staff close to device racks at store entrances to educate and encourage more shoppers to use this form of scanning, as they shop to help balance the impact on the checkouts.

For retailers who do offer self-scanning, we encourage them to implement a thorough cleaning protocol after each customer has used the device to keep them safe for all, as well as getting the devices back on charge as quickly as possible to cope with demand.

This may also be time to consider how the checkout process could be made more agile with the help of mobile point-of-sale (POS). Retailers are already seeing large uptake in the use of card and contactless payments, thus reducing physical contact with the payment medium. Mobile POS is ideally suited for this form of payment... and that technology exists now.

- Mark Thomson is EMEA Director of Retail & Hospitality at Zebra Technologies.