Ikea Customers Adapt to Self-Service
Part of the Furniture
Few retailers have more international experience with self-service checkout technology than Ikea. The home furnishings company has installed the technology in 14 European countries, as well as Australia and the United States, using Wincor Nixdorf as its partner everywhere except in the U.S. The share of self-service technology on sales ranges between 35% and 50% across the retailer’s markets.
Sweden, the home of Ikea, boasts the highest acceptance rate, followed by France and the United Kingdom. By comparison, France and Germany encountered some early scepticism. Experts questioned whether the technology would take root.
However, Holger Apel, responsible for Technological Developments at Ikea Deutschland, commented “acceptance rates in these markets have since risen to the average level.”
The Ikea headquarters in Sweden is also reviewing further expansion in Asia. “Here we need to carefully consider the wishes and purchasing behaviour of the Asians, whose shopping habits differ significantly from those in Europe,” added Apel.
The Swedish company follows a uniform scheme for reconfiguring checkout lines. Typically, around half of the 28 POS terminals in an average store are upgraded. Two staffed POS stations are replaced by an express self-service checkout handling groups of four, giving customers access to roughly one third more checkout systems. The self-service terminals are configured for swift payments for small purchases of up to 15 small items, such as curtains and small furnishings.
In the self-service zone, customers can only pay by card; either with a debit or the Ikea Family loyalty card. Although shoppers with only a few home furnishing items have traditionally preferred to pay in cash, the Swedish company is now gently encouraging them to use cards to take a advantage of the convenient self-checkout service.
In October 2008, Ikea piloted its first self-service checkout in its Dresden and Sindelfingen stores. Later, in July 2009, they completed the nationwide rollout in all of its 43 stores.
Wincor Nixdorf has supplied a core solution tailored to the individual requirements of the company. Missing in this configuration, for instance, are the cash slots typically found on terminals. They have been replaced with card modules. The entire design of the terminal reflects the Ikea philosophy: smart, swift and simple. This applies to the ergonomically designed scanner, as well as to the specially adapted touchscreen surface, which leads users through easy-to-follow steps during the checkout process.
The Ikea solution is smart, insofar as it is designed to run on the same hardware platform as traditional POS terminals. The design simplifies integration as well as control, operation and maintenance of the self-service terminals and thus reduces investment and service costs. "The systems operate largely reliably and without failure,” said Apel. Wincor Nixdorf Beetle POS terminals are installed at the traditional checkout points, running the Linux-based POS software Calypso.
Although a year has passed since the new systems have been installed in the checkout zone, cashiers still keep an eye on customers. In this coordinating function, they observe how full shopping carts are, ask shoppers how they prefer to pay and suggest using the self-service terminals whenever possible. By routing customers in this way, they ensure that checkout lanes are equally full and waiting times are kept to a minimum.
At the same time, special attendants are available to help customers with the self-checkout process, although this is becoming an ever rarer occurrence. “Our customers have become accustomed to working with the terminals and are pretty fast at checking out,” said Apel.
The volume of sales that passes through self-checkout lanes has grown. Customers with larger purchases also now frequently use the self-checkout terminals. Waiting times have dropped. Noticeably, more customers have confirmed in surveys that they are satisfied, or even very satisfied, with the new payment procedure.
Only one construction site still remains, but since the self-checkout terminals have been deployed, the volume of non-cash sales has risen by only 1%. “This volume still has room to grow,” said Apel. “We see potential for a 4 to 5% increase.”
Tuesday, January 25, 2011