Scan and Go: How Retailers can Prevent Shoplifting with Mobile Self-Checkout


Mobile self-checkout, also known as scan and go, is rapidly spreading in the retail industry. The advantages are compelling: Retailers save space and checkout costs while providing customers with a convenient shopping experience. They can use their smartphones to scan their items and pay with a tap.

Yet retailers often hesitate to offer self-checkout (SCO) over worries about shoplifting. With good reason: A study by ECR found that stores with self-checkout experienced 31% more shrinkage than those without.

Here are four best practices for self-checkout solutions that help retailers minimize shoplifting while giving customers a seamless digital shopping experience.

Best Practices for Minimizing SCO Shoplifting

Managing shrinkage is a crucial issue for retailers that wish to provide customers with self-checkout options. The following four best practices are key to minimizing shoplifting:


• Reliable customer identification

• Open communication and expectation management

• Credible audit strategy and exit control

• Reliable hard- and software

1. Reliable customer identification.
Requiring customers to provide personal information such as name, email address and payment information before their first purchase reduces their anonymity. U.S. retailer Fairway Market goes even further, requiring customers to set a profile picture that must be verified by an employee (Grocery Dive). With reliable identification, customers are less tempted to shoplift. Additionally, caught shoplifters can be effectively blocked from the app and self-checkout.

2. Open communication and expectation management.
Customers should receive a thorough introduction to all app features the first time they use it. The onboarding should include a reminder of their obligation to accurately scan and pay for each item and that random checks may be conducted. Clear communication engages customers and reduces the likelihood of shoplifting.

3. Credible audit strategy and exit control.
A credible audit strategy, including spot checks and exit controls, is another key element in minimizing shoplifting. Selected customers can be notified in the app to visit a store associate before starting checkout. The associate then compares scanned items to bagged items.

For audits to be effective, employees need adequate training. Both the app and employees must also clearly communicate that random checks are not an accusation of theft but a routine part of the mobile checkout experience.

To deter shoplifting while keeping inconvenience to a minimum, selection is key. Targeted algorithms to single out customers for verification based on various factors, such as average scan time, number of canceled items or average price of scanned items can increase the effectiveness of this strategy.

Effective exit control is another core part of a checking strategy, ensuring that leaving customers have paid. A common method is a barrier that can only be passed with a barcode that customers receive after paying.

4. Reliable hard- and software.
Consider a client who tries to scan a pack of gum at an SCO counter. The barcode, however, is too small for the counter and will not scan correctly. After several attempts, the customer pockets the pack out of frustration. “This guy didn’t get out of bed that morning and say, ‘I can’t wait to be a shoplifter today,’” says Adrian Beck, author of the ECR study. Here, the customer was initially honest, but felt empowered to steal because of the hardware’s flaws. Had the counter worked properly, he would have paid for the gum.

In mobile self-checkout, software takes the place of hardware. The basic requirement is the same, however: Customers must be able to scan and pay for goods with ease. This means that retailers have to ensure their application is user-friendly, attractive and feature-rich. 

Convenient Self-Checkout with Minimal Shrinkage

Mobile self-checkout is a trend that benefits both retailers and shoppers. However, retailers must take steps to minimize shoplifting by implementing the best practices discussed in this article. By ensuring reliable customer identification, open communication and expectation management, a credible spot check strategy and well-functioning hard- and software, retailers can deter shoplifters while providing customers with the best possible digital shopping experience.

Max Stratmann is the Chief Revenue Officer of Scanbot SDK, which provides barcode scanning software for mobile applications and websites. Retailers use the Scanbot Barcode Scanner SDK for self-checkout, inventory management, clienteling and ordering. Over 200 enterprises use the Scanbot SDK in their applications, including DocuSign, AXA and Motive, and retailers like Rimi Baltic.

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