Target Self Check-Out

Physical Computing

Target Self Checkout is, in my own experience, a faster, more autonomous yet introverted means of checking out items from a Target store, with considerably smaller lines (or in the most case none at all).

To process, you scan the barcode on the item and the item pops up on the screen, where you press continue to confirm and proceed to place it in the baggage. The machine weighs the product to ensure the right item is being placed in the baggage area. If any discrepancy is noticed, the machine has pops up a message asking to confirm whether the item placed matches with the item scanned.

I decided to go and observe people at the interactive self-checkout kiosks installed at the local Target store in my neighbourhood. Self-checkout at stores is always my preference, giving me the opportunity to get done with the transaction faster — but sometimes help from a store employee is required, especially in the case of human errors like beeping the item twice, or machine errors like not being able to beep at all. Consecutive unsuccessful tries also result in the machine requiring some form of supervision by a store cashier.

During the 30 minutes or so I spent observing customers using the kiosk, roughly 30-35 people checked out of the store. About a fifth of the total customers decided to use this form of checkout despite huge lines. I guess people want to be mindless about these things. Those who generally decided to use them seemed to be regular users experiencing little to no difficulties.

I decided to focus on 3 customers who had separate communication experiences with the kiosk. The first person seemed to use it seamlessly, knowing how the items had to be scanned and place. On those one off instances when the machine would display an error, they would delete the item, rescan it and proceed further. This person had about 6-7 items and his whole transaction time was not more than 3-4 minutes. The second person had a much bigger shopping basket, with about 20 items. While prepackaged product barcodes were easy to read and locate for the machine, fresh items such as fruits and vegetables were quite the task. The machine would prompt them to scan the correct barcode again. He was also unable to successfully delete the wrongly scanned items he has in the kiosk cart. Having failed consecutively, the machine requested assistance of a cashier. The cashier aided the customer by helping them manually look up the item in the inventory list. As per my observation, this was the hardest task, as the cashier has to search the item they want to put into the bag. This operation as much longer due to 2 reasons; a larger shopping cart and the help required from the store cashier. Therefore, I believe that this sort of situation is ideal for someone who has less than 10 items and does not want to wait 10 minutes to cash them out. The last interaction was actually the shortest where the person kept getting an error on the screen. The machine would ask them to retry as the weight in the bag and the weight of the item scanned did not match. The person eventually had to get in line and wait his turn out.

As far as the quality of interaction goes, it was high, with most customers getting the full benefit of the kiosk: leaving Target without waiting in line, and without any difficulty communicating with the machine, which is the goal of good interaction. The interface is intuitive and fairly straightforward, but there is definitely a need to eliminate the number of errors produced by the machine and need for employees to come over for guidance, hence the interactivity design can be worked on.


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