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Grocery Checkout: The Definitive Guide to Optimize Your Checkout Experience

How long do you wait in line before you start to feel your blood pressure rise? If you're like most people, it doesn't take long.

While having fresh produce, high-quality meats, and all the right foodstuffs is essential, your store's checkout is the final impression shoppers have before leaving. 

If the checkout experience is too slow or clunky, you'll have frustrated shoppers. Some of them will even drop merchandise and leave.

This article will discuss the importance of your grocery store's checkout experience. We'll also provide detail on why speed, accuracy, and convenience are the "holy grail" for your checkout, plus a few actionable tips to achieve those goals.

Why is Your Grocery Store's Checkout Experience So Important?

Since 2020, a lot has changed about the way customers shop. Many people realized they could get much of what they needed online. Still, they missed the in-store shopping experience. Now that stores have reopened, customers have new expectations: more speed, accuracy, and convenience.

The checkout experience should be frictionless and easy. It (mostly) is online, and customers expect the same in-store experience.

An ideal checkout experience allows customers to pay however they want, and quickly gets them out of the store. A less-than-ideal experience increases the time waiting in lines and decreases customer satisfaction.

Something else that's become clear is that shoppers have different habits when buying their groceries. 

Some people buy groceries for the coming one to two weeks. Others buy groceries many times a week because they plan on the fly. With so much availability, they can decide on the day what they need.

Then, there are shoppers who prefer to shop for groceries online, to pick up in store or get delivered.

It's a lot to manage and get right, as each customer wants a seamless checkout experience and may want to pay using different methods, such as cash, debit cards, credit cards, and digital wallet payments (Apple Pay, Google Pay).

So how do you manage to provide a great customer experience? The name of the game is speed, accuracy, and convenience.

How to Make Your Grocery Checkout Fast, Accurate, and Convenient


Seven in 10 retailers report that shoppers forced to wait in line give up on making a purchase, and leave the store within five minutes. That's a lot of lost revenue, and how likely is it that those customers will return?

Nobody wants to spend time waiting in line. For example, in the evening or after work, shoppers want to grab what they need and get home. Similarly, many people do their weekly shopping on a weekend morning. It's something they want to check off their to-do list, so that they can move on with their weekend.

An interesting school of thought is that waiting in line isn't what customers hate; it's being bored when they're waiting in line. A study found that people with nothing to do while standing in line perceive wait times to be longer than those who are distracted.

In a grocery checkout line, you could place magazines for people to flick through, or at least divert attention to or place little knick-knacks customers can peruse and buy. But these strategies are mere stopgaps; speed is still king.


Number of Checkouts 

How do you know how many checkouts you should have open? To start, it will involve trial and error. Think about the five-minute rule. Can you keep lines moving fast enough? If not, you'll need to open more checkouts.

There will always be popular times for people to shop, most likely in the early morning, during lunch, and during the post-work period. With the right point of sale (POS) system, you can look at recent and historical reports to confirm your busiest periods.

Types of Checkouts: Standard Checkout vs. Self-Checkout

Since self-checkouts were introduced, they've divided opinions. Some customers like the convenience of self-checkouts, while others need help using them. Generally, preferences relate to age, technological competence, and customers' comfort with scanning and sacking their groceries.

If a customer only has one or two items and wants to pay using the contactless method, self-checkouts make sense. 

Other customers with large trolleys might not want to spend time scanning and sacking their groceries; it's easier if an attendant does it.

For self-checkouts, it helps to have an attendant on hand. If someone is struggling, they might hold up the line, especially if they're slower to key in or weigh produce.

The ideal mix for a small grocery store might be two to four self-checkout kiosks, and three to five attendant lanes. The key is to get shoppers through the line quickly and give them options to check out.

Grab and Go Items Near Checkout

For shoppers who prefer grocery shopping several times a week, you can make their trips faster by placing grab-and-go items near your checkout. It means they won’t have to go searching for what they need.

You know the people we're talking about. "I just need to grab a few things," or "I'll grab stuff for dinner on my way home." They want to be in and out as quickly as possible, grabbing only what they need.

Use historical data on your POS system to find your most popular items that make sense to place here — home staples and prepared food like sandwiches, sushi, and fruit, for example, or even heat-and-eat items that are popular in convenience stores.


Anything that causes delays, frustration, or extra effort is friction. Things like barcodes that don't scan, inefficient scanners, and labels that easily wrinkle or smudge lead to longer waiting times.

You can imagine how quickly 60 seconds spent getting a new label or 30 seconds keying in a barcode adds up over several items, customers, and hours. 

Accuracy improves speed and convenience, and creates a better experience for your customers and cashiers.

The more robust your POS hardware and software are, the easier it is to be accurate. Shoppers can ensure they're paying the correct prices, and you can reduce shrinkage and theft.

Barcodes and Scales

Streamlining the checkout process can start before customers get to the checkout. For bulk items sold by weight:

  • The customer weighs the product.
  • They bag it themselves.
  • They print a barcode sticker.

This is great for nuts, chocolate, meat, seafood, and certain produce. After a customer weighs the product, the scale prints a barcoded label that identifies the item and its price based on the weight. 

Customers can buy as many of certain items as they want, and aren't forced to buy more than they need.

The right POS system supports an unlimited database of items and also lets you create barcodes and print custom labels for items you produce in-store. For example, you might make freshly ground almond butter. 

Now, instead of risking keying in the wrong item, cashiers can scan the barcode and get the customer through the checkout quicker.

Easy-to-Use Scanners

Scanners must be accurate and easy to use, especially in a self-checkout scenario. Your best bet is to use 3D scanners that can read barcodes at nearly any angle. It's also wise to have in-counter scanner scales. 

As well as scanning barcodes at almost any angle, you can weigh and price a product without needing standalone scales.

With touchscreen self-checkout kiosks, customers only need to follow directions. Everyday produce items are on the screen so customers can find them, and search features allow them to key in quantities. 

For example, they should be able to find bananas and enter a quantity, which produces the price on-screen. For payment, customers should be able to follow instructions on the machine.


Convenience is no longer only reserved for gas stations and convenience stores. Speed and accuracy equal convenience for many customers. 

In the modern world where parents work, and many people are working from home, it's harder to find time to spend an hour walking around a grocery store, list in hand.

Your store must provide options for busy customers who prefer to shop online.

Buy Online and Pickup Curbside

Many stores offered a similar service to this pre-pandemic, but during the strictest protocols of 2020 and 2021, grocers and markets had to make curbside pickup a core offering. The process is simple:

  • The e-commerce version of your store showcases your inventory.
  • The customer fills their cart and selects the pickup time from the available options.
  • They pay and submit their order.
  • They show up during the selected period and notify the store they're ready to pick up their items.

It's good for your store because you can eliminate theft, combat shrinkage, and increase the number of orders you get. You'll need to factor in the time staff spends finding and sacking produce.

It's good for the customer because they only need to pick up their shopping bags and are on their way home.

Setting up an e-commerce store is easier and less time-consuming than it used to be. Integrations such as scheduling tools and payment processing should be easy to install. However, you need to ensure your store is mobile-friendly and easily searchable.

Online Purchasing and Delivery

Again, this option took off during the pandemic. Still, it's the ultimate convenience for customers. They don't even need to leave their house! Your store gets more orders, too.

The customer process is the same as curbside pickup. Often, delivery is limited to a specific radius around the store, and orders are subject to a minimum order size. Most stores offer either same-day or next-day delivery slots. The obvious downside is that there might be no slots left.

Your POS Plays a Huge Role in Checkout Success

For traditional and self-checkouts, having the right hardware and software is crucial for a better customer experience. The right POS system:

  • Accepts multiple forms of payment, including cash, debit and credit cards, digital wallets, and EBT
  • Has hotkey shortcuts that allow users to look up produce and other non-barcoded items, eliminating the need to look through the PLU
  • Has integrated scanner, standalone, and deli scales, so you can accelerate checkout by automatically ringing up weighed items
  • Provides detailed transaction reports to identify your busiest periods so you can open the right number of lanes and schedule staff

At POS Nation, we provide all the hardware and software you need to run your grocery store. But before you commit to anything, you can use our Build and Price tool to build your perfect solution.

Or, you can schedule a demo with one of our grocery POS specialists to see how we can help you run your store successfully.


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Lynn Ellison

“POS Nation saved us about 30% on our credit card processing fees.”

Lynn Ellison, Owner Liquor Stop

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