Shoppers have a love/hate relationship with self-checkouts
Consumers are increasingly favoring self-checkout because of the perception that it can be faster than using a cashier. Frustrations, however, with the technology persist.
A recent Wall Street Journal article — “Stores and Shoppers Agree: Self-Checkout Is Hard” — details how Walmart has quietly disabled or removed the weight sensors used to detect miss-scanned items because too many “wait for assistance” messages were being triggered, to the annoyance of shoppers. Walmart is making use of cameras in some cases as a solution.
Theft also remains an issue at self-service registers, with tricks such as scanning a less inexpensive item becoming popular. Retailers, however, typically have an aversion to having staff confront shoplifters directly.
A recent survey sponsored by weighing technology firm Shekel Brainweigh found that nearly:
- Eighty percent of consumers needed assistance at least once during their self-checkout experience and almost 30 percent were pulled aside by store personnel to check their purchases.
- Sixty percent were more likely to use self-checkout if technology improvements (system simplification, automated entries and more accuracy) were deployed.
- Twenty-five percent said the fastest possible checkout would significantly improve their experience.
The Journal article noted that Walmart and Target are both installing more self-checkout stations with remodels, and Costco is also adding more due to labor savings. Retailers assert many customers favor self-serve’s promise of a quicker checkout, and the rise of mobile technology has led greater comfort with do-it-yourself shopping.
A new study from PYMNTS and USA Technologies — “The Future of Unattended Retail” — similarly found many consumers who use unattended retail channels, from vending machines and self-serve kiosks to cashierless stores, do so because such solutions are faster (cited by 49.4 percent) and offer shorter lines (34.7 percent). Thirty-three percent like to take their time while shopping without talking to employees.
Yet another issue facing the expansion of self-serve registers is a potential backlash due to the loss of cashier jobs. Customers in the U.K. have threatened to boycott Aldi over its expansion of self-service checkouts. In Oregon, a federation of workers is proposing a ballot petition to limit self-checkouts to two per store due to concerns over lost jobs tied to automation.
- Stores and Shoppers Agree: Self-Checkout Is Hard – The Wall Street Journal
- Self-Checkout Hits A (Small) Speed Bump – PYMNTS
- The Future of Unattended Retail Report – PYMNTS
- 90% of Shoppers Want Self-Checkout Machines to Automatically Identify Items According to Shekel-Sponsored Consumer Survey – Shekel Brainweigh
- Aldi shoppers threaten to boycott the store’s new self-checkout system – Mirror
- Oregon court puts measure limiting self-checkouts in fast lane – Southwest Community Connection
- Does self-checkout make sense for Costco? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are self-checkout terminals at this point providing more convenience or annoyance for consumers? Do you see better solutions arriving that address the technology’s shortcomings? Do rising concerns over cashier-job losses need to be addressed?