Unexpected item in self-service till survey: shoppers want more

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Self-service tills are often held to be the bugbear of the modern supermarket shopper - but surprising new research shows Brits want more of them in stores, The Grocer can reveal.

A decade after they first appeared in the UK, a nationwide survey of more than 4,000 supermarket shoppers, compiled for The Grocer by customer experience specialists Market Force, found almost two-thirds (65%) would like to see more self-scan tills in supermarkets.

Another 57% said they liked them because they speed up shopping, while 42% described them as “quick”. One in three shoppers said they used them to avoid queues.

Previous research has consistently indicated that self-service tills irritate shoppers, with problems such as the ‘unexpected item in bagging area’.

But a combination of shopper familiarity and the eradication of gremlins had altered consumer perceptions, said Market Force marketing manager Simon Boydell. “The research suggests self-scan tills are becoming more popular, particularly when speed is required.

“There is also an element of people becoming more used to using them and the tills themselves working better. The results clearly indicate the customer experience is improving.”

A spokeswoman for Asda, which started trialling ‘hybrid’ tills that can switch from manned checkouts to self-scan tills earlier this year, welcomed the news.

“More than one in four of our customers serves themselves at self-service checkouts,” she said. “But what is important to customers is the choice of self-scan and manned checkouts. Some customers like being able to whizz through on their own, while others prefer to chat to a checkout colleague. We offer both options.”

Despite the number of people wanting more self-service tills, traditional checkouts remain the most popular place to pay, with 55% of respondents saying they still preferred to use a manned checkout.

“There is still a desire to have a level of interaction while shopping,” said Boydell. “Shoppers are beginning to appreciate the option of self-service checkouts, and it’s been a great move by the supermarkets to offer them, but it’s important to retain a balance.”

One in three respondents to the survey also suggested they should be offered a discount on their shopping if they used a self-service till.

The survey also showed:

  • 95% of respondents now used a self-service checkout.
  • A majority (57%) said they like self-service checkouts because it speeds up the process.
  • The main reasons people prefer self-service checkouts is because they are quick to use (42%) and they avoid queues (32%).
  • Just over half of all respondents (55%) said they prefer to use checkouts with staff. The latter is primarily driven by the fact that people like to have some interaction with staff when paying for their goods (43%) while a further 22% said they prefer the checkouts with staff because they buy age-restricted products and it takes too long to get a member of staff to a self-service checkout.
  • 15% said they felt the self-service checkouts take away the personal interaction of shopping
  • Almost a third (31%) said they thought the cost of products purchased using self-service checkouts should be less than when using a manned checkout while 68% said the costs should be the same.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Be useful to understand why the Grocer thinks that in less than 2 months shoppers have moved from 'hate' ( 2/3rds as per 8th jun article) to ' like to see more' self scanners. That is a dramatic change and is worthy of further investigation.

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  • Hate them, hate them, hate them! If I wanted to operate a supermarket till, I'd get a job in one and they would have to PAY ME to do it.
    Why don't they offer discount for providing this lack of service?
    Perhaps if shops only plugged 'em in on Sundays and gave all the staff the day off to be home with their families, I'd like them a little better.

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