The shopping cart |  Self-service checkouts: the old unloved ones

The shopping cart | Self-service checkouts: the old unloved ones

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For a long time, self-service checkouts have not been loved by retail.

Officially, the popularity of self-service checkouts in the supermarket exceeds that of traditional cashier checkouts. The pandemic has changed many things, but are consumers really taking advantage of the technologies available in the supermarket?

For a long time, self-service checkouts have not been loved by retail. Nothing worked out the way it should, especially at the grocery store, where a 20-item order had its share of mistakes. Although the use of self-service checkouts has annoyed many, as of now it seems that this will no longer be the case.

Less than a year ago, one of our studies indicated that, for the first time, self-service checkouts had become the preferred option for customers leaving the supermarket. It was identified that no less than 53.2% of Canadians intended to use self-service checkouts regularly in the future. On the youth side, 60.1% of Gen Zers (born between 1997 and 2005) and Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) planned to use cashierless checkouts more. Before the pandemic, in 2019, according to CivicScience, only 19% of customers age 55 and older felt ready to use self-checkout, compared to 35% of customers ages 35-54.

At that time, ATMs were still the preferred option for all demographic groups. Consumers loved to hate these machines. Nowadays, things have changed a lot.

In all, self-service checkouts are now becoming more popular than ever, even surpassing serviced checkouts. According to one of our surveys, in partnership with Caddle Analytics in early May, 75% of Canadians have used self-checkout when visiting the supermarket at least once in the last six months. Even better, 85.1% of Canadians said they were satisfied with their experience. In addition, 47% of Canadians say they are willing to visit a supermarket where all purchases are captured by digital sensors that allow consumers to add what they want to their shopping cart and leave the store without going through a checkout.

Technology is getting less and less in the way of consumers looking for a quick visit to the supermarket, with little or no contact. Once we make our decisions, few of us want to wait in line to pay. Some want to chat and socialize, of course, but many just want to get things done as quickly as possible and then socialize elsewhere. There is nothing wrong with that either.

During the pandemic, tellers were considered heroes and everyone wished them a raise. The big chains have even been criticized by our elected officials for abandoning certain compensation programs that offered better conditions to employees. However, recruiting staff is still difficult to carry out this work, especially in this period of labor shortage. Automation and robotization are becoming increasingly important in the agri-food sector, especially in restaurants and retail.

The labor market is changing and workers in the sector will perform different tasks and more sophisticated functions that require advanced knowledge and skills. Gone are the days of hiring staff to perform repetitive tasks.

In short, machines are replacing jobs that no one wants to do.

By doing so, we are asking customers to do more work, without compensation. Financial institutions made a major change decades ago with ATMs. At the time, customers were asked to do more while promising lower bank charges. Now we know that the opposite has happened.

Unlike banks, the work that is done in the supermarket is a matter of food safety. If self-checkouts offer higher prices in the future, it won’t make anyone happy. Perhaps there should be a tax on companies that opt ​​for this type of technology that directly affects consumers. Or, at the very least, why not offer a reward for using these machines? If consumers have to do more work on each visit to the store, they must necessarily benefit from it, one way or another. It is an evolving social contract.


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