Are self-service checkouts easy to use?

Despite efforts to improve their functionality, self-service supermarket checkouts are still driving some Aussies crazy.

A Canstar Blue survey of 3,000 shoppers has found that a third still struggle to scan and pack their groceries themselves without frustration, and more than half simply prefer to use traditional checkouts.

Are self-service checkouts easy to use?

Overall, 66% of survey respondents said they find self-service checkouts “easy to use”, but their popularity varies significantly between young and old. While nine out of ten consumers aged 18-39 declared them easy to use, the number dropped to about five out of ten shoppers aged over 60.

Women (70%) find self-service checkouts easier to use than men (61%).

Whether consumers find them easy to use or not, just 47% of adults surveyed said they prefer to use self-service checkouts when they are available. Three-quarters (74%) of those aged 18-29 agreed with this point, compared with just a quarter (25%) of people aged 70 and over.

Women (50%) are more likely to favour self-service checkouts than men (43%).

Meanwhile 9% of shoppers admitted to deliberately not paying for an item at a self-service checkout. This number jumped to 17% of those aged in their 30s, compared to just 2% of adults aged 70 plus. Men (10%) are more likely to steal than women (8%).

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Reasons for using self-service

Of those survey respondents who favour self-service checkouts, their reasons are as follows:

  • 84% find them to be quicker
  • 11% don’t like interacting with checkout operators
  • 5% are not sure why

Reasons for not using self-service

Of those who favour traditional supermarket checkouts with an operator, their reasons are as follows:

  • 39% find them to be quicker
  • 41% like interacting with checkout operators
  • 20% are not sure why

Coles vs Woolworths

The survey found that 71% of Coles customers find self-service checkouts easy to use, compared with 68% of Woolworths shoppers.

People who shop at Coles are also more likely to favour self-service checkouts when given the choice (51% vs 47%).

Coles customers are also the most likely to deliberately not pay for an item at a self-service checkout (9% vs 6%).

Coles

Coles customers who prefer to use self-service checkouts gave the following reasons:

  • 85% find them to be quicker
  • 10% don’t like interacting with checkout operators
  • 5% are not sure why

Coles customers who favour traditional supermarket checkouts with an operator gave the following reasons:

  • 38% find them to be quicker
  • 41% like interacting with checkout operators
  • 21% are not sure why

Woolworths

Woolworths customers who prefer to use self-service checkouts gave the following reasons:

  • 83% find them to be quicker
  • 10% don’t like interacting with checkout operators
  • 7% are not sure why

Woolworths customers who favour traditional supermarket checkouts with an operator gave the following reasons:

  • 40% find them to be quicker
  • 39% like interacting with checkout operators
  • 21% are not sure why

“When they work properly, and customers use them properly, self-service checkouts are clearly a convenient option for many shoppers. But when something doesn’t go the way you want it, they can be hugely frustrating,” said Head of Canstar Blue, Megan Doyle.

“They are designed to make the checkout process quicker, so anything that causes a delay is clearly defeating the purpose. That includes standing around waiting for an assistant to help correct an issue which can sometimes be the most frustrating part of all.

“It’s easy for shoppers to blame the machine when things go wrong but it could be that, by trying to be too quick, it’s easy to make mistakes and get frustrated.

“Our results show a clear preference for self-service checkouts amongst young supermarket shoppers, so it would appear there is a strong market for them. The challenge for the supermarkets is to find the perfect balance between self-service and manned checkouts, in an effort to keep everyone happy.”

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