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UK survey shows self-checkouts top store automation technologies

By Retail4Growth Bureau | April 03, 2024

A survey done by GetApp, a UK based tech company on consumer perceptions towards automation in retail throws up some interesting findings.  

Getapp logo

GetApp, a UK based tech company that delivers tailored, data-driven recommendations and insights for small businesses, has conducted a research study, which investigates consumer perceptions towards automation in retail, especially pertinent it says, given the recent rise in UK supermarket technical malfunctions. The company informs that the GetApp's 2024 Retail Automation Survey was conducted online in February 2024  among 301 respondents in the UK.

The survey found that 90% of respondents in GetApp’s latest study have used self-checkouts and would choose to continue using them, despite over one-third (37%) experiencing delays or issues with the technology.

However, consumers believe self-checkouts can exacerbate problems related to shoplifting, as 58% maintain that when using self-checkout tills, shoppers either intentionally or unintentionally don't pay for their items. With 65% stating that surveillance cameras on self-checkouts do not help prevent shoplifting. 

Despite the associated issues with security, consumers are overwhelmingly positive about self-checkout tills: 

  • 69% of respondents would rate their experience with self-checkouts good to excellent. 
  • 73% who use self-checkouts stated they plan to continue using them in the future. 
  • Over three quarters (78%) agreed that their encounters with self-checkouts have improved over the last 5 years. 
  • When respondents wish to check out quickly, 79% will choose self-checkouts over staff checkouts, as 73% claim self-checkouts add efficiency to their shopping experience.

In spite of this, the biggest concern associated with self-checkouts was their unreliability, leading to staff members needing to intervene when something went wrong (76%). This frustration leads to respondents preferring to use staff checkouts in the following situations: when withdrawing cash, paying with cash, and buying alcohol or tobacco. 

Moreover, the majority (87%) of retail and supermarket shoppers see customer service as an important aspect of their overall shopping experience, suggesting that the unreliability of self-checkouts could lead to a drop in customer satisfaction. 

Automation in retail

When asked in which situations consumers find it acceptable for businesses to use automation technology, the majority (74%) agreed on self-checkout, followed by helping customers locate items in store (41%) and assisting in returns, exchanges and refund processes (31%).

The factors that would improve consumers' experience in-store include the ability to find what they need sooner (54%), and faster checkout times (51%). Only 10% wanted more automation in store. Therefore, automation technology can gain further acceptance if proven to enhance the shopping experience making it quicker and more efficient. 

Interestingly, when it comes to supermarkets, 75% of respondents try to get in and out as quickly as possible, whereas only 47% do so in retail stores, compared to 54% who take their time and try and enjoy the experience. 

Speaking about the study, David Jani, Content Analyst at GetApp UK, says, “It was curious that despite the reported backlash seen against self-checkout technology in supermarkets recently, it proved to be one of the most accepted forms of automation technology in GetApp’s study. UK respondents felt that it worked particularly well in delivering speed and efficiency desired during shopping trips, whilst a majority report positive experiences in using them.” 

He added, “However, as recent outages in major supermarkets have shown, a reliance on technology can have a downside. It is important to plan elements such as managing IT recovery and staff preparation to handle issues should they arise when implementing automated systems such as those discussed in the study.”

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