OKLAHOMA CITY -- Shoppers are ready and willing to embrace self-checkout technology, according to an in-store survey taken by SN here last month.
The poll found that customers quickly adapt to the machines, find them simple to use, and greatly appreciate their potential for reducing the time spent waiting in lines. A majority of those who have used the machines said they prefer them to cashiers when they have a small order.
The negatives cited were surprisingly few, with some customers complaining of malfunctions, the lack of check acceptance at this store's self-checkout, and a general unawareness of the units that have been in place since September of last year.
Moreover, of those who said they had never used them, 21.3% said they had no major concerns about trying the machines.
Those were a few of the findings of the survey taken at Snyders IGA Quail Plaza store, where one self-checkout unit, from NCR Corp., Dayton, Ohio, is in use. It is supplied and serviced by NCR dealer Retail Data Solutions, Oklahoma City.
Snyders, owned by industry veteran Jim Mills, has six stores in the Oklahoma City area. While the shoppers' experiences were on the NCR machine, the survey concerned general self-checkout issues and could be relevant to equipment made by other vendors.
The survey sample was 103 people, 55 females (53.4%) and 48 males (46.6%), who responded during two days of random interviews in the store during peak shopping hours. Of the total, 42, or 40.8%, had used the machines, while 61, or 59.2%, had not.
A greater percentage of the males, 45.8%, had used the machine compared to the females interviewed, 36.4% of whom had used it. Significant gender differences appear throughout the survey, generally indicating a greater interest and comfort level with the technology on the part of men, although the women interviewed were also very interested, particularly in the line-shortening potential and increased privacy.
"It's wonderful when the store is crowded and they have that extra service. It was before Christmas when I used it, and there were lines everywhere, and I went sailing right through," said Lavonne Dilley of Oklahoma City.
Not reflected in the survey results is the acceptance of the machines by young and old. The survey did not ask for ages, but Kenneth E. Ball of Oklahoma City is of an older generation. "It's the best way, because it is faster and, I hope, it is more accurate," he said.
Meanwhile, a much younger Alex Patana of Oklahoma City said, "This is nice, and I'm glad to see that they are getting some better technology going on."
Even old pros at the checkout game like it.
A former Albertsons cashier, who would not give her name, said, "It's very self-explanatory. I went through it for the first time and it was a breeze. For a few items, I think it is great."
More than three-quarters of the respondents, or 78.6%, who had used the machines said they felt comfortable with them on the first or second use. Less than 5% said it took three or four times to get comfortable with the machines, while 16.6% said they still are not comfortable with them after repeated use.
In a one-to-five rating question, males rated their first experience of using the machines more highly than women, an average of 4.41 to 3.80, although male and female ratings of later uses of the machines were about equal.
All respondents rated support from store personnel very highly, an average of 4.82 for all who had used the machines.
Respondents said the self-checkouts were simple enough to be used efficiently by the average consumer, with 95.5% of males who had used the machines agreeing with that statement, and 75% of females. The perception of ease of use is strong even among those who hadn't used the machines; 34.5% said it was simple enough for the average consumer, while 63.9% said they wouldn't know, since they hadn't tried it.
Some, like Mary Jane Hughes of Oklahoma City, said the machines are simple enough to occupy her children. "It entertains the kids. They get to play grocery."
The self-checkouts are also a competitive advantage, especially in drawing repeat visits from people who have used the machines. Fifty percent of those who have used them said they would be more likely to patronize a store that had a self-checkout machine, while the other 50% said they had no preference. Not one respondent who had used the machines said he or she would be less likely to go to such a store.
In one of the more surprising findings of the survey, 27.9% of people who hadn't even used the machines said they would prefer it to an attendant for a simple order.
Meanwhile, 50.8% said they'd prefer the attendant, while 21.3% said they had no preference.
Of those who had used the self-checkouts, 52.4% said they'd prefer the machines for a simple order, 16.7% said they'd prefer the attendant and 30.9% had no preference.
All respondents were very confident of their ability to scan groceries as quickly as cashiers: 80.6% said they could do so, 16.5% said they couldn't and 2.9% were not sure. There was little difference between men and women on this question, although the people who hadn't used the machines were more optimistic about their abilities than those who had.
Shorter lines and speed, cited by 85.7% and 83.3%, respectively, were the most frequently cited advantages of the self-checkout machines, with ease of payment at 40.5% and "no chat with cashiers/baggers" at 30.9%.
While the shorter lines and speed were somewhat less important to women than men, the privacy advantage was cited by 40% of females, compared with 13.6% of males.
Asked why they don't use the machines, few respondents gave strong negative answers. Instead, 42.6% said they hadn't noticed the self-checkouts, and 23% said they just hadn't gotten around to using them. A handful cited other reasons, such as they just don't like the machines, they are afraid of technology or they just don't want to use them.
The biggest concern of the non-users was inaccuracy, cited by 26.2%, while 21.3% said they had no such concerns. Some, 14.8%, were worried about a loss of human contact, while 13.1% fretted over difficulty with payment.