Retailers want to speed up the shopping experience, but it'll take time to change customers' habits
Only 11 per cent of Canadians use grocery self-checkouts all the time, according to a recent study
From self-checkouts to scanning groceries on your phone to automated towers that give you a package, retailers are testing out new technologies to make your shopping experience faster. But customers' habits are slow to change.
At Canadian Tire, customers can order something online and pick it up from a self-serve tower by scanning a barcode. It's one of only five in Canada, but Canadian Tire plans to assess how well the new pick up towers work and, if they're successful, make more of them available next year.
Meanwhile, Loblaws launched a new app that could revolutionize the way we shop. Customers can avoid the checkout line by using the PC Express app to scan product barcodes as they add them to the shopping cart. The pilot is currently limited to eight locations in the Greater Toronto Area.
Self-checkout technology not without faults
Stacey Plowright says she often uses the self-checkouts to save time.
"I do use them, especially if the line is shorter because that is one of the conveniences is not a lot of people are using them, so you can get there quicker," said Plowright.
However, sometimes she makes a mistake like scanning the same product twice and has to make a change, which can set her back.
"I've encountered one, and I forget which store it was at, where it was smart enough to know that oh, I can reverse that," said Plowright. "So I can get rid of the transaction, but somebody still had to come over at the end and like approve it."
Hiccups and hassles like this could be why only 11 per cent of Canadians use grocery self-checkouts all the time, according to a recent study out of Dalhousie University, and more than half use self-checkouts occasionally.
The survey included 1,053 people and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Expert recommends companies work out the kinks before rolling out new tech
Heather Thomson is executive director for the School of Retailing with the Alberta School of Business. She says the low numbers in the survey results are likely because the technology can be inconsistent.
"We as shoppers are really impatient. So if the technology is gonna give us any kind of hiccups, usually we're done. We don't want to do it again. We ventured, we tried it, we went out of our comfort zone and it didn't work out. So what people will do is just revert back to their old habits."
Thomson says it's wise to test out new technologies in a limited way to work out the kinks beforehand.
"If you're gonna do the investment, make sure it is top of the line, best in the world, so people don't have the hiccups," said Thomson. "You do really only get one first impression with trying to convert your customers' old habits."
Still, customers seem to be open to the idea of new technologies. When asked if they thought self-checkout lanes are a good idea, 55 per cent of participants in the Dalhousie University study strongly or somewhat agreed, which suggests there is a desire for these types of tools, even with their potential pitfalls.