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Industry Analyst Firm Finds Self-Checkout Improving Customer Service Across the Store

  • 19 October, 2004 12:04

<p>Australian consumers highly value the broader service benefits;
Study predicts “accelerated growth rate” for additional self-service systems</p>
<p>SYDNEY – Consumer acceptance of self-checkout is meeting or exceeding retailer expectations, resulting in improvements to customer service at the checkout and throughout the store, according to Self-Checkout Systems: Creating Value Across the Retail Store, a white paper published by International Data Corporation (IDC), a leading provider of global IT research and advice, and sponsored by NCR Corporation (NYSE: NCR).</p>
<p>The results of the study incorporate interviews with 6,359 consumers, including 1,100 from Australia, and six retailers across Australia, North America, Europe and Japan who have had self-checkout deployed for more than six months. IDC found that these retailers are seeing up to 50 per cent of transactions go through self-checkout, and four of the six interviewed plan to at least double their self-checkout installations by 2005.</p>
<p>Consumers surveyed across seven countries cited faster checkout, shorter lines and choice as the top benefits of self-checkout. The retailers interviewed stated improved service at the checkout as the key benefit, followed by improved customer loyalty and better customer service throughout the whole store.</p>
<p>In Australia, the survey conducted by Galaxy Research weighted responses from the national poll of 1,100 people, found that around four million would be more likely to shop at a store that offers self-checkout facilities, as opposed to one that does not.</p>
<p>The poll determined that self-checkout is particularly popular among younger shoppers. Respondents in the 16-24 age group showed 97 per cent believed there were “tangible benefits” in the self-checkout system, with 71 per cent saying “speed” was a key benefit.</p>
<p>The survey clearly demonstrates the impact of self-checkout in helping improve customer service not only at the checkout, but across the entire store. This is evidenced by the importance consumers place on service improvements retailers can make elsewhere in the store. Having well stocked shelves and store cleanliness were the two most critical issues – considered extremely important by 8 in 10 consumers, and also had the most impact on where people chose to shop.</p>
<p>Among consumers, some 71 per cent valued the help of sales staff while in the aisles, including location of products and answering questions. In fact, assistance while shopping was considered to be “one of the most important considerations” when in a supermarket.</p>
<p>In contrast, assistance with bagging purchased items was only considered important by 46 per cent of consumers and the corresponding figure for product demonstrations in the store was only valued by 20 per cent.</p>
<p>Interestingly, the needs of Australian shoppers are very similar to those expressed by shoppers in the European and American countries in which this study was also conducted. When asked where they would like staff redeployed to improve service in other areas of the store, the top answer was a clean and tidy appearance (77 per cent), well-stocked shelves (76 per cent) and accessible staff to answer questions and locate products (70 per cent).</p>
<p>Commenting on the findings, Mike Webster, NCR FastLane Vice President, said: “Consumers clearly value the convenience self-checkout can provide as well as the impact it can make on service throughout the store. To maximise these benefits, the research highlights the need for retailers to develop best practices for measuring, communicating, staffing and promoting their self-checkout implementation.”</p>
<p>“When retailers redeploy checkout resources to improve customer service beyond the front end to other areas of the store, it provides a point of differentiation,” said Meredith Whalen, group vice president, IDC U.S. Vertical Market Research.</p>
<p>Self-checkout is enabling retailers to redeploy staff to other areas of the store to increase customer satisfaction and operational efficiencies, which reduces the need to pull staff from those areas to the checkouts during peak times.</p>
<p>According to retailers interviewed for the paper, one of the primary keys to success of self-checkout is staffing. This begins by ensuring the right attendant is well trained, friendly and encourages customers to use the technology. Clear and consistent signage and the correct location within the store are other important factors in encouraging shoppers to use self-checkout.</p>
<p>“Given consumers’ positive attitudes toward self-checkout, we expect retailers to deploy more self-service technologies, such as kiosks,” said Whalen.</p>
<p>With the success of self-checkout, more and more retailers will turn to self-service technologies such as self-service kiosks.</p>
<p>Five out of the six retailers interviewed had plans to extend the use of photo and deli kiosks to stores where they did not already have them. Across all countries in which this study was administered consumers stated that they are most interested in kiosks that allow them to check prices (63 per cent) and kiosks that allow the pre-ordering of deli items (59 per cent).</p>
<p>In Australia, 66 per cent of consumers want kiosks or interactive displays that will enable them to pre-order deli items. A similar number expressed interest in kiosks that allow them to check prices. Both findings demonstrate that consumers want self-service options to access information whilst shopping, reinforcing the areas in which retailers can enhance overall customer satisfaction across the store.</p>
<p>Methodology</p>
<p>In September 2004, IDC authored a white paper sponsored by NCR Corporation entitled Self-Checkout Systems: Creating Value Across the Retail Store (Source: IDC white paper #4268, Self-Checkout Systems: Creating Value Across the Retail Store, October 2004, An IDC White Paper sponsored by NCR). As the basis for the paper, IDC analysed 6,359 telephone interviews with consumers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Australia. The survey also included 300 interviews with consumers exiting a retail store in Japan. The survey data was weighted to reflect the demographics of each country as a whole. Concurrently, IDC conducted in-depth telephone interviews with executives at six retailers in the United States, Europe, Japan and Australia that had already installed self-checkout systems. Because of the sample size and the qualitative nature of the retailer interviews, the data is not representative of specific countries but can be used to identify emerging trends in self-checkout systems.</p>
<p>About NCR Corporation</p>
<p>NCR Corporation (NYSE: NCR) is a leading global technology company helping businesses build stronger relationships with their customers. NCR’s ATMs, retail systems, Teradata® data warehouses and IT services provide Relationship Technology™ solutions that maximize the value of customer interactions and help organizations create a stronger competitive position. Based in Dayton, Ohio, NCR (www.ncr.com) employs approximately 29,000 people worldwide.</p>
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<p>NCR, NCR EasyPoint, NCR FastLane, NCR RealPOS, NCR RealPrice, NCR RealScan, NCR RealSolutions and Teradata are trademarks or registered trademarks of NCR Corporation in</p>

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