Customers warm to Coles Myer self-checkout system

Coles Myer has revealed that the trial of its self-checkout system has "exceeded expectations" since it started last May but refuses to commit to future plans of a national roll-out.Coles Myer started their six-month trial of the U-Scan self-checkout system by placing four self-scanning checkouts at Bi-Lo Fountain Gate and Coles Chadstone in Victoria.

Coles Myer has revealed that the trial of its self-checkout system has "exceeded expectations" since it started last May but refuses to commit to future plans of a national roll-out.

Coles Myer started their six-month trial of the U-Scan self-checkout system by placing four self-scanning checkouts at Bi-Lo Fountain Gate and Coles Chadstone in Victoria.

The U-Scan allows shoppers to easily scan, bag and pay for their purchases using touch screen menus and voice and text instructions. Payments are made using cash, EFTPOS or credit card.

Coles Myer spokesperson Claire McFarlane, said the Coles and Bi-Lo self-checkout trial has been running well and has "exceeded expectations of customers' response".

She added that customers have found the self-checkouts "easy to use" and that most have picked up the technology very quickly. The average number of items scanned per hour has doubled since the start of the trial as customers have become more familiar with the technology.

"Our research has shown that customers in our trial stores like having the choice of a self-checkout and the full service checkout. We have found that customers of all ages are using the technology either because they find it fun and a novelty or because they feel that they can get in and out faster. We are still in the trial period and as such have made no final decisions as to whether we will extend the trial or install any more self-checkouts," McFarlane said.

McFarlane added that they have not estimated the operational cost savings of the U-scan since "the focus of the trial is about customer acceptance, not operational costs, and whether the self-checkout improves the level of customer service at the checkout".

Coles Myer's experience supports a white paper published by International Data Corporation and NCR corporation entitled "Self-Checkout Systems: Creating Value Across the Retail Store".

The paper stated that Australian shoppers have warmed up to self-checkout systems and are now preferring to shop where the facilities are available.

It claimed that around 4 million Australians would be more likely to shop at a store that offers self-checkout facilities as opposed to ones that don't.

The poll, conducted by Galaxy Research, determined that self-checkout is particularly popular among younger shoppers. Respondents in the 16 to 24 age group showed that 97 percent believed there were "tangible benefits" in the self-checkout system, with 71 percent saying speed was a key benefit.

As a result of self-checkout systems, customer service was improved across the store, such as having well stocked shelves and enhanced store cleanliness.

Around 66 percent of consumers in Australia 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.

The study showed that self-checkout systems are 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.

Meredith Whalen, group vice president for IDC US vertical market research, said that based on the customers' positive attitudes toward self-checkout, they are expecting retailers to deploy more self-service technologies in 2005.

Five out of the six retailers interviewed across all countries where the study was administered had plans to extend the use of photo and deli kiosks to stores where they did not already have them.

In the six retailers across North America, Australia, Europe and Japan who have had self-checkout systems deployed for more than six months, IDC found they were seeing up to 50 percent of transactions go through self-checkout. Four of the six retailers plan to at least double their self-checkout installations by 2005.

IDC analysed 6,359 telephone interviews with consumers in the US, Canada, the UK, 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. IDC also conducted in-depth telephone interviews with executives at six retailers in the US, Europe, Japan and Australia that had already installed self-checkout systems.