Fixing the front-end

February 16, 2012

Consumers tell supermarkets what they should do to improve their checkout experiences.

Before long, quick-pay technologies such as mobile and RFID may lead to checkout experiences that are as pleasant, accurate and efficient as in retailers’ and customers’ dreams. 

For now, however, shoppers are left to finish store trips with a frequent wait to pay followed by an encounter with a cashier (and maybe a bagger) who earn the same low wage if they’re pleasant or not. Or in some stores shoppers can choose the self-checkout lane, another non-reinforcement that the retailer appreciates the business.

Thinking mostly of the functional process at the front-end, four out of five U.S. adults (81.7%) say they are satisfied by their checkout experiences, according to survey findings of the 2012 National Grocers Association-SupermarketGuru Consumer Panel Survey Report.

People who spend the least amount each week on groceries (92% of those who spend $40 or less) are most likely to say this, probably because their small baskets allow them to use the express lanes.

Overall, consumers have plenty to say about what bothers them most at the checkout. Wait time is their #1 complaint, expressed by nearly half of survey respondents (45.7%). Less-than-careful handling of merchandise by the cashier or bagger is next (22.3%), followed by cashier or bagger attitude (16.7%), slow transaction speed (13.6%) and lack of a bagger (12.9%) rounding out the Top Five issues.

Asked how supermarkets could improve the front-end, respondents made suggestions that correlated well with their complaints. A majority (53.8%) say they want more open lanes, so there is less wait time. Others want cashiers and baggers to handle merchandise more carefully (23.5%), or to be friendlier (16.3%). Rounding out the Top Five are more self-checkouts (16.2%) and more baggers (16.0%).