Why Wegmans’ Self-Scan Test Matters

Articles
October 10, 2008

Why Wegmans’ Self-Scan Test Matters

One could understand the reluctance of Wegmans to test self-scanners until now. Impulse purchases by women drop by 32%, and by men 16%, in self-checkout lanes, according to the latest North American Self-Checkout Systems Market Study by IHL Consulting Group. But 72% of U.S. consumers already hold a positive view of self-checkout, said IHL, so even a service-leading chain like Wegmans risks little on this count by introducing the front-end technology. It’s mainstream, after all: think pay-at-the-pump fuel, bank ATMs—and the $137 billion in self-checkout rings in 2006.

One could understand the reluctance of Wegmans to test self-scanners until now. Impulse purchases by women drop by 32%, and by men 16%, in self-checkout lanes, according to the latest North American Self-Checkout Systems Market Study by IHL Consulting Group. 

But 72% of U.S. consumers already hold a positive view of self-checkout, said IHL, so even a service-leading chain like Wegmans risks little on this count by introducing the front-end technology.  It’s mainstream, after all:  think pay-at-the-pump fuel, bank ATMs—and the $137 billion in self-checkout rings in 2006.   

With four self-checkout lanes in the Penfield, NY store, Wegmans can begin to placate shoppers who have this speedy option available in other retailers. 

This chain which has succeeded on so many fronts will hand-hold shoppers who need the help—and who could come to love the time savings. That’s the nature of self-checkout:  the more people use it, the more they want it.

Beyond making shoppers comfortable, Wegmans will scrutinize performance and assess whether self-checkout enhances the in-store experience, and helps stores increase visit frequency and draw from a wider trading area. 

Among other questions they and others who’ve resisted the technology so far need to address: Can they keep the checkout process simple to appeal to consumers who lack technical proficiency? What’s the optimal merchandising balance around these lanes—recognizing that men and younger shoppers tend to use them more? What’s the best way to communicate that self-checkouts aren’t costing anyone their job at the store? 

Since more than 80% opt for self-service “sometimes or usually,” according to a consumer survey done by the Self-Service & Kiosk Association, Wegmans is no forerunner here. Yet the chain’s influence is such that if its experience is positive, other resistors might well consider the self-checkout technology sooner rather than later.