- A recent Consumer Reports survey of more than 50,000 readers found that the checkout line is a major pain point for grocery shoppers. Twenty-one percent complain about grocery stores that have too few checkout lanes and long waits. Other complaints included congested aisles (10%), too few choices (9%) and poor selection of local products (7%). Despite these grievances, 46% of respondents reported no gripes at all about their favorite supermarket.
- Walmart received the most complaints of any store. About 74% of shoppers surveyed had at least one grievance about the chain. These complaints included checkout speed, cleanliness, produce and meat quality and lack of variety.
- Chains with the least amount of complaints included Publix, Wegmans, Fareway Stores, Festival Foods, Diebergs Market and Hy-Vee. These stores were credited with having friendly and speedy service, as well as a variety of options.
It's clear from this survey that grocery shoppers are growing increasingly impatient – perhaps even more than they were three years ago, when a Harris Poll found that 88% of consumers want a faster checkout process.
But the survey also shows that retailers are dealing with quite the paradox. Although most consumers want speedier experiences, they’re also still very much craving customer service, which could be compromised with technologies such as cashier-less checkout. Walmart had to learn about this disconnect the hard way. After expanding its Scan & Go service that let customers pay while they shopped, the company quietly ended the service last month. The technology often caused a trip to the checkout aisle – for instance to scan produce – which was opposite of its objective.
If there is a silver lining, it's that Walmart now has plenty of resources insight to work on its next solution. And there will have to be a solution, especially if the company wants to keep pace with Amazon in the battle for convenience-chasing consumers.
However, another lesson here is that retailers should not pin all of their hopes on technology to appease increasingly fickle consumers in an increasingly competitive space. Amazon might be disruptive, but it has yet to kill the desire for good service. Two of the least complained-about-brands in Consumer Reports’ survey were Publix and Wegmans. Coincidentally, both retailers landed on top of the KPMG customer satisfaction survey earlier this month, cited for offering friendly service as well as a variety of experiences.
It is important for grocers to embrace this demand for service while continuing to seek that frictionless checkout solution as convenience becomes not just a need, but an expectation. Walmart has gone back to the drawing board with other tests, including Check Out With Me; Kroger is expanding its Scan, Bag, Go technology; Dollar General is testing a new DG go App; and Microsoft is developing cashierless technology to compete with Amazon Go.
There are a number of reasons American consumers have been slow to adopt new technologies — security chief among them — but that doesn’t mean cashier-less technology is going away. It was just two years ago when consumers were reluctant to adopt chip cards, proving that sometimes it just takes longer for them to catch up to the technology. Or, in this case, to catch up with their own demands for speed and service.