Do you use the self-checkout machine? A new study reveals our grocery shopping patterns

The most dreaded aspect of grocery shopping comes at the very
end. Whether waiting in line at the till as cashiers call for
price-checks or standing by while other customers struggle to
scan their purchases at self-checkout machines, the process of
paying is an unequivocally painful part of the experience.

With the rise of self-checkout machines and emergence of
advanced technologies trying to make lines a thing of the past,
retail is attempting to address customer pain points. In a new
study from Dalhousie University, which surveyed 1,053 Canadians
in English and French over three days in October, researchers
are shedding light on our grocery shopping tendencies and how
they’re evolving.

“That (checkout) time, I believe, hasn’t been very well managed
over the years by grocers,” says lead researcher Sylvain
Charlebois, professor in food distribution and policy at
Dalhousie University. “And now you’re seeing Amazon Go coming
up with this novel technology allowing people to go in, take
what they want and leave the store as soon as possible without
talking or seeing anyone. And I think a lot of grocers are
starting to feel pressure of making that exit seamless.”

Although the study reveals that 66 per cent of Canadians have
used self-checkouts and slightly more than a third (34.3 per
cent) are considering buying food online or subscribing to a
meal kit service (14.8 per cent), Canadians don’t go grocery
shopping to avoid human interaction. Younger consumers (those
born after 1994) especially like to support stores where they
know people who work there.

For urban-dwellers (in contrast with suburban, small town or
rural inhabitants), knowing who owns the stores they frequent
is important, which Charlebois says he found somewhat
surprising. In an effort to validate the findings and learn
more about what’s occurring in the marketplace, he’s been
interviewing randomly selected grocers across the country. What
he’s found is that this local leaning is very much an urban

“That localization piece seems to be less relevant for rural
communities. They just want a place to go,” he says. “The one
thing that came up a lot in my conversations is that in rural
communities (customers) see the grocery store as being the
quasi community centre where you can actually meet people. Not
the owner, other people. Other patrons; your neighbour, your
friends, your family.”

He spoke with one grocer north of Quebec City who had set up a
grab-and-go restaurant with 200 seats to accommodate the
considerable number of people who view the grocery store as a
place to sit down and chat, just as you would at a local coffee

Also of note is the fact that 76 per cent of Canadians go
grocery shopping at least once a week (5.43 times a month, on
average) and nearly half (42.3 per cent) regularly visit two
stores. On average, we spend 32 minutes per visit, which
Charlebois says is much lower than in the U.S.

“I was expecting the opposite,” he explains. “I was expecting
Canadians to stay longer in the grocery store but what seems to
be happening in Canada is that people are visiting more stores
on a regular basis, will visit these stores less frequently,
and will spend less time per visit.”

When it comes to customer service expectations, 81.7 per cent
of respondents think it’s important to be able to seek
assistance if necessary, which is interesting when juxtaposed
with Canadian attitudes towards retail advancements. “On the
one side, for predictable, manageable transactions, I think
that people want technology. But for anything that seems a
little bit more complicated, they appreciate that human touch,”
says Charlebois.

“Independent grocers would see the assistance results as being
good news because there is this clash between the corporates
and the independents, and the independents have always prided
themselves as being able to customize the experience. And of
course, there’s no better way to customize the experience than
when you actually have humans involved.”

Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *