Checkout v. checked out
by Parvez Sheik Fareed
In Switzerland there are two large supermarket chains: Migros and Coop. Both chains hold approximately the same size of market share and sell the same kind of products. Both chains have self-service checkouts in addition to the regular checkouts in some branches.
You enter Coop. You take a portable barcode scanner. Alternatively you can use an app on your smartphone. You wander through the aisles, take the items you need, scan them and bag them. You go to a checkout which is operated by a cashier. The cashier will charge the total amount based on the information he obtains from your scanner. You pay and get your receipt. End of procedure. Have a nice day.
You enter Migros. You take a trolley. You wander through the aisles, take the items you need, put them in your trolley. You go the self-service checkout where you scan all the products at the self-service machine. The machine will accept your debit or credit card as payment. You get your receipt. End of procedure. Have a nice day.
Coop’s self-service checkout is hardly being used whereas Migros’ is being used far more often. (This is the result of my non-scientific observation based on single occasions when I do my shopping at Migros and Coop)
Whether shopping per se is an enjoyable thing to do is another question, but I’m sure nobody enjoys queueing up. “Mate, what are you up to this evening?” – “Well, I’m going to the supermarket to queue up. It just gives me the thrills!” – “Oh my God, this sounds so exciting, do you mind if join?” Are you familiar with this kind of conversation? Neither am I.
Migros realised that by giving the customer the choice at the very last step of the whole shopping procedure. You can either queue up at the regular checkout or you can opt for the self-service checkout. This gives you the possibility to speed up things for your own good. That’s targeting behaviour. It solves the problem of queuing up respectively the perception of time being passed with waiting in the queue.
Coop got it wrong from the start. Scanning items while you are shopping takes more time so there’s no advantage for the customer. But it gets worse: once all the scanning is done, you need to go to a specific check-out which is in place for the customers who do the shopping with the scanner. This check-out is operated by a cashier. The extra time that was added by scanning could have been eliminated by a self-service machine at the checkout. At least that would have made some sort of sense. I think Coop assumed the customer wants to be in charge and enjoy some sort of twisted shopping “experience”. But after all it’s not Disneyland, it’s just a supermarket.
Coop checked out by trying to change the attitude of the customers whereas Migros checked in by changing the behaviour of the customers.
Changing people’s attitude is basically impossible. What works is changing behaviour.
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