If you have been into a major Australian supermarket recently, you will have noticed the new self-checkouts. In theory these can save time (although I seem to be incapable of getting the bar codes read) and they certainly seem to save staff. However:
- They are not really new. Apparently they were rolled out overseas about a decade ago; and
- As this article notes, they are being rolled back in the US.
Self-checkouts are a bit like replacing bank branches with ATMs. They reduce costs but also reduce the consumer experience. And just as some banks in Australia are opening new branches (after a decade of closing them) the US supermarkets are reducing the number of self-checkouts because:
We just want the opportunity to talk to customers more.
The interesting question is why major players tend to ‘overshoot’ with technological innovation – being seduced by lower costs but failing to recognize that there is reduced customer value. Let’s hope the supermarkets in Australia find a better balance than in the US – otherwise I will have no choice but to keep struggling with the bar codes.