Retail

Americans Aren’t Ready for Cashiers to Check Out Just Yet

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The dilemma: should you wait in line for a cashier or head to self-checkout?

Today, self-checkout kiosks are common in many stores and options keep growing. Some retailers, such as Amazon Go and Dollar General, are forging ahead with the next generation of self-checkout, using self-scanning mobile apps to streamline the process.

It’s safe to say that self-checkout options, coupled with online shopping trends, are painting a less than rosy picture for the future of cashiers. However, the majority of Americans aren’t ready to give up the ghost.

After recently polling 1,900 respondents, CivicScience learned that 57% of U.S. adults prefer to check out with a cashier instead of a self-checkout kiosk when both options were available. At the same time, 33% head straight to the self-checkout lane, while 10% remain unbiased towards one or the other.

What about self-checkout remains unappealing to so many Americans?

Self-checkout comes with pros and cons, depending on how you look at it. For some, the self-checkout kiosk is the ideal option. It may be faster, offer more independence and control over the checkout process, and doesn’t require small talk with a cashier.

For others, even though self-checkout kiosks may be the faster option during busy store hours, scanning and bagging items yourself is extra work. Using the POS system may be a nuisance as well as a learning curve, and scanning errors require waiting for an employee to fix them. Plus, the lack of human interaction might be off-putting.

Retailers looking to transition to a more automated checkout process may be met with resistance by a majority of shoppers who still prefer real-life humans to ring up their items and lead the transaction. The hurdle is even higher when it comes to implementing more cutting-edge self-checkout options that require the use of a retailer’s mobile app.

Despite estimates that close to 80% of U.S. adults own smartphones, it’s likely that wide adoption of self-checkout apps is a ways down the road. In a survey conducted in May, CivicScience found that only 16% of shoppers have used retailers’ mobile apps at all while shopping in stores.

Additionally, if self-checkout apps require the user to pay through the app, as the Amazon Go app does, then retailers really have their work cut out for them. Unlike China, where mobile payment apps are flourishing, findings show that Americans are far less open to making mobile payments through apps or digital wallets, and security fears top reasons why.

However, just like the mammoth growth of smartphone adoption in the past decade, it’s a given that in time more shoppers will adapt not only to using self-checkout kiosks but new checkout technologies.

In fact, this trajectory is right on track when considering how digitally-native Millennials responded to the checkout survey. In stark contrast to Baby Boomers, 75% of whom said they would choose a cashier instead of self-checkout, the preference for self-checkout leads with the Millennial generation. Forty-six percent of Millennials said they preferred self-checkout kiosks, while 39% preferred checking out with a cashier.

With Gen Xers sandwiched between Millennials and Baby Boomers, it’s clear that the younger you are, the more likely you are to adopt self-checkout kiosks. When looking at a more in-depth age breakdown, 46% of 18-34 year-olds chose self-checkout while only 39% chose cashier checkout.

If trends continue in this direction, will we eventually witness the dissolution of the traditional cashier job? Debate continues as to whether self-checkout will lead to displaced workers or if those lost jobs will transfer to new and different openings within retail.

The somewhat good news for the more than 3.5 million cashiers in the U.S. and the shoppers who prefer them is that cashier jobs are projected to remain stagnant in the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, they definitely aren’t expected to grow.

The bias of older Americans towards the traditional cashier-mediated checkout experience may influence retailers for the time being, but as younger generations age, things are likely to change.

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