Has Tesco Figured Out How To Make All-Self-Checkout Work?

Written by Evan Schuman
May 18th, 2008

Tesco’s experiment with an all-self-checkout store in the U.S. is delivering surprisingly favorable customer satisfaction stats. Internal Tesco customer surveys for its Fresh & Easy stores are finding some 90 percent of its customers saying they were either “satisfied or very satisfied” with the checkout experience while another 27 percent say that “it doesn’t matter” what format the checkouts take, according to this story in The Retail Bulletin. The story said Tesco’s survey showed that only 13 percent of respondents prefer a conventional staffed checkout.

“Helping the Fresh & Easy situation is the fact that bananas are the only product available loose (because they are too variable in size and react badly to shrink-wrapping) whereas everything else is packaged and barcoded, thereby reducing the potential for problems at checkout and for the intervention of staff,” the story said. “This reduction in the need for staff assistance has been achieved through the ongoing development of self-service technology with (Tesco) citing the introduction of more advanced barcode look-up tables that are indexed on the most popular products sold in each store and improved standard deviation on the weight measured versus the weight expected of items.”


8 Comments | Read Has Tesco Figured Out How To Make All-Self-Checkout Work?

  1. ranga Says:

    I wonder how many people were interviewed for this survey. Everyone I talked to hated self check outs.

  2. Evan Schuman Says:

    Editor’s Note: One of the things we have seen is that self-checkout surveys show radically different consumer reactions based on geography, age and the nature of the store (HomeDepot’s self-checkout systems seem to be tolerated much better than a typical grocery store chain’s).
    There’s also the ever-present self-selected issue, which can dramatically skew results. For example, the Tesco stores in question are entirely self-checkout. Presumably, shoppers there have a better-than-average acceptance of such devices. So polling that store’s consumers might be misleading.
    The same issues happens with many self-checkout surveys. Such surveys are generally limited–understandably–to those consumers who are using self-checkout. This right away eliminates the many people who don’t like the idea.
    It’s akin to doing a presidential election survey where the population is limited to people who attended the rally of a particular candidate.

  3. Vicki Says:

    I didn’t think I would like the self-checkout but when shopping with my girls who loved to help, made it a family activity. It was fast and their was someone there to help if I needed it.

  4. David Rich Says:

    The issue here is “satisfied.” Just being “satisfied” is not good enough. “Satisfied” customers are not loyal customers. To group satisfied and very satisfied together can be misleading as there is a very big difference between satisfied and very satisfied.

  5. Robert Says:

    People adapt to change at different rates. Tesco’s US teams appear to have the necessary change management skills and have demonstrated coaching techniques with customers who are slower adapters … They have built their customers core capabilities as well as their enthusiasm for being able to demonstrate and knowledge share with other customers.

    Some people still use full-service gasoline fueling options; some people do not use banking machines our web-accounts to manage transactions. Others have embraced the change and manage exceptions.

  6. Dominick Says:

    There’s a big problem in that there is no mention in the story about who did the survey? What are we to make of that?

    Second, there is no data about Tesco’s internal survey. Self-report data is suspect enough, but not offering any methodology or other information on internal research is worse.

    As a person who has conducted hundreds of surveys, I know this from experience.

    Also, someone should mention that since Tesco’s Fresh & Easy stores all use self-checkout, it is hardly an unbias thing to report ones own internal research confirms what a retailer does.

    I am open to judging self checkout based on research. But there is nothing in the research reported in the article to make an informed judgement. Therefore, any assertion that Tesco has “figured out how to make self checkout work” can not be concluded from the story.

    If someone wants to find out who conducted this independent survey, and if Tesco wants to release a portion or all of its internal research, then we have a start.

    As it stands, this really looks like someone is attempting to merely garner PR for self-service checkout. There is no research here.

  7. Evan Schuman Says:

    Editor’s Note: I agree with Dominick’s point, as was noted in an earlier response to the one of the first comments on this story.
    Well, I agree to a certain extent. As we’ve pointed in the posting above (as well as in a more story on self-checkout:, the survey data is certainly suspect. No question about that.
    But it’s far from worthless. To be honest, it was an excuse to look a LITTLE BIT at how Tesco is managing its all-self-checkout stores. Some of the specifics there about fruit handling and whatnot struck me as potentially interesting.

  8. Dominick Says:

    Until we are able to read and analyze Tesco’s study which is pure self-report data, it is worthless.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally open to whatever the conclusions are. However, based on what I am reading thus far in the reports, there is no data.

    Evan, if you have a copy or summary of the report, would you please post it? That would be helpful to any and all.

    Tesco says it has no such study report or summary for public consumption, according to a spokesperson I emailed asking for it.

    Strange, isnt’t it? Thanks.


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