Bring-It-To-Me Vs Self Service: Is Eliminating The Line The Real Secret?

The economy of convenience has arrived, and is here to stay.  This emergent reality is made clear by the latest edition of the PYMNTS/Fiserv The Bring-It-To-Me Economy survey, which reflects a whole new world of commerce for a population that’s habituated to food and goods magically arriving at their doorstep on demand.

“Home delivery has become so ubiquitous in the U.S. that consumers no longer see it as a differentiator but as a necessity,” the study reports, as the latest data demonstrates that 91 percent of all consumers in the U.S. made at least one purchase on Amazon in the past year, 70 percent have made a purchase on at least one other major digital marketplace, and 52 percent tapped into online retail delivery aggregators such as Instacart and Walmart’s InHome service.

The study finds that “the most common factor that consumers now say will encourage them to shop with more brick-and-mortar retailers is to not have to go into stores at all; they want in-store pickup and curbside delivery options to help them avoid having to shop in person,” with 44 percent of consumers favoring in-store pickup options for online orders, and 42 percent saying that “curbside pickup options would do the same.”

It’s a robust and full-throated endorsement of digitizing even their physical shopping habits and serves as an interesting contrast with consumers’ far more sluggish adoption of self-service checkout options, which forthcoming PYMNTS/ Toshiba data demonstrates consumers have access to some 60 percent of the time when they shop, but utilize rather rarely.  It’s not that consumers aren’t interested in self-service checkout tech — they just aren’t interested in its current instantiation and want to use newer, innovative checkout options.  Self service done right, the data shows, is more than checking out.  Shoppers want a digital experience that is more eCommerce-like, and self service more broadly offered and defined as checking out without assistance.

The Self-Service Slack: Why Consumers Are And Aren’t Using It 

When it comes to access to self-service options, consumers don’t lack it at nearly two-thirds of all physical retailers, according to the data. But they don’t use it all that often — according to PYMNTS data, two-thirds of customers check out in a store with an employee at a register, i.e. the traditional way, while less than a third (27.5 percent) report using a self-service checkout option.

Most commonly that was driven by necessity, as self-checkout tech is not evenly distributed across retail.  The most common reason consumers opted for traditional retail checkout was that it was the only option available.  But habituation also represented a strong share of responses, with 37 percent of consumers reporting using traditional checkout because they always have in the past.  That habit-driven behavior, the data also shows, is highly generational in nature, with baby boomers and seniors reporting “what they’ve always done” reasoning 44 percent of the time to millennials and Gen Z members’ 26 percent.

A large share of consumers, 35 percent according to the data, additionally report that they stick with traditional checkout methods because they are actually faster than their self-service counterparts.  That compares with the roughly two-thirds of customers who report using self service because it is fast, and the nearly half that report a preference because they want to skip waiting in line.

Optimizing Self Checkout To Consumer Wants

What the PYMNTS/Toshiba data demonstrates is that when it comes to self checkout, actually checking themselves out isn’t the feature the majority of consumers most care about — but the ability to skip the line.  The booming Bring-It-To-Me Economy provides for that want by delivering goods directly to consumers’ doors or car back seats — no waiting in line required.

The data also begs the questions: Is it the standing in line aspect of self checkout that innovators need to solve for when it comes to reforming the in-store shopping experience? Does the innovation of the checkout line mean elimination?  Consumers’ message seems to be that the single central point at the front of the store where the line forms is the problem — and what they want is to check out as they would when they are shopping online, wherever they happen to be, by clicking a button.


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