An examination of users and non-users of self-checkout counters
Self-service technologies (SSTs) or Technology based self service (TBSS) is increasingly adopted by many industries such as banking and financial (ATM and online banking), transportation (Ticketing machine), hotel (self check in and online booking), and retailing (online purchase, self-service checkout machines at grocery store, pay at pump) (Dean, 2008; Weijters and Rangarajan, 2007). The term TBSS was first mentioned in 1994 by Dabholkar, and defined the activity based on hard technology offered by service providers and participated by the customers (Anselmsson, 2001). The adoption of SST in grocery retailing primarily refers to self-scanning and self-checkout machines.
The benefits of self-service checkout machines might include cost cutting in store personnel, better cope with increased consumption demand, providing more consistent service and eliminating poor customer interaction at the counter (Dean, 2008). In return, customers also benefit from convenience, ubiquitous availability, time, and money savings, and a reduction in the anxiety caused by judgmental service representatives (Cunningham et al., 2008). However, recent research points out that if customers are forced to use TBSS, negative attitudes towards both the service provider and the service itself arise, and the negative effect could be offset to certain extent by previous positive experience of TBSS (Dabholkar et al, 2008).
Previous studies have focused on determinants of customer’s intention to adopt SST (Curran et al., 2003; Dabholkar & Bagozzi, 2000; Marzocchi & Zammit, 2006; and Meuter et al., 2005; Walker & Johnson, 2006), customer attitude toward the use of SST among age groups (Dean, 2008), customer awareness of level of SST usage and degree of liking (Dabholkar et al., 2003), the influence of technology anxiety created by using SST to consumer behavior (Mick & Fournier, 1998; Meuter et al., 2003), consequence of forcing the use of TBSS (Dabholkar et al., 2008), customer satisfaction (Meuter et al., 2000; Walker & Johnson, 2006; Weijters et al., 2007), customer loyalty (Selnes & Hansen, 2001), and retailers’ benefit from the rollout of SST (Bitner et al., 2002; Rosen, 2001; Weijters et al.2007). However from array of previous research, there are no specific studies conducted in exploring the connection between SST and co-creation, along with the retail branding.
The article by Weijters et al. (2007) shows that attributes such as perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, reliability and fun associated with using SST, show a highly significant impact on actual SST usage. The use of SST affected the perceived waiting time at the counter, which in turn was an important antecedent of customer satisfaction with the shopping trip. The usefulness or the view of benefit demonstrated the highest explanatory power on attitude. The demographic variables did seem to affect some of the relationships, especially customers’ education and gender whereas age does not moderate the attitude user relation. In an early stage of SST introduction, the customers with higher level of education, intrigued by newness perception, are more likely to adopt SST and in terms of gender. The authors also suggest that retail stores should focus on communicating the benefit, effectiveness and reliability of SST to increase SST usage and also draw up contingency plans if the machine broke down. Lastly, the overall customers flow through the store is not necessarily affected by the introduction of SST.
A comprehensive research focusing on customer-perceived service quality of TBSS concluded that both technique and customer characteristic factors help to achieve high TBSS quality, if correctly balanced between design, management and communication, etc. (Anselmsson, 2001). Although SST may help grocery retailers in a way of building a positive image and offering more options to customers, a longitudinal study, covering data from 2004 and 2007, revealed a disappointing conclusion that SST as a marketing tool cannot prove a significant relevance to customer loyalty (Andersson & Munch, 2007). However, a study conducted by Bendapudi and Leone (2003), has pointed out that by using SST consumers’ behavior is changed since consumers also become co- producers of the service, with responsibility for delivering the service and for their own satisfaction.
The innovation creates new service options, customer participation in service creation, and changes the service nature from human to human interaction to human to technology interaction. Meuter et al. (2005) have claimed that customers become co-producers from the utilization of SST; however their role in the production of service has not been clearly defined. Their paper suggested that in order to achieve a successful SST co-production, customers should be aware of what is expected of them, motivate to engage in behavior and receive the necessary knowledge and skills to carry out the activity.
The challenge for grocery retailers today is to set themselves apart from their competitors, since price, assortments, location are not as important as they once were (Bernhard et al., 2007). The attention is drawn toward retail branding, according to Srivastava et al. (2001), brands are one of the firm’s most valuable assets. Retail branding is deemed important to influence customer perception and it motivates store choice and loyalty (Ailawadi & Keller, 2004; Hartman & Spiro, 2005). There are many components that build store image including service quality. According to Sweeney et al. (1997), service quality influenced customers’ willingness to purchase more than the perception of the product quality. A study by Berhard et al. (2007) 6 concluded that service, accounted for store personal and SST, in grocery retailers has the most significant influence on retail brand equity, when compared with other retailer attributes such as value/price, assortment, advertising, and store design.
Creating a positive shopping experience through store environment also contributes to store image. The store environment affects customers in terms of encouraging them to spend longer time and purchase more in store, as well as revisit the store, visit the store more often, recommend the store to their network and become loyal to the store (McGoldrick, 2002). According to Verhoef et al. (2009), an experience based business, including social environment, service interface, retail atmosphere, assortment, price, customer experiences in alternative channels and retail brand, does contribute to business growth. In their study SST was included under service interface and it also counted as part of in store shopping experience. SST is part of grocery retailers’ service and when the customer get involved in the production of service process by utilizing SST, customers have included SST in their shopping journey or shopping experience. It is interesting to see how retailers build a strong brand by encouraging such experience.