THE SHOPPER'S TAKE ON TECH

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- If customers had their way, the chief benefit of supermarket technology would be lower product prices, followed by faster checkout lanes.Less than 43% of shoppers feel "very confident" that point-of-sale scanning systems at their supermarket are charging the correct price.Of those consumers whose supermarkets offer shop-at-home delivery services, 3.5% use the program at least once

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- If customers had their way, the chief benefit of supermarket technology would be lower product prices, followed by faster checkout lanes.

Less than 43% of shoppers feel "very confident" that point-of-sale scanning systems at their supermarket are charging the correct price.

Of those consumers whose supermarkets offer shop-at-home delivery services, 3.5% use the program at least once every other week,

and 8.4% use it once every other month.

The vast majority of consumers are satisfied with the diversity of payment options at their supermarket, but many still feel less than comfortable paying for groceries with anything other than cash or check.

Those were among the key findings of a nationwide technology survey of 1,000 supermarket customers sponsored by SN and conducted by America's Research Group here. Shoppers were contacted by telephone and asked for their impressions about a wide range of technology systems, including front-end scanning, electronic payment options, frequent shopper programs and shop-at-home services.

In the area of POS scanning, 98% of survey respondents said the supermarket they most often shop at uses scanners at the checkout.

When asked how confident they were that the scanners were charging the correct price, though, only 42.8% replied very confident, while almost half, 49.6%, said somewhat confident, and 7.6% said not confident.

Consumers surveyed were also asked to rate the speed at which products scan during the checkout process. The vast majority characterized the scanning process as either very quick with no problems, 40.6%, or quick with only occasional problems, 57.2%. Just 2.2% said their scanning system was slow and had frequent problems.

When asked whether customers would use self-service checkouts, if available, to scan, bag and pay for groceries via an automated process, more than one-third, 36.3%, said yes; 55.7% replied no, and 8.0% said they weren't sure.

In the realm of electronic payment options, the vast majority of consumers said they were satisfied with both the diversity of payment options at their supermarkets, 98.9%, and the speed and accuracy of the verification process, 97.4%.

Yet almost two-thirds, 62.0%, reported being uncomfortable using credit, debit and charge cards to pay for supermarket purchases. When asked why, 8.7% said they feared fraud, while 91.3% cited a preference still to pay by cash or check.

Of those consumers who said they do use credit, debit or charge cards at least occasionally at the supermarket, 9.2% said they do so on more than 75% of their supermarket shopping trips; 14.8% on 51% to 75% of their shopping trips; 26.9% on 26% to 50% of their trips; 28.8% on 11% to 25% of their trips, and 20.3% less than 10% of the time.

When asked about frequent shopper programs, a majority of consumers, 52.3%, whose stores offered a reward program characterized it as moderately effective in influencing their product purchasing behavior, while 19.4% said the program was highly effective.

The vast majority, though, said frequent shopper programs had no effect in determining which supermarket they shopped in. Only 3.2% said they had changed where they shop as a result of a loyalty program.

With regard to home shopping services, 14.3% of those interviewed said their supermarket offers some form of the service, involving computer, fax or telephone, while 64.3% said their store didn't, and nearly one-fourth, 21.4%, said they weren't sure.

Of those surveyed whose supermarket does feature a shop-at-home service, the vast majority, 88.1%, said they never use the program, while 8.4% use it once every month or two. Another 2.1% use shop-at-home services once every other week, and 1.4% use it once a week or more.

In addition, 88.2% of customers surveyed who use home shopping programs said the service meets their expectations, while 11.8% said it exceeded their expectations.

In terms of cashing in on the potential benefits of technology in supermarkets, more than half of consumers surveyed, 50.8%, said what they wanted most was lower product prices, followed by faster checkout, 27.3%; more accurate pricing, 9.8%; a more pleasant and appealing supermarket shopping environment, 6.3%; a safer shopping environment, 4.1%, and miscellaneous, 1.7%

The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3%

A BENEFITS PACKAGE

Consumers overwhelmingly cited lower product prices as the top benefit they wanted from supermarkets implementing new technologies.

If advanced technology could improve your shopping experience, what would be most important to you?

Percentage of Respondents

Lower Prices 50.8%

Faster Checkout 27.3%

Improved Pricing Accuracy 9.8%

More Pleasant and Appealing Shopping Environment 6.3%

Safer Shopper Environment 4.1%

SHOPPING AT HOME

Shop-at-home programs are becoming more prevalent, but most consumers have still never used the service.

If your store offers a shop-at-home service, how often do you use it?

Percentage of Respondents

Frequency of Use

Once a Week or More 1.4%

Once Every Other Week 2.1%

Once Every Month or Two 8.4%

Never 88.1%

Scanning Confidence

While just under 43% of consumers said they were very confident in the price accuracy of scanning systems, nearly 50% said they were only somewhat confident.

How confident are you that store scanners are charging you the correct prices?

Confidence Level in Scanning Accuracy

Percentage of respondents

Very Confident 42.8%

Somewhat Confident 49.6%

Not Confident 7.6%