70% of smartphone users report an interest in trying checkout-free shopping

Published on 20/06/2022 by David Jani

Is checkout-free shopping the next big thing in the world of retail management? Technology is making the in-store experience faster and more convenient every day. However, the scale at which innovations like this enter day-to-day life depends heavily on public acceptance and adoption.

A selection of customers using a checkout-free shopping system

Checkout-less stores represent a potentially huge cultural shift in how consumers buy their food, drink, and other groceries at big and small supermarkets. However, following on from the rise of new shopping trends such as self-service checkouts, will checkout-less shopping be the next to catch on or will it fail to draw any interest from the public?

We’ve investigated just how the public feels about checkout-free shopping. To achieve this, we surveyed 999 adults in the UK who own smartphones and live in urban and suburban areas to see what they think of this new trend.

Our full methodology can be found at the bottom of the page. 

Unexpected item in bagging area? How does checkout-free shopping work

Over the last two years brands such as Amazon, Tesco and Aldi have all experimented with checkout-less supermarkets in the UK. These allow consumers to make purchases without having to check out items at a till before leaving.

The consumer only needs to follow these steps:

Before entering the supermarket:
– Download an app for the service
– Choose a bank account or card for billing
– Receive a unique QR code, which can be scanned to enter the shop

After entering the supermarket:
– Browse and pick up items to be purchased
– Leave the store

There is no requirement to visit a checkout cashier or self-scan till before leaving a supermarket. Instead, the automated system uses cameras and shelf sensors to calculate what you’ve picked up. After leaving the store you should then receive an electronic receipt for your items.    

Is there public interest in checkout-less shopping?

A big question mark hanging over the rise of checkout-free technology in stores is whether the public would actually use them if they were available to them.

New retail POS systems sometimes encounter resistance and confusion among consumers due to unfamiliarity. Just ask anyone who remembers when self-scan checkouts were introduced or who has seen the recent backlash they have provoked from some shoppers. 

However, there didn’t seem to be a lack of awareness of the concept of checkout-less shops amongst the UK public we surveyed. A large proportion of our sample had at least heard of the idea.

66% of our group had read or heard about the implementation of checkout-free stores, whilst 9% had seen a shop like this locally and 6% had actually tried them out for themselves. Only 20% of the smartphone owners we asked had never heard of checkout-less shopping at all. 

This knowledge of checkout-free shopping was also backed up by a curiosity about trying the new technology first-hand. In total, a combined 70% of our sample expressed some interest in trying it out, with 32% indicating they were “very interested” in experiencing it for themselves.

Graphic of consumer interest in checkout-less stores

There also seems to be an interest in using checkout-free supermarkets on a regular basis. Almost a third (32%) of those that were interested in using checkout-less shops said they would use them for almost all of their shopping if they were widely available.

Another 30% reported they would use them occasionally, whilst another 28% said they would use checkout-less shops for about half of their groceries. 

This appears to demonstrate there is little reluctance for consumers to use checkout-free shops, as long as they are easily accessible.

Are consumers willing to adapt to checkout-less shopping?

A major prerequisite for using a checkout-free shop is having a suitable app installed to register entry to the store and invoice your purchases. 

Statista estimates that, as of 2021, there were around 53.38 million smartphone users in the UK and usage statistics are as high as 99% among those aged under 35. It is therefore increasingly more likely than not that consumers nationwide have the capacity to use a checkout-less store.

Yet, does this mean that smartphone users are necessarily willing to install the software needed to go checkout-less shopping?

Overall, we found the answer was mostly yes. 

Around half of our survey sample who expressed an interest in this new technology said they would feel “very” comfortable downloading a checkout-less shopping app. This rises to a combined 83% when also taking into account consumers that were “somewhat” comfortable downloading a store app. 

Graphic displaying consumer comfort installing checkout-less shopping software

This comfort in using a smartphone to shop was further reflected when we asked our participants about how comfortable they felt using their device in-store for various tasks.  

Graphic showing levels of comfort when using smartphones for a number of shopping tasks

We observed that an overall majority of consumers in our survey who were interested in checkout-less shopping felt comfortable in performing tasks such as scanning products with a phone camera, using mobile internet to shop, and scanning QR codes with their device.

This goes to show that much of the smartphone-using population is ready and willing to use the functionalities necessary for these shops to function as intended.

What are the benefits of checkout-less shopping?

There are many reasons that checkout-less shopping could prove a hit with the public. Not least due to one of its biggest promises: eliminating queues

Our survey respondents, when asked what would be the most important advantage to them when considering a checkout-free shop, highlighted a number of features:

Graphic showing the top advantages of checkout-free stores for consumers

However, it’s worth noting that a sizeable portion (9%) indicated that a major advantage when choosing a store was an agreement not to track information. This suggests that some users could be tempted to shop at sites where this feature is advertised.

Where would the public like to try out checkout-less shopping?

We’ve already seen that there is an interest in checkout-less shops as well as a high level of comfort in using many of the technological tools needed to fully participate in checkout-free shopping.

However, do people really feel comfortable with the realities of checkout-less shops in practice? 

Our survey respondents had very clear preferences on where they would like to see checkout-less shopping in use. When asked to pick up to 3 store types where they would most like to shop checkout-free, these were the top 3 selections our participants made: 

  • Supermarkets – 36%
  • Corner shops – 18%
  • Clothes shops – 17%

There appears to be a clear desire to see checkout-less supermarkets and grocery shops amongst our sample. 

Considering food purchases are essential and it has been estimated that British adults spend around 37 minutes a week (or approximately 4 days per year) in supermarkets it is little surprise that this topped the list.

However, other popular choices included locations like clothing shops, department shops and book shops. Other suggestions also mentioned, but not included in our list of choices, were sites such as petrol forecourts and electronics shops. 

Are there any concerns associated with checkout-less shopping?

Whilst we can see there is enthusiasm for certain parts of the checkout-less shopping experience, there are also reasons that the public may be wary of trusting it. 

New technology can bring with it uncertainty and with that worries about its use. That could be the case with checkout-less shopping too. 

In the following sections, we’ve looked at some of these possible concerns to see if they would represent a major stumbling block for this new technology.

Do consumers feel comfortable sharing banking information with checkout-less shops?

To use a checkout-less shop customers need to download an app and allow it to connect to a bank card or account. However, as always, sharing sensitive information such as banking data can cause worries for consumers.

There have been notable data breaches affecting retailers over the years in the UK, including cases when credit card and bank details have been compromised. This could make the public less willing to share essential details to allow checkout-free shops to work.

So was there a reluctance to allow an app to connect to a checkout-less store app amongst our survey sample? 

On the whole, we found that most of our participants were comfortable with letting checkout-less shop apps connect to a bank account. A combined 54% of those who noted an interest in checkout-less shopping said they were very comfortable or somewhat comfortable with this.

What can be seen from these findings is that there was broadly a 50/50 split between consumers who were comfortable or uncomfortable connecting their bank to a checkout-less shopping app.

Is the public worried about their data being collected?

Another concern that could affect public usage of checkout-less apps was the tracking and collection of consumer personal data in general. 

Whilst before we saw a general tolerance of allowing a bank to connect to checkout-less apps, we observed a slightly different picture when it came to user data and purchase history.

Graphic showing public levels of concern about data being collected and tracked by checkout-less store apps

Consumers seemed more reluctant on the whole about the issue of user data and purchase history being tracked by stores. There was a higher level of concern overall with a collective 48% showing the highest levels of doubt.

Whilst this could seem to represent a setback for would-be checkout-less store adopters, technology that could represent even bigger concerns for privacy-minded consumers was not regarded as a problem.  

When asked how comfortable participants would be about checkout-free stores using facial recognition software to confirm a person’s identity or age, a combined 55% indicated they would be “very” or “somewhat” comfortable if it was in use. 

What puts the public off checkout-less shopping the most?

We’ve seen there is plenty to be positive about when it comes to checkout-less shopping up to now. However, despite being popular, there are many reasons that shopping checkout-free could prove problematic to adapt to even amongst those that are enthusiastic about its introduction.

When we asked participants what they considered to be the biggest difficulties for newcomers to checkout-free stores, a number of issues were highlighted.

Graphic detailing the biggest difficulties for using checkout-less shops

The biggest challenge our group expected new customers would face was trusting the billing technology. However, other issues such as a lack of staff to ask for help were also major concerns. 

These worries were also shared amongst our sample itself. When asked to identify their biggest concerns about checkout-free shops, respondents said that the biggest worry was being overcharged, which was selected by 13%. 

Other commonly selected options included smartphone malfunctions and technical difficulties whilst using store apps, which were both chosen by 11% of our participants respectively. Another 10% worried they could have their data hacked. 

Key takeaways 

Checkout-less shopping is still in its infancy but it represents a potentially huge shift in how the British public does its shopping. 

In our survey, we found that the following opinions exist amongst the smartphone-using public in our sample: 

  • Most consumers had at the very least heard of checkout-less shopping.
  • 70% of our sample had an interest in trying checkout-free shopping for themselves.
  • Smartphone users are broadly comfortable with the technology and banking permissions needed to facilitate checkout-less shops.
  • Customers have some concerns about the collection of user and tracking data when using checkout-less shops.
  • Consumers’ biggest worries for checkout-less shopping are related to faults in the software, bill miscalculations, and potential job losses for staff members.
Looking for retail management software? Check out our catalogue. 

Methodology

Data for GetApp’s Go Shopping survey was collected in April 2022. Results comprise responses from 999 UK participants. The criteria to be selected for this study are as follows:

  • UK resident
  • Aged over 18 years old
  • Shops for groceries at least once a month
  • Living in an urban or suburban area
  • Owns a smartphone

This article may refer to products, programs or services that are not available in your country, or that may be restricted under the laws or regulations of your country. We suggest that you consult the software provider directly for information regarding product availability and compliance with local laws.


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About the author

Content Analyst for the UK, providing key insights into tech, software and business trends for SMEs. Cardiff University graduate, travel enthusiast, keen home chef and F1 fan.

Content Analyst for the UK, providing key insights into tech, software and business trends for SMEs. Cardiff University graduate, travel enthusiast, keen home chef and F1 fan.