Are Millennials building a self-service nation?

Discussion
May 04, 2015

With their technological savvy and comfort with mobile devices, Millennials appear to want significantly more self-serve options at retail than older generations, according to a pair of recent surveys.

The first from location-based mobile platform Retale explored self-checkouts and was based on a survey of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers. Among the findings:

  • Twenty percent of Millennials versus 12 percent of overall respondents "don’t like interacting with cashiers";
  • Twenty-six of Millennials versus 16 percent for those over 34 want to be able to pay at self-service kiosks using mobile devices.

Nearly half of all respondents (49 percent) would like to see more kiosks at every retail location to help streamline the checkout process. Asked which retailers should add more self-service kiosks, 49 percent picked mass merchandisers, followed by supermarkets (46 percent), drug stores (42 percent), convenience stores (27 percent), and department stores (24 percent).

Pat Dermody, president of Retale, said Millennials are driving demand for more automation and innovation throughout the checkout experience, via integrations with smartphones and other mobile devices. He added, "This will add to the convenience factor that already appears to be key to the experience."

Millennials and self service

Photo: Urban Outfitters

A separate study around customer service from Aspect Software and The Center for Generational Kinetics based on a survey of 1050 U.S. consumers found that 65 percent of all consumers and 69 percent of Millennials felt good about themselves and the company they are doing business with when they resolve a problem without talking to customer service.

The group that was most comfortable with solving an issue themselves was Millennial females, at over 70 percent. The researchers wrote in the study, "This finding is particularly important to pay attention to because female Millennials also happen to be ‘oversized influencers,’ given their use of technology, tight social networks and eventual role as key decision makers within their household spending."

The study likewise found many instances where Millennials favored tech over human solutions:

  • Forty percent of Millennials would prefer purely online customer service, double the percentage of Boomers;
  • Forty-one percent of Millennials would be "truly satisfied" if they could use text messaging or SMS to connect with companies and organizations, almost double the percentage of Boomers;
  • Forty-seven percent of Millennials regularly use their smartphone to pay for things, more than three times the rate of Boomers.

 

How do you see Millennials’ affinity for technology and mobility changing self-service checkouts and other self-serve options across retail? Do you think increased self-service options would be a plus or minus for the retail experience?

Braintrust
"One reason Millennials might like self-service checkouts is the dearth of customer service representatives on many store floors. There is nothing like finding something you want to buy and then wandering around a department store looking for someone willing to take your money."
"Millennials only communicate with each other through the "machines" as Bill O’Reilly calls them. What do we expect when it comes to impersonal retail interactions? With three Millennials of my own posing as my children in their online presences (the only way I see/talk to them these days it seems), I have ample first-hand knowledge of their preferences in this arena."

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17 Comments on "Are Millennials building a self-service nation?"


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Steve Montgomery
Guest
3 years 16 days ago
One reason Millennials might like self-service checkouts is the dearth of customer service representatives on many store floors. There is nothing like finding something you want to buy and then wandering around a department store looking for someone willing to take your money. Of course many retailers will lower the number of people waiting on customers the more people that use self-checkout. Slowly but surely we have become a self-serve nation. Retailers have transferred many of the functions that used to be handled by their staff to the customers. This includes QSRs going from full serve coffee and fountain drinks to giving the customers a cup and “allowing” them to do it themselves. Frankly, when payment kiosks opened at places such as Home Depot, I resisted. However I found that I liked not having to wait in line for the customers who managed to pick up un-priced items to have their sales recorded and pay. The checkout process is the last part of the shopping experience and whatever a retailer can do to make it… Read more »
Mohamed Amer
Guest
3 years 16 days ago
The real nugget here is that many consumers (Millennials or not) would rather interact with a machine than with a retail store associate. The culprit here is a combination of the service component necessary in retail (which is a true differentiator when done right) and the advances in technology that empower consumers with basic and comparative product information. This situation requires a different set of value-adds from the store associates or can be as simple as being able to quickly answer, “do you carry product XYZ?” or “where do I find it?” (assuming you can find a store associate). As to checkouts, the entire process including payments will undergo complete transformation over the next five to 10 years. Situations such as grocery store checkouts have to change: little is more frustrating than walking the aisles and collecting what you want to buy, only to then stand and stare in a long line with other people so you can give someone your money. That design bottleneck cannot be part of the future solution. For the consumer,… Read more »
Ben Ball
Guest
3 years 16 days ago

Millennials only communicate with each other through the “machines” as Bill O’Reilly calls them. What do we expect when it comes to impersonal retail interactions?

With three Millennials of my own posing as my children in their online presences (the only way I see/talk to them these days it seems), I have ample first-hand knowledge of their preferences in this arena. And let’s face it — they never knew the friendly neighborhood grocer or the tailor by their proper names like we Boomers did growing up.

This is no surprise. The only question is when/if the pendulum will swing back.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
3 years 16 days ago

In some formats this is already a done deal. My CVS has four self-serve checkouts and only one person behind a checkout counter, and there’s no blowback from customers.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
3 years 16 days ago

I think self-service checkouts are already getting a second chance thanks to younger people feeling more comfortable with technology. I expect a retail movement toward the continuation of self-service options as more and more store formats adopt self-service technologies. Too many retailers have done a great job with this, and more need to come on board. Self-service offers more choice and control for shoppers, so this benefits all stakeholders.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
3 years 16 days ago

I have reported in the past that at my nearby Home Depot customers will choose the self-service checkout even when there are up to four manned checkouts with no one in line. I have even seen customers wait for the self-service when manned checkouts were available. And I assure you, these were not Millennials.

A few weeks ago I was in Baltimore and stopped by a CVS. There were no manned checkouts, just self-service. It didn’t seem to be a problem, everyone seemed to be able to check out just fine. Again, not a Millennial to be seen.

To me, both instances would suggest it is a plus for the retail experience.

Shep Hyken
Guest
3 years 16 days ago

Self-service customer service is coming on strong. While Millennials may be more comfortable with self-service options, it is becoming a good way to get customers information that they need as well as streamline the retail (online and onsite) process. The benefit is convenience. The drawback is a missed opportunity for the “human connection,” which builds stronger relationships. Companies that invest in this type of technology should also invest in ways to build and maintain the personal connection with their customers.

Rocky Longworth
Guest
Rocky Longworth
3 years 16 days ago

65 percent of all consumers (four points higher for Millennials) feel good about themselves and the company when they resolve issues without talking to customer service, are Millennials driving this particular point?

It’s also important to separate customer service issues from problems with store checkout, two entirely different aspects of retail. To Steve’s point, innovation will continue to push retailers to “smart” technology designed to improve the overall in-store experience.

I don’t think anyone would question that Millennials are more comfortable using technology for a variety of applications. But the inverse of the checkout point is that 80 percent of Millennials apparently like interacting with cashiers.

The question is, how will technology impact the retail experience to benefit shoppers regardless of their life stage? Especially today, the only constant in retailing is change, whether driven by technology or Millennials.

Tom Redd
Guest
3 years 16 days ago
This is an early phase in the Millennial pattern of infatuation with toys. My read is that there are some aspects of self-service that fit all generations, just that adoption is slower for the Boomers. Redbox is an example. Self-service checkout is another. Soon the Millennial will realize that there is more value in human interaction in their lives vs. pre-programmed input/respond/act self-serve sequences. Millennials just think that they are so busy that people cannot serve them fast enough…this is a age and infatuation with toys issue. Down the road they will see that co-human ideas and advice has more value then the supposed time that they save. This is why they read so many reviews of products and services when they shop online. The need is there, it is just that the retailers and still in the re-spin of their service associates training. They are stuck with training the Millennial to serve the Millennial in face to face dialog…oh, wow! 2 mills talking and not texting as they talk? A shock. Soon this splurge… Read more »
Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
3 years 16 days ago

Sure, self service checkouts will increase in number and be a plus for the consumer as well as the retailer. But there is a negative as there always is. Self service means fewer employees needed at the checkout aisles. Fewer employees mean more unemployment as those people look to replace the lost income. So, what is good for us could mean an overall problem for the economy.

Lee Kent
Guest
3 years 16 days ago

Let’s set aside the self-service checkouts for a minute. I think that one has been covered. I am much more interested in self-service customer service and I think I have a slightly different take.

Is it really because they don’t want to interact with a person? Methinks not. I believe they simple are saying that they want to be given enough information or have enough transparency to solve their own issues. Why? Because they want to do it in their own time and in their own way.

Plus they want to know how things work. If a feature isn’t working properly, is it a known error? Is there a work-around? How do I do what I need to do and please do make me figure out what the non-English speaking customer service rep is trying to say. It simply takes too much time!

And that’s my 2 cents.

Martin Mehalchin
Guest
3 years 16 days ago

We found the Aspect survey to be very interesting and we wrote about it last week. It’s clear that Millennials seek out and appreciate ease, simplicity and speed in a customer experience. This convergence of trends and technology is forcing retailers to up their game and is a good thing for the industry.

Vahe Katros
Guest
3 years 16 days ago

The highest picks for self serve were at formats involving high volumes/low involvement items. The lowest picks were for quick trips (convenience stores), or higher involvement (department stores).

I think this is just common sense and having higher or informed expectations—this is not just a millennial thing.

But as for expectations, Millennials are literally building a self service life—just check out all the recipes on IFTTT (If This Then That.)

IFTTT sets some pretty high expectations.

Chris Petersen, PhD.
Guest
3 years 16 days ago

It was very interesting to see the comments on this article versus those on our recent post questioning “why do retailers still have cash registers?”

Many argued that checkout lanes still serve a valuable security and upsell function … and would be with us for a long time in retail.

This research with Millennials clearly shows an emerging pattern for self service, at least at point of checkout. But perhaps the most important stat is that 41% of Millennials would “truly satisfied” to connect with companies by text and SMS.

The data seem to indicate a growing preference for self service for mundane tasks like checkout. The smart retailers would be wise to redeploy labor in ways to enhance the consumer experience that generates interest and motivates consumers to purchase.

Roger Saunders
Guest
3 years 16 days ago
Millennials are more comfortable and expect a higher level of ease in navigating mobile websites of retailers, to be sure. It is important, however, to recognize that consumers of all ages can rattle off at least 20 reasons as to why they choose a particular retailer most often. Based on the Prosper Monthly Consumer Survey, when Adults 18+ compared to Married Millennials are shopping for Women’s Clothing, the top reasons for shopping Macy’s for Clothing among Adults, 18+ is Selection, Price, Quality, Location, Brands, Coupons/Special Offers, New Styles, In-Store Experience, Trustworthy Retailer, Service Among Married Millennials, the leading reasons in order are Selection, Quality, Price, Location, Brands, Coupons/Special Offers, Trustworthy Retailer, New Styles, Service Among both groups, a website that is easy to navigate holds solid importance 10.9% of Adults, 18+ are looking for Ease and 6.9% are seeking convenience from the websites. Among the Married Millennials, the figures are Ease (10%) and Convenience (8.6%). Take care of the most important items first. Bring along the technology. The Millennials, as well as other generations, will… Read more »
Peter Charness
Guest
3 years 16 days ago

It’s a necessity. It’s not just the convenience and the technology aspects, it’s also the time savings, and the self reliance with the ability to learn more about an item than the store associate in very short order.

Kai Clarke
Guest
3 years 13 days ago

There is no question that Millennials are part of the driving force of omnichannel marketing and that the online marketplace is their retail preference. How this interprets into self-service options compared to traditional retailing is still something which has yet to be clarified, but the growth in self-service checkouts are clearly apparent as more retailers embrace this concept, and save the expenses which this affords the retailer as well.

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Braintrust
"One reason Millennials might like self-service checkouts is the dearth of customer service representatives on many store floors. There is nothing like finding something you want to buy and then wandering around a department store looking for someone willing to take your money."
"Millennials only communicate with each other through the "machines" as Bill O’Reilly calls them. What do we expect when it comes to impersonal retail interactions? With three Millennials of my own posing as my children in their online presences (the only way I see/talk to them these days it seems), I have ample first-hand knowledge of their preferences in this arena."

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