Supermarket shoppers using handheld scanners spend more, study finds

Sam Meadows
·2-min read
Supermarket shoppers spend more when they do it themselves - Bloomberg
Supermarket shoppers spend more when they do it themselves - Bloomberg

Shoppers spend more money when scanning their own items with a handheld scanner because they enjoy the experience and spend longer browsing, a study found.

Researchers at the University of Bath's School of Management found that consumers spent on average 12 per cent more when using one of the scanners compared to going through a traditional checkout.

They said that the devices give shoppers a sense of control which can lead to more impulsive, unplanned purchases.

Carl-Philip Ahlbom, from the university, said: "Essentially shoppers are spending more time touching products while they look for barcodes and that builds a greater sense of desire.

"People feel more impulsive and they start to enjoy their shopping trip and feel happier.”

Three studies, published in the Journal of Marketing, were carried out on 1,000 shoppers in Sweden who were asked what they planned to buy when they entered the store, which was compared to their receipts when they left.

The researchers also used eye-tracking technology and data-tracking techniques, which were replicated in two further laboratory studies involving around 1,200 people.

How Britain's grocers rose to the challenge of feeding the nation
How Britain's grocers rose to the challenge of feeding the nation

Professor Jens Nordfalt, also from the School of Management, said the results were “counter intuitive”.

"We expect our minds to control our actions but we consistently found that when you pick up a product and spend time touching it, your actions influence how you think,” he added.

"You have to pay more attention to the product and you start to think, feel and behave differently.”

However, retail expert Richard Lim, of Retail Economics, said the disparity could simply be down to the type of shoppers who use the scanners, who are more likely to be loyal to the store or to be doing a weekly shop as opposed to a quick top up.

Few people would pick up a scanner when they only plan on popping in to buy some milk, he said, whereas someone doing a big shop might be more likely to throw a few extras into their trolley.