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Guess What—Consumers Like RFID

A new study says consumers would embrace self-service checkout systems using RFID.
Posted By Mark Roberti, 02.21.2007
A new survey by TNS Canadian Facts finds that most Canadian consumers would continue to use their usual store if cashiers were replaced by self-serve checkouts using radio frequency identification technology. Fully two thirds of the shoppers questioned said they would be happy to scan their own grocery products if RFID microchip transmitters were embedded within the packaging.

The study also shows that the majority (56 percent) would use an RFID checkout lane as their preferred method of paying for goods if such technology were available. "Online consumers, en masse, are attracted to the next evolution in the grocery store experience—RFID-enabled checkout lanes," says Jennifer Bylok, research director at TNS Canadian Facts and author of the study. "Canadians are increasingly pressed for time, and they appear eager to accept innovations that will free them up to focus on more important priorities than mundane tasks like grocery shopping."

Less than half of the consumers mentioned security, privacy or safety as issues of concern regarding RFID, while three quarters feared the cost involved in implementing RFID would be passed on to consumers, and 70 percent worried that the technology might not work properly—a big concern back when bar codes where introduced in grocery stores. (For a full report on the study, see Canadian Internet Users Enthusiastic About RFID in Grocery Stores.)

This highlights one of the big ironies of the consumer debate over RFID: Consumer advocates may hate RFID, but consumers love it. Wherever RFID has been rolled out in a consumer setting—toll collection systems, contactless payments and so on—consumers have overwhelmingly embraced the technology because of the benefits they receive. This study shows that people will embrace RFID in a retail setting, provided their privacy is protected.

There's no doubt in my mind that consumers will embrace RFID if retailers implement it responsibly—and retailers would be foolish not to implement it responsibly. It's hard to get away with anything in this age of instant communication. Any company caught collecting data or tracking customers without permission would likely to severely punished by the media, Internet bloggers and their customers.

For more information on the survey results, see Survey Indicates Canadians Eager for RFID in Grocery Stores.

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