Trends and innovation in retail check-out
Although for decades and decades it has been a minor issue in the retail sector, the check-out process has become the new battleground for retail operations to engage and retain customers. This is part of the ongoing need to improve the customer experience in the physical shop and of course in the digital store.
Long lines, coldness in customer service, lack of input, or the feeling that the counter is alien to the idea of the shop, are the enemies that must be fought, because they result in lost sales and revenue.
Getting the retail checkout process right is very important, because as well as being the biggest ‘pain’ point when shopping in-store, the retail checkout experience is also the last point of contact a shopper has with your retail shop before they leave. Therefore, giving customers a great last impression is the main goal.
From self-checkout to cashier-free
Countless brands and retailers are improving the payment process by leaps and bounds. Relying on elements ranging from self-checkout kiosks to mobile point-of-sale systems or even the elimination of ‘physical’ payment altogether.
What are customers looking for in the payment process?
Depending on the size of the business and its target audience, retail payment processes differ, but they share the same characteristics: security and hygiene, speed and convenience, innovative technology and an experience that is total and complete, seamless and seamless when leaving the shop.
The changes and trends in check-out, in facts and figures
Surveys are often the best thermometer for gauging consumer opinion. With them, we can find out what they think about many issues that affect retailing. In this case, they are very interesting to see the acceptance/disapproval landscape and options for change at the checkout.
For example, a recent consumer survey revealed that 15% of shoppers leave a convenience store and abandon their purchase after one minute of waiting in line. This, while not equally applicable to fashion, electronics, etc., does give us an idea that, especially among younger shoppers, there is a demand for a more efficient and technological experience. In this respect, when asked which aspects of the shopping experience they valued most, 83% of Internet users surveyed last year by iVend Retail indicated quick and easy payment.
In terms of technology, Wirecard conducted another survey in which the majority of respondents (7 out of 10) were interested in using scanning to be able to buy products without the need for someone at the checkout, and 61% were interested in the idea of unmanned shops.
According to Bizrate Insights, almost half (47%) of its respondents say they use self-service payments regularly, with millennials most likely to use self-service checkouts regularly, along with Generation X (46%) and boomers (39%).
On the other hand, Shopify’s Future of Retail in 2021 report is blunt: the future of retail is contactless.
62% of shoppers prefer to make in-store purchases with digital or contactless payments.
And it all adds up to the following insight: while 61% of shoppers would prefer to shop with brands that also have a physical location rather than online-only brands, more than 70% of consumers surveyed said that the payment experience is their biggest weakness
Tips and tricks to improve check-out
It’s time to get to know some of the established and emerging trends to improve the check-out counter in retail. They are:
- Invest in accessories or materials that promote health and safety, such as antimicrobial counter mats, which is crucial after the Covid-19 pandemic.
- “State your intentions“, show your brand personality, to better connect with the customer just before payment. For example, by making the shop’s slogan highly visible on the wall behind the counter. It is about using this space to communicate, to show your personality, history, objectives…
- Encourage impulse purchases in the checkout area. It’s so effective that a survey by CreditCards.com confirmed that “84 per cent of respondents said they had made an impulse purchase at some point in a physical shop, and 77 per cent in the last three months”. In this regard, the best impulse buys are small, simple items such as gift cards, accessories, practical items, etc.
- Go for turning your counter into something artistic, giving free rein to creativity at the checkout. This is in line with the big trend for innovative design in shop windows and shop fronts.
- Even at the checkout, it is possible to digitally search for the products to be purchased using tablets.
- A TV screen behind the counter can be very useful to broadcast the latest designs, offers, products, etc.
- It is essential to invest in good lighting, in line with the rest of the shop design.
- POS solutions at the point of sale enhance the appearance of the checkout counter.
- It is one of the best places to display inspirational messages and to convey your commitment to sustainability. In short, to showcase your brand values, how the shop contributes to CSR, etc.
- It encourages customers to use social media, as it is a fundamental element of retailer marketing.
- An easy and simple way to show that you are “IN” is to add a seasonal touch, for example by decorating in a special way for Halloween, Valentine’s Day…
- Choose the right location, where it doesn’t obstruct the flow of traffic as customers browse your shop. Ideally, it should be easy to find but not be the central focus of the shop.
Adapting retail to consumers and their changing behaviours
Adapting retail to changing consumer behaviour is undoubtedly about technology. We are talking about the implementation of contactless, paperless payments and POS systems as starting points for any business.
Starting with self-checkout zones. PYMNTS reported that consumers prefer unattended retail channels because they like to shop at their own pace, because self-payment is often faster and lines are shorter. This is the case with McDonald’s, which gives customers the option of ordering the old-fashioned way or through large self-service touch-screen kiosks located near its traditional checkout lines.
Then there is mobile payment. Software that can transform smartphones and tablets into a POS, without the need for a stationary checkout area, dispersing concentrated queues and helping employees deliver a more informed and personalised customer experience, is now in full swing.
Another option that has gained a lot of traction is the showroom, i.e. shops with very low inventory where customers come in to see the merchandise and get a real, physical feel for the product, but then order online. It is the consummation of the phygital world, and although much of the traditional sector is not convinced, this trend is here to stay.
And then there is the opposite case. The omni-channel retail strategy that has gained the most momentum in the pandemic is buy online and collect in-store or at an assigned point.
And in terms of payments, leaving aside contactless and other common methods, what has been catapulted in recent times has been the QR code, allowing mobile purchases from physical shops, consulting information, etc.
For retailers, it is time to face the present and the future by improving everything related to the payment process. To do this, we must focus on a customer experience at checkout that is optimised, agile, fast and that transmits a good vibe. There are a number of things we can do to make this happen, but it all starts with studying and understanding customer reactions and evaluating the results.
At the same time, it is especially important to use technology to adapt to customer behaviour and improve the checkout experience, making the simple payment for the product a part of the shopping experience.