Improving Your Customers’ Checkout Experience
It seems like everyone wants to talk about the next big thing in retail. RFID, virtual reality and beacons are just a few of the buzzwords being thrown around these days, as new technology is poised to help merchants capture more business in the coming years. But are these types of bells and whistles enough to lure consumers from their online bargain hunts into actual storefronts?
As Amazon and other eCommerce giants continue to erode physical store traffic, the struggle to keep brick and mortar locations alive and thriving is real. Price and convenience are obvious drivers of e-tail success, but could a better in-store customer experience divert traffic back into physical stores? Instead of focusing on “next big thing” to drive business, perhaps retailers should go back to the basics and start where the shopping experience ends – at the checkout.
Make Customer Service Training a Priority.
No matter how many promotional signs you hang or how many discounts you offer, your brands’ success lies in the hands of your employees. From my own personal experience with one big box store, I have I found the checkout experience to always be the same – – AWFUL! There is never a “hello” or a smile. The checker barely looks in my direction. And if I want to know how much my bill is, I have to look at the screen because they certainly are not going to tell me. And regardless of which location I shop at, the experience is identical. It is obvious that training is lacking at the corporate level, and talking to customers is optional. To ensure a better checkout experience, your employees should, first, understand what you expect from them (a pleasant greeting, smile, a “thank you”, etc.) and, second, be accountable if they do not deliver to your expectations. A pleasant checkout experience is more of a rarity rather than the norm these days, so if you want to elevate your company above the competition, this is certainly one area to focus on. Remember, this final leg of the shopping journey can leave a lasting impression on customers.
WHO’S DOING IT RIGHT: Chik-Fil-A
Chik-Fil-A team members create a memorable experience that is unusual in the fast food world. Their “second mile” service philosophy pushes employees to go beyond what is expected and deliver what is unexpected, like carrying customer’s trays to their table, getting them drink refills and clearing their tables. Their attentive service comes with a smile and pleasant attitude, something that is clearly missing in many fast food restaurants these days. This awesome experience keeps customers coming back for more and has propelled the restaurant’s growth over the last several years. People love Chik-Fil-A so much that they have become advocates for the brand. There is even an exclusive invite-only loyalty program for their biggest fans.
Prevent Shopping Cart Abandonment
The last thing you want to do is send the customer walking out of the store with their cart left behind because the checkout lines were too long. Scheduling staff can be tricky, as no one can perfectly predict peak times. However, there are several tactics you can use to correct this common problem including self-checkouts and mobile scanning.
WHO’S DOING IT RIGHT: Several Merchants
One way to cut the wait is to offer self-check outs and express lanes. Giant Food goes one step further by offering a scan and bag option called SCAN IT!, whereby shoppers can use either an in-store mobile scanner or their mobile phone to scan and bag items as they shop. Once they are ready to check out, they proceed to the self-checkout and simply scan a barcode on their app, pay and go. I personally love this feature and hope that more locations (and other grocers) adopt this technology.
In 2016, Amazon introduced Amazon Go – a new kind of store with no checkout required. By simply using the Amazon Go app, shoppers can take items from the store shelf and they are automatically added to a virtual cart. When they are finished shopping, they just walk out and their Amazon account is charged. No lines, no waiting and no shopping card abandonment.
Speed Up the Checkout Process
With the switch to EMV chip cards in 2016, we saw a slow-down in the checkout line as both cashiers and consumers re-learned how to pay for purchases. But that wasn’t the only thing slowing down the process. Some stores (think “vintage” big box store or major pharmacy chain) are slowing the process down by handing out a box of paper with each purchase. What I’m talking about is the mile long receipt that includes coupons that many of us will never use. Sometimes it can take as long as 15-20 seconds for the POS system to print coupons.
WHO’S DOING IT RIGHT: Grocery Stores; Target
Most people throw receipts away, especially for grocery-type purchases, so those coupons are going in the garbage too. Which means, there is no incentive for the customer to return to your store. Instead of wasting an astronomical amount of paper to print coupons, why not just load those discounts onto the customers’ loyalty card or app? Many stores allow customers to browse coupons and load only the ones that they will use to their app. This type of flexibility helps drive customers back into your store, over and over again.
While the checkout is only one part of the overall customer experience, it is an important piece. Long lines can drive people out of the store and poor service can tarnish your brands’ reputation. Instituting company-wide customer service initiatives can ensure consistency across the board and elevate your brick and mortar business.