Clock is ticking for retailers still offering slow checkout experiences
By Michael Jaszczyk, CEO, GK Software USA
Retail is largely an emotion-driven industry. To keep customers happy and loyal, retailers must consistently promote positive emotion and limit negative emotion at every touchpoint. Over the past few years, there has been a flurry of investment and innovation that has improved nearly every aspect of the shopping journey. However, one critical aspect of the in-store experience has remained largely unaddressed: the checkout.
In a laughable example of irony, an obvious marker of a successful retailer is often a long checkout line, which creates a frustrating last moment of the in-store experience. By adding an extra hurdle to process improvement, EMV regulations seem to slow transaction times as much as they improve security. Providing a seamless and pain-free experience at the point of sale should be as much of a priority as keeping consumer data safe.
Fortunately, there is a silver lining for savvy retailers who have made the substantial investment in enterprisewide point of sale hardware updates: access to better software. Modern point of sale applications create opportunities to improve processes and create more personal and streamlined experiences. All it takes is some creativity and a willingness to balance existing initiatives and resources with new point of sale capabilities.
Don't compromise on data collection
The point of sale is a terrific resource for data collection, but in most cases, retailers limit their insight potential at this touchpoint in exchange for keeping the line moving. Yet, data collection and seamless checkout don't need to be mutually exclusive. In fact, retailers can actually allow customers to initiate the checkout process on a branded smartphone application when they get in line, or even when they enter the store.
This process would allow for even more sophisticated interactions, like offering or accepting coupons, performing satisfaction surveys or registering for loyalty programs, all before reaching the register and making time spent in line more useful and engaging. This optimization of the checkout improves customer satisfaction not just at the checkout itself, but across the enterprise as retailers gain access to deeper and more accurate consumer data they can use to improve every consumer touch point.
Omnichannel integration lets you operate smarter and faster
Going a step further, the integration of previously disparate enterprise systems as part of many retailers' omnichannel initiatives can pay off handsomely when it comes to the checkout experience. The seamless transfer of data between a retailer's ecommerce platform, real-time inventory visibility solution and point sale systems makes it possible for shoppers to identify products online, scan them into a basket and have the POS know what's in the basket before it arrives. This means the consumer and associate can both give a final review of the items, no scanning required, and move to payment much faster.
Start early, finish faster
But don't settle for that improvement! As mentioned previously, EMV payments are infamously slow, with the additional authentication protocols bringing as much delay in time as improvement in security. And since the final cost of a sale has no bearing on the validation process, why not start authentication at the beginning of the transaction instead of waiting until the end? Making this basic change means that the instant the cashier finishes approving a customer-scanned basket or ringing in items themselves, a consumer can just accept the sale and be on their way.
Accept new payment methods
The frustration with EMV naturally begs the question of whether other payment methods, from cash to proximity payments, will replace card-based transactions. To me, it's clear that this is the inevitable outcome.
One of the most beneficial impacts of upgrading hardware to meet EMV requirements is that most make it possible for retailers to accept contactless payments, from tap-enabled cards to mobile wallets. In Europe, where EMV compliance has been universal for years, the rise in contactless payments is undeniable. As retailers and their customers both benefit from faster transaction times and shorter lines, the rate of adoption on both sides is steadily increasing.
And, importantly, since contactless payments are less disruptive, they reduce the negative feedback that a customer gets from parting with their hard-earned money, which as we've made clear, is a subtle but powerful benefit for retailers.
Make your checkout a service and business differentiator
The checkout can no longer afford to be a driver of negative emotion and experience. And with advances in point of sale and payment technology, there is no reason for it not to be an area where retailers can both collect valuable data and deliver rewarding experiences. The checkout experience creates a lasting impression on your shoppers, and you don't want to get stuck in the slow lane.