It’s time to make checkout easier for your customers. Get rid of your cashiers and give your retail sales associates mobile devices. The technology is here.
But where to start?
Your customers don’t want a clumsy implementation. They already have experience with this. Restaurant wait staff, taxi’s and others have already shown that when one person is there to give you service and take your money, the experience is efficient and smooth.
Retail fashion is an ideal place for mobile checkout with customer-centered sales associates at the ready. In a situation where customers are already building a relationship with a sales associate to help them find the right size clothes, and try out different colours, it makes sense that the same person would guide them through the entire sales cycle, right to the final payment.
Convinced? Great! Just hand over mobile devices to your sales reps and tell them to check out their customers on the spot. Easy right?
Actually… no. It’s not that simple.
Observing the Mobile Checkout Experience
When adding mobile checkout without making any changes to an existing store, I’ve observed two major stumbling blocks:
- Customer misperceptions
- Physical store awkwardness
In fact, a recent report by Forrester indicated that “deployment missteps such as simply emulating the exact functions of a fixed cash register on a smaller mobile device have caused many eBusiness leaders who are responsible for driving the in-store digital experience to question the value and original business case for deploying mPOS devices.”
It’s important to get the deployment right, or the customer will not get an improved experience.
Wondering what can go wrong? Check out the following scenario:
Mobile Checkout for Jeans
After 20 minutes of trying on several pairs of jeans, a customer decides she has decided which pair she will buy.
The sales rep pulls out a mobile checkout device. Debit or credit? The customer says “credit” as she scrambles to hold on to her new jeans and dig through her purse. She finds the card, then hands the jeans to the sales rep to scan. They are handed back, she hooks them under her armpit. “Do you have these in black?” she asks.
The sales rep says “I don’t know,” then clicks on the device with a concentrated look. Awkward silence ensues. Note to self, the customer things: I’ll check the online store for black jeans in this style.
Time to enter the PIN. Other customers circle around, need to pass through. Will someone see my PIN, the customer wonders? She waits for the approval message- again, awkward silence. She removes the jeans from her armpit.
Will she get a bag to put her jeans into? Where are the bags? Will she get a receipt? Can it be printed? Will an alarm go off when she leaves the store?
Technology alone does not save the day. This scenario is a fail.
Thinking Beyond Technology
There’s more to an experience than the technology driving it – technology should never bring new problems; it should always bring new opportunities.
As the above scenario shows, there are a few things that need to be considered before integrating mobile checkout; most importantly, making the whole experience more enjoyable, for both the customer and the sales rep.
Think about the Customer First:
Engage Customers Throughout the Process
It’s important to introduce the new payment process to the customer. It’s not just about efficiency, it’s about closing the sale with a personal touch, and offering service right to the end. Value-added tips like how to care for new clothing, should be part of the conversation, light, chatty, and useful.
Clothing retailer Frank and Oak takes this a step further, and ensures complete online and in-store integration datasets. The associate can engage the customer about past purchases, know their size and offer suggestions.
Integrate inventory and payment system to one device
Nordstrom has seamlessly integrated inventory and checkout. Sales associates can quickly check for other sizes and colours, without ever leaving a customer alone. If there’s something out of stock, they can quickly order it for the customer with the same device they use for mobile checkout and inventory checking. An instant email receipt is then sent to the customer. Full integration makes the whole process better and more complete.
Create “Stations” for Checkout throughout the Store
What about creating small seating areas around the store, where associates can access bags, and any other promotional upsell items (leather care products, etc). Think samples, for example in a makeup store like Sephora.
Aldo is currently piloting a mobile point of sale system and has integrated checkout “kiosks” throughout the store in order to ease the process of putting products in a bag, and offering value-added products, such as shoe shine equipment, shoelaces, etc.
This can also be a very useful place for sales associates to charge their devices, during busy holiday seasons, and other times when breaks in business would be less frequent, and devices would be in danger of running out of battery power.
Make it easy for a Sales Associate to carry the checkout Device
At the Nike Air store in Smáralind, the largest shopping center in Iceland, associates hold their device or store them in their pant pockets. Other retail stores give associates a belt clip, or a gender-neutral satchel, so they have two free hands. You have to assess the needs of your associates – what works best to improve, not hinder, the experience for staff in your store?
Technology is Changing In-Store Rituals
Retail stores were not designed for mPoS. Instant mobile checkout presents a culture shift -- no more herding our customers through one long lineup.
We are all unique!
As customers are becoming more demanding, and less tolerant of inefficiencies, it’s important any change in customer experience is well thought out. Testing scenarios, observing both sales rep and customer pains, and finding solutions to them are important to ensure the mobile checkout is an improvement to the customer experience – not just a change for technology sake.
Eventually, we know that customers will be using their own device to check out. However, at that point, they will likely still require some of the same considerations for space, and need somewhere to sit down and collect themselves their items before leaving the store.
I can guess what the customer pains in that situation might be, but from past experience , I’ve learned not to guess. It’s really important to observe, assess, address and improve. Each store, each customer, each experience, is slightly different.
There’s an old Chinese proverb that says: Don’t build a new ship out of old wood.
In much the same vein – don’t build a new checkout system, based on old ideas.
Rethink the process wisely. Make it as seamless and painless as you can for your customers, and you’ll see - that ship will sail far and wide.