To many around the world, shopping can be therapeutic. That is until customers reach the queue for the checkout counter and everything comes to a halt. While it is far easier to simply pay for goods online via e-commerce, physical retail still holds some advantages by making use of all the sensory benefits it offers shoppers.
However doing so would be much easier if payment was quick and easy. In an industry that has proven it can reinvent itself, it’s time to focus on the point of sale.
Shopping is an experience; one that is used to satisfy our desire to spend out hard earned cash on satiating our wants and curiosity. Customers are not interested in spending time on long-winded and time-consuming procedures. In today’s digital age, where everything can be bought from a smartphone, we want more from a physical experience.
One of the reasons for the point of sale not living up to expectations lies in the reluctance of some retailers to invest in IT infrastructure when app developers were experimenting with location-based services. According to Ralf Gladis, CEO, Computop, they could have enabled customers to use their mobile phones as indoor navigation systems, guiding them to the goods they were looking for, or to items they were promoting online.
Unfortunately, these retailers did not share the confidence we have in technology today. Too many doubts, fearing that such accessibility to information would hurt the business, led to this missed opportunity.
In today’s paradigm where goods both online and offline are identical, the sopping experience becomes the main differentiating factor between physical and e-commerce; alongside the pricing. In order to retain regular customers, it is no longer enough for a store to carry a brand and have the right articles of that brand in stock or be able to obtain them quickly. Physical shopping must make use of all the human senses and stimulate the brain’s reward system.
In order to enrich the shopping experience, points of sale need to be looked at with a scrutinising eye. Many stores are now taking advantage of the benefits that the digital age has to offer. The introduction of cashless payments systems allow customers to pay via their smartphone by simply scanning a barcode. Receipts can be sent via email, reducing the amount of clutter a customer has to carry. Companies such as Apple have done away with checkout counters in entirely in some instances, having staff walk around the store with customers while being able to process payments with their tablets.
According to Gladis, the way forward is to think about stores as showrooms. Assistants are there to provide information and seamlessly enable payment, not to stand behind a physical POS. If a customer doesn’t want to carry around a heavy purchase, the assistant can arrange next day delivery as they are paying.
The tools for improving the physical retail experience are all there. If retailers are committed to keeping their physical stores relevant and attractive, they could do much worse than to make paying for goods as frictionless as possible.