Technology is changing the way every industry does business. In retail, technology is helping create a frictionless shopping experience. Why? Consumers are demanding it.
For example, this week Amazon opened its first full-sized grocery store based on the success of its cashierless Amazon Go convenience stores. Yes, cashierless. While this may seem like a headline-making publicity stunt, it’s not. In addition to pushing the boundaries of what we consider possible in retail logistics, they’re pushing hard to implement technology to meet consumer demands. And smart retailers are taking notice.
The reality is that consumers want things faster, and they want things easier. Long gone are the days of one or two checkout lanes; there seems to be six, seven, or eight now. And if one of those lanes is full; a mobile checkout lane may appear. Undoubtedly, consumers are a relatively impatient group. Not so impatient about the actual shopping, but more so the process and convenience of paying, once done shopping. Which is why retailers are investing in streamlining how consumers transact – especially in person.
While consumers are increasingly spending more online, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are shopping less at brick and mortar locations. A recent study by the Federal Reserve shows that while the total number of remote transactions has risen steadily in the past decade, so has the number of transactions that happen in-person. Even in an “order online” world, well over 70% of transactions still happen in the physical world. Furthermore, data from Market Track suggests that over 60% of consumers still prefer to physically shop for things like apparel, electronics, tools, and household goods.
With shoppers still wanting to see, touch, feel and try out items in-store, retailers must take full advantage of the traffic and up their game to create compelling in-store shopping experiences. Forrester research found that 72% of businesses report that “improving customer experience is their top priority.” And, at a time when consumers are expecting convenience and speed at checkout, there is no doubt that implementing new point-of-sale tech solutions can easily prove to be one of the best ways to achieve this.
Take one simple example for restaurant patrons. An otherwise enjoyable dining experience can turn into an excruciating ordeal based on a single factor: waiting for the bill to arrive. Similar to Amazon and their grocery experience, modern point-of-sale apps may directly address this issue by allowing customers to view their bill in real-time and close out their check when they are ready to leave by simply pressing a button on their smartphone.
In order to enable the seamless restaurant experience or the Amazon Go retail example, business owners must prepare to make a substantial investment in “customer-centric” technology. Some will come in the form of software; some will be hardware – but most importantly, there will have to be an investment in the installation and on-going servicing of it all. Ensuring that the hardware and software will work together can be complex, but it’s a great opportunity for solution providers to add value. From cameras and sensors to self-service kiosks and contactless payments – the way businesses deliver on the in-store experience is evolving.
But how do those consumers like to pay for things? Surveys have found that 34% of adults under 50 don’t use cash at all during a typical week, while 1 in 10 millennials use a digital wallet for every purchase. So, while the next generation of consumers may be trending towards cashless, there is still a huge contingent of shoppers out there that do use more traditional payment methods, and all of them want their checkout experience to go well.
As the retail industry evolves, so too does the POS hardware that makes brick-and-mortar purchasing possible. For many years, developers have largely focused on making back-end improvements, like more effective shipping and fulfillment integration modules. But now, the focus has shifted to customer-facing optimizations.
As more and more sellers embrace the pay anywhere concept, they will seek to equip their stores and employees with everything they need to optimize checkout. Merchants will need to update everything from tablets, mobile card readers and printers to large-scale kiosks, and yes…even cash drawers. The tech investment of tomorrow is only going to increase, and strangely enough, fewer and fewer consumers are even going to know it’s there.