The checkout process is one of the most frustrating components of the shopping process today. Whether it is the long queues at a retail store or the lengthy billing and shipping fields you need to fill on an online store page, bad checkout experience alone can contribute to a significant drop in potential revenues for a store. A survey conducted in the UK pegged the value of lost sales due to long queues at £1billion a year. The survey also pointed out that nearly three-quarters of customers tend to abandon their shopping if made to wait for longer than five minutes.
In recent times, retailers have experimented with a host of technologies to help customers complete their checkouts faster. One of the more commonly used technologies is self-checkout. This is something we have all dabbled with at some point in time. While such self-checkouts indeed cut queuing time at supermarkets, studies also show that this very much depends on how savvy the customer is with using these tools. Some retailers have experimented with more sophisticated systems like the Intelligent Queue Management (iQM) systems that use sensors to gauge store footfalls and subsequently helps determine the number of checkout lines that need to be opened up at any point in time. However the costs and user experience have been questionable with many retailers having replaced these technologies back with humans.
Most of these solutions are technology-intensive and may not always be affordable to small-time retailers. However, such retailers may deploy other best practices to ensure minimal waiting time for customers and consequently, less abandonment.
Invest In Mobile POS Tools : Gone are the days when checkouts needed to happen over bulk registers and cash counters. Point of Sale systems have evolved to make checkouts happen over smartphones or tablets today. Low cost mobile devices can be procured for as less as $100 a piece and as a retailer, it makes sense to deploy as many of them as you want in your stores. These devices can be used to drastically bring down the number of people in a queue and thereby make self-checkouts affordable for even small-time retailers.
Hybrid Checkouts : We are already working towards a future where customers can simply pick up the products they want to buy and move out. This is apparently possible through strategic sensors that will identify the buyer even as they pick products up and automatically bill them. While this may still seem like fantasy today, something similar can still be achieved through a hybrid checkout process. Essentially, what you do is deploy an ecommerce version of your store that customers can use to virtually add products to the cart even as they do it physically. Once done, customers may complete the payment online and only have to produce the transaction ID to the billing staff on their way out.
Have Single Queue With Multiple Checkouts : One of the biggest reasons for checkout frustration is the perception among customers that their line moves slower than others. You may easily avoid this by bringing together all customers checking out to one line and letting the first one in line to the checkout outlet that is available. This drastically improves the average waiting time and also makes the queue seem like it is moving faster. While this does not directly address the problem of lengthy queues at stores, it is still a good way to change the perception of unfairness among customers.