3 Reasons to Abolish Checkout Lines

Originally published on PROFITguide.com

Ever stand in line for the cashier and start reconsidering the item you’re waiting to purchase? How about taking out your phone to see if the item you’re interested in is available online, at a better price? Ever begin to feel kind of deflated once that ultra-helpful salesperson deposits you in the checkout line?

Of course, you have. As shoppers, we all have. When I set out started my company—full disclosure: I am the founder of a company that sells mobile payment technology—my goal was to get rid of lineups forever. More than that, I wanted to improve the checkout experience and help make it a delightful and positive connection between businesses and customers.

Shoppers today are able to move seamlessly between brick and mortar retail outlets and the online worlds of e- and m-commerce. This could pose a direct threat to the viability of conventional in-store retail unless store owners and businesses begin to operate like their consumers: integrated, interactive, mobile and responsive. There continues to be a lack of Canadian retailers using digital technologies to create an integrated customer experience.

Meanwhile, in addition to having a bustling online sales portal, companies like Apple sell more product per square foot in store than any other U.S. retailers. Could it be because Apple has deployed a mobile and connected sales force in every outlet and is capitalizing on some very clear advantages of mobile payments?

Wondering whether you should get rid of the traditional checkouts at your store? Consider the following three points:

1. It Will Empower Your Salespeople

When faced with a long lineup at the cash, many shoppers will abandon the purchases they’d already decided to buy. This loss can be eliminated by giving frontline staff the ability to close sales on the floor, price-match and offer promotions on the spot. Waiting in a cashier line is downtime nobody has time for anymore, and when faced with a line many customers will opt to simply leave. Mobile payments on the floor are essential for striking while the sale is hot and retaining those purchases that would otherwise be walking out the door.

2. It Will Make it Easy for Customers to Buy More, More Often

When everyone on the floor is a cashier, you remove the sales bottleneck created by cash register line-ups. frontline staff that can engage with customers and process purchases will increase sales overall by processing more sales more often. This strategy may be one reason Apple is outselling other retailers and why retail giants with chronic lineup issues—folks like Nordstrom and JC Penney—are now “line busting,” or taking shoppers out of the checkout line and processing their purchases on the spot with mobile points of sale.

3. It Will Better Position You to Offer an Integrated Customer Experience

Finally, and most importantly, by abolishing the checkout line, retailers provide customers with an integrated and positive experience from beginning to end, building stronger relationships and encouraging customer loyalty. In a more conventional retail scenario, shoppers endure a cognitive break when moving from salesperson to the cash register. Salespeople are engaging and informative, they establish trust and confidence in their customers and they make them feel good about their purchase decision. But then, when the time comes to pay, the customer has suddenly gone from the pleasurable experience of “shopping” to engaging in a tedious financial transaction.

This about-face is easily remedied by rolling the payment process into the shopping experience—by making it part of the conversation rather than some kind of purgatorial footnote. Sales staff who offer immediate check-outs, emailed receipts (complete with links to online stores and social channels) and, crucially, a personal connection strengthens the customer relationship with every transaction. Even though today’s consumer can find almost anything they need online, it’s the relationships they build with trusted retailers that keep them shopping in brick and mortar stores. This means that redesigning how businesses transact with customers may be crucial for survival in today’s multi-channel shopping ecosystem.

The conventional cash register will soon be as anachronistic and cumbersome as a leather-bound encyclopedia. Developments in mobile technology are changing many of the ways we do simple, everyday things, and are changing significantly the way we find and purchase what we need. In-store retail is still a very necessary part of the equation, but survival for Canadian retail businesses will depend on their ability to merge a conventional format with innovative new capabilities.

Remember how it feels to stand in line, wishing you were elsewhere, wondering where that helpful sales staff disappeared to? Imagine now walking into a store, finding what you need, and having the person who helped you find it process your payment on the spot. Imagine leaving with what you came for, with a receipt in your inbox and all without a lineup in sight. Companies that embrace this thinking will build better customer relationships. A payments strategy that thoughtfully considers the consumer experience will be the mainstay of any successful retail business in today’s evolving mobile and consumer-driven world.