People are now becoming more comfortable shopping in stores. However, what will help to keep them coming back, especially as they've realized the ease and benefits of shopping online throughout the pandemic? One way is to merge both the online and offline shopping experiences successfully and seamlessly.
One area in which this can be particularly effective is in shortening checkout times through modern payment offerings like contactless payments via card or mobile phone. It’s been found that a cash payment takes a good 22 seconds, and a card payment with PIN is 29 seconds. Before COVID-19, signing a transaction receipt that's not covered by quick-pay adds additional time.
According to one study, if you only have to hold your mobile phone or card up to the point-of-sale (POS) terminal without having to enter a PIN, you can clear the cash register in 11 seconds. Biometric authentication on a mobile phone is therefore particularly attractive to retailers and consumers. Smartphone-supported payment methods such as Apple Pay can also be combined well with self-scanning. To encourage customers to make use of these do-it-yourself workflows, incentives are available in the form of loyalty card programs or similar customer loyalty tools such as digital couponing.
Ease of payment, combined with individualized service that can be provided in-person vs. online can help deliver many benefits to retailers. So, which retailers are offering modern POS and payment experiences that can help drive customers back in-store — and keep them coming back?
Apple demonstrates the unification of the POS and point of payment, where the division of labor between advisors and cashiers is eliminated. Similar to shopping at a boutique, there are salespeople/advisors who handle the exchange of "goods for money" — fully digitized, of course. The cash register now exists only virtually as an app on the employee's iOS mobile device; the POS is also the point of payment. Payment is not only paperless, but the receipt is sent via email, making the whole shopping experience simple and streamlined.
The Netherlands-based Decathlon Sports chain goes one step further. Using mobile payment software from British startup Mishipay, its Dutch retail stores use a customer's smartphone for checkout. Once the app has been installed, all that remains is to scan the barcode on the RFID label and confirm payment. Then, the theft alarm is deactivated for the specific item, and the customer can leave the store without delay.
Particularly exciting is the concept that Hamburg, Germany-based retail group Otto is testing in a store of its fashion brand bonprix. The pilot store is called "Fashion Connect." The name came about because the customer uses a smartphone app to establish a connection to the shop's IT system at the entrance. Each item of clothing is only available in a single size in the freely accessible part of the store. With his/her mobile phone, the shopper scans the labels of items they want to try on, selects their desired size, and reserves one of the digitally enhanced dressing rooms. An employee fetches the selected goods from the warehouse, hangs them up in the reserved room, and informs the shopper by mobile phone message that they’re ready.
The dressing room lights come from a digitally controlled lighting system with selectable “color” temperatures ("in the building," "on the beach" or "restaurant/party"). Undecided shoppers can use the system to request a consultant or have a different size brought to them, while the customer who has made their decision simply packs the goods into the bag provided. Payment is made at the card terminal, at a cashier, or directly in the app (via PayPal). bonprix uses RFID transponders to record which items the customer takes with them. In this way, nobody has to wait for an employee to remove an anti-theft device. bonprix’s innovative concept earned the brand a “Best Customer Experience Initiative” accolade at the World Retailer Awards.
It’s precisely in those product categories in which online retailers have achieved the highest market shares (e.g., clothing and technology) and where physical retailers can offer added value with easy, digitally enhanced shopping/checkout and on-site staff that can address questions about products. By combining innovative POS/payment offerings, along with personal service, merchants can help drive traffic repeatedly in-store and engender loyalty.
Jed Danbury is vice president at Computop, a global payment service provider. He has been working in the banking and merchant processing industry for more than 15 years.