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As holiday shoppers make their way along the brick-and-mortar path to purchase, there’s bound to be friction. Big crowds, long lines, overburdened associates—it’s a familiar scene. Everyone expects it. There’s no getting around it.
Or is there?
Many retailers assume there isn’t. They simply focus on managing traffic and transactions as best they can. But this is a task-based approach, not a customer-centric one.
To make the in-store path to purchase better for your shoppers and more profitable for you—not just during the holidays, but year round—you need to pave it from their point of view.
- What do they really want?
- What would make them feel good?
- What will convince them to buy more today, and return in the future?
The simplest answer is threefold: 1) easy access to product information; 2) real-time, personalized deals to sweeten the pot; and 3) the fastest possible checkout. In other words, your customers want the in-store experience to feel more like online shopping.
Here are the tech tools leading retailers use to deliver on all three.
Touch Screens Make Holiday Shopping a Breeze
In-store touch screens and self-service kiosks are a boon to busy shoppers and retail sales. Customers can use these displays to call up and compare product prices, features, and reviews. And they can browse the entire store standing in one place.
Fortunately for customers who can’t find exactly what they’re looking for, touch screens know no brick-and-mortar boundaries. As part of a growing trend known as the “un-storing” of retailing, touch screens are increasingly becoming “endless aisles” where customers can shop for extended product lines and hard-to-find SKUs.
Late last year, Macy’s rolled out its first touch screen point-of-purchase (POP) machines, which customers can use to select items, pay for them, and schedule shipping in one fell swoop. The retailer’s new interactive “look book,” or digital catalog, allows customers to browse for and match clothing and accessories.
Beacons Connect With Buyers in Real Time
Customers want a “seamless retail” experience: one that combines the convenience and ease of online shopping with personalized in-store engagement. In a recent survey of 750 U.S. consumers, nearly half wanted real-time promotions sent to their personal devices while they shop in-store. But only 28 percent of retailers are equipped to send them.
What are price-conscious holiday shoppers left to do? Hunt for better deals on their devices, of course. And leave the store when they find a lower price elsewhere.
Location-based beacon technology, used by major retailers such as Lord & Taylor and Walgreens, is the industry’s best answer to showrooming. Beacons can send real-time coupons and personalized special offers right to customers’ phones. For retailers, this results in higher conversion rates, higher average transaction amounts, and a loyal base of in-store customers.
Line Busting Diminishes the Wait
It doesn’t matter how much time a customer spends browsing your aisles and filling her cart with merchandise. If the checkout line is long, she might decide her time is more valuable than the items she chose. And she’ll leave without making a purchase.
In fact, according to recent studies:
- Half of all shoppers cite slow checkout speeds and long lines as their top two grievances with retailers.
- The checkout process is the number one driver of retail customer satisfaction.
- Nearly half of all customers will actively avoid retailers in the future if their wait in line exceeds five minutes.
Your checkout process is the last impression you’ll make on your customers. For some of them, it may be the last straw.
Many leading retailers are “line busting,” or significantly shortening their checkout process, using mobile point-of-sale technology (mPOS). They’re also using it to improve customer engagement. This past spring, Home Depot rolled out its FIRST phone: an all-points engagement tool with walkie-talkie, product lookup, business analytics, and on-the-spot checkout capabilities.
Associates with mPOS devices can do just about anything to delight customers and increase sales. They can access customers’ purchase histories, provide real-time answers about product availability across store locations, and upsell and cross sell by suggesting add-ons and extended warranties.
There is a potential downside for retailers, however. If you put mPOS technology in the hands of associates who don’t know how to use it, customers may feel frustrated with wait times. Or they may feel uneasy watching associates struggle to make the technology work. If you’re considering introducing an mPOS system in your stores, employee training should be a significant part of your investment.
What Are Your Customers Telling You?
Have you asked your customers what path-to-purchase improvements they’d like to see? Have you asked them to weigh in on their experiences? Have you sent undercover shoppers to investigate the path to purchase in detail? If not, now may be the time.
We’d love to hear your thoughts about improving the path to purchase, or about your experiences with retail tech. Please share your comments below.
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This article was originally posted to our blog where you can find more posts like this at ICC/Decision Services Blog.