Every customer enters a store with a purpose. The exact shopping journey and experience expectations differ from customer to customer, but the end goal remains the same: funds in exchange for goods. Historically that in-store exchange was a person-to-person experience, and while implementation and expansion of self-checkout options over the last 20-plus years has shifted customer expectations about what a successful transaction looks like, it wasn't until recently that the need and urgency for a more seamless, and smarter, checkout experience became critical to a store's success.
The retail experience changed dramatically in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a result so did customer behavior. In a study of more than 15,000 grocery shoppers carried out by Nielsen and commissioned by Diebold Nixdorf, 81% of shoppers say they create a shopping list for their grocery shopping beforehand, and 78% check the availability of items in stock online before they go shopping. Customers are entering stores more prepared, often already armed with inventory data, so that when they arrive in the store, they know exactly what they'll find and how quickly it will take to complete the transaction.
Customers have a game plan in mind and want to control the way they shop at their own pace. For some customers that pace is short, regimented, and uncompromising. For others the experience is longer, organic, and open to suggestion. That customer on the short journey needs to feel confident that when they step in the store the item will be where they expect it to be, maybe even pre-purchased, so they can step in and out the store without potentially having to even pull out their wallet or wait for a staff member to ring them up — speed, efficiency, and convenience. For the customer on the longer journey, they may be entering the store looking for inspiration and need support provided by staff to help successfully complete the shopping experience — experiential, personal and assisted. For retailers, every customer journey is equally important, and whether the experience is short or long, making sure you have the technology in place to facilitate a successful customer experience is critical in retaining and growing customer loyalty.
Ultimately, these journeys harmonize at the checkout. Stores need a smarter checkout mix in place that can cater to the full spectrum of outcomes their customers expect in a "successful" retail experience. This means not only utilizing self-service solutions that give customers the ability to control the shopping experience, but also technology that supports cashiers who can assist customers looking for a more "traditional" experience. By leveraging existing customer data and analysis methods from experienced partners, retailers can ensure they have the right mix of solutions to meet consumer demand for an efficient checkout and modular technology that can adapt when consumer expectations change.
Smarter checkout not only empowers customers, but also store staff. A critical, often overlooked, piece of the customer journey, retail staff play a huge role in ensuring successful adoption of technology and ultimately a successful journey. Retailers are in the business of strengthening customer loyalty, and a successful customer journey is not a journey devoid of staff, but rather one supported, enhanced, and ultimately championed by staff. However, a staff member cannot provide that support if they are tethered to legacy point of sale technology that requires their constant attention to maintain and oversee. From replenishment activities to queue busting, making sure your staff is in the right place at the right time enhances the overall retail experience for both staff and customers alike.
A better checkout mix means your physical channels must keep pace with their digital counterparts. From modular retail POS systems to implementation and maintenance services, a store's retail infrastructure needs to be able to support constantly evolving technology. Will your store be able to implement the latest technology, or will it have to strip everything down each time it needs an update? Are staff prepared to react when technology issues crop up? The answers to these questions are critical to keeping technology running, keeping customers happy, and developing a retail ecosystem that can adapt to the constantly evolving and highly competitive retail landscape.
Ultimately stores will remain the heart of retail activity, but without self-service and automation options, stores will be lacking the critical infrastructure needed to succeed in the future of retailing. 42% of shoppers "are interested in shopping at fully automated, unmanned store concepts," and that number is only expected to grow with each new technological innovation in the retail space. From self–checkout to personalized customer engagement, a full suite of cloud-ready software and modular hardware gives retailers a robust, future–proofed experience that addresses all the unique challenges across all retail segments. Staff will be engaged, customers will be empowered, and that exchange of funds for goods will be fully optimized. Today's customers are ready for the shopping journeys of tomorrow. Is your store?
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First appeared in: Retail Customer Experience