You know this, of course, because you’ve been there yourself. You know that no one likes to stand in line, but hey, you also know that things have to be paid for. So, the switched-on retailer aims to make the experience as pleasant as possible. The checkout person is trained to be cheerful and friendly, the POS system is smooth and up to date, and you can always do things with the decor and background music. For the more streamlined purchases you can have an express lane or a self-service checkout. And maybe you can use the situation to your advantage – squeeze in a little extra purchasing by arranging tempting last minute offers to distract customers along the length of the queue.
Okay, maybe there’ll always be a little, let’s say, leakage from impatient customers who don’t want to wait at all. You resign yourself to the inevitable. You’re doing the best you can.
Except that you’re not. The customers are ahead of you, and express lanes just don’t cut it anymore.
A study by website Eyefaster.com found that on average, waiting in a checkout line took up sixteen per cent of the time that shoppers spent in store – and, during this time, they only added 0.6 per cent of their purchased items to their basket. (If sixteen per cent of anything doesn’t sound like much, for a traditional working day that’s about 2.5 hours … You can probably think of better things to do with sixteen per cent of your time, and so can your customers.)
Meanwhile, a survey by TimeTrade found that 75 per cent of retailers interviewed believed they lost customers ‘to wait-related issues’, which is a polite way of saying ‘because of having to stand in line’. Seventy per cent said their customers would only wait five minutes before giving up on their purchase. The survey notes that ‘Today’s instant-gratification consumer expects great service and fast delivery’. At home, and on their phones, consumers are accustomed to logging on and being instantly engaged by the retail site they’ve gone to, with backend artificial intelligence guiding them to the products they want. When they venture out into the physical world, mobile wallets and contactless payment are becoming the norm. In short, you might still think that standing in line is inevitable, but your customers don’t, and they are taking their custom to companies that share their point of view. Which is clearly not you.
Your customers have heard of fast lines and it’s time you did too.
If you’re already thinking in terms of faster checkouts for easier purchases, then you’re heading in the right direction – but fast-lining goes much further than a 10-items-or-less checkout. Fast lines are a concept that begins the very moment customers start to think about coming to your store, whether it’s for a major shopping expedition or to pop out for a coffee and bagel. It means that they can order ahead, and pay, and then just walk in and pick up their choices, all under the envious gaze of the slow-line customers doing it the hard way.
You can wait for customers to have the idea of coming to you, or you can begin the process by pushing the idea at them, through social media or offers sent via your own customer mailing list. Deloitte reports that consumers are 29 per cent more likely to make a purchase the same day when they use social media before shopping. And how do you know which customers to entice with what product? Well, Columbia Business School has found that around 54 per cent of consumers will share data if it provides them with a better experience online. So there is no excuse for not gathering up customer data, and using it. It’s not just a captive audience – it’s an audience that wants to be captive.
You need the right technology to put the idea into practice. One of our team who visited a major tourist attraction found there were two ticket desks – one to collect pre-booked tickets, one for on-the-day purchases. So far, so foresighted. But – and kind of missing the point on the part of the management – he hadn’t booked ahead so was able to walk straight up to the on-the-day desk, which had no line at all, while the pre-booked queue snaked out of the door and was inching slowly forward.
So, offerings like Revel System’s Online Ordering lets customers place orders and schedule pickups. PayPal lets customers order ahead and pay via a mobile device. Which brings us on to paying for the goods. PayPal, contactless payment, mobile wallets and the good old credit card are all vying for attention: the one you choose will be the one best suited to your business.
But it might be best to choose the one that’s the most forward-looking and future-proof, because that’s the way your customers are heading.
Check out how Chobani cut their wait times in half using Revel's Mobile POS in this short video!