Four ways retailers can speed up the checkout experience for customers

6th Feb 2018

Paying using a credit card, shopping and retail concept
There is one major reason customers are waving goodbye to the high street and choosing to shop online: convenience. With delivery times shrinking to as low as one hour on some websites, e-commerce is winning the battle of convenience in retail.

Brick-and-mortar stores have many advantages over their online competitors, such as the option of trying on clothing or physically holding items, both of which are still valued by customers. Queuing at checkout counters, however, is almost universally derided by the buying public.

To compete in a one-hour delivery world, retailers need to do everything they can to speed up the checkout experience for customers. Here are four ways they can.

1. Use RFID for futuristic checkout speeds

RFID solutions are fast becoming the go-to way to increase checkout speed and store efficiency. RFID systems involve placing small radio signal-emitting tags on products to track their whereabouts. Once your items have been tagged, there are many ways RFID can be used to cut down queues.

In the most high-tech of scenarios, retailers can eliminate checkouts altogether. Amazon’s recently-launched Go retail stores use RFID to detect what shoppers take out of the stores—which are counted as purchases—and charges their Amazon accounts afterwards. Once other retailers follow suit, the store checkout queue could become a thing of the past.

You don’t have to go fully checkout-less to make reduce queuing with RFID. The system can also be used to enable cashless payment. Some retailers, especially at events, allow shoppers to put credit on RFID wristbands and subsequently use these to make purchases.

RFID can also speed up the process behind the scenes, allowing retailers to have an accurate picture of how many items are in stock, and how many are on the shelves. This, too, will cut down on queuing time, as checkout attendants will be able to answer stock queries from customers with greater speed and accuracy.

2. Switch to a mobile POS

Mobile points of sale (POS) have been slowly catching on as everywhere from JCPenney to the Apple Store make the switch. A mobile POS eradicates the need for a traditional checkout, and instead places the till directly in a shop assistant’s hands, either in the form of a tablet computer or another kind of portable device.

With customers able to pay for their goods at a number of roving paypoints, queues will be virtually impossible—just as long as you hire enough members of staff to accommodate all of your customers.

3. Stop gathering information at the till

Many retailers offer membership cards that allow customers to build up discount points, while shops gather information about spending habits that can be later used for marketing materials. Typically, shoppers will be asked to sign up for these programs at the till, just before they make a purchase. If they say yes, the rest of the queue will be forced to wait while the customer divulges their personal information. Even if they say no, that short exchange will have somewhat held up the queue.

To avoid these inconveniences without cancelling your loyalty program, encourage customers to sign up elsewhere during their shopping trip. A well-placed poster or audio announcement that lets shoppers know what they are missing out on, but instructs them to visit a website can be just as effective, and can greatly reduce the time spent at the checkout for interested parties and those waiting in line behind them.

4. Train your staff to be speedier

There is another way to reduce queue time in your store, and it doesn’t involve any kind of technology. Staff taking too much time to process transactions can be a big cause of shopper delay. Till work is about more than scanning items and taking card payments. Till staff need to be able to make quick mental calculations to help count change, to process multiple kinds of payments, refunds and requests. On top of this, they should be advised on how to keep transactions succinct but friendly, to ensure customers get their items quickly and pleasantly.

When your staff are fully equipped to tackle the till, you should find queues depleting in no time.