Engagement and experience are two keywords in today’s retail scene, but that is until we are ready to pay and then we need a quick and efficient process. For some the ideal world would be to simply walk out of the store and not have to cope with the checkout line.
Self-service checkouts have gone someway to help alleviate the line up at the checkout, but the ultimate experience may be no checkout at all.
As a result many retailers are looking to Amazon Go stores. It started operations in December 2016 with no checkouts. The consumer uses its Amazon Go phone app and the money is automatically taken out of their account as they leave the store.
Time will tell if this is the future – and if 3.5million American checkout operators will be looking for a new job. Although not particularly pertinent to South Africa yet, it is a trend that should be watched as it will eventually be incorporated in stores here, in its entirety or just parts of it.
An alternative view is being tested in the UK based on the engagement and experience model.
Take the slow lane
If you are a Tesco shopper at the Forres store in Moray, Scotland or the Chester store in England you will discover they have a slow lane for shoppers that is promoted and operates on a Tuesday and Wednesday of each week.
The reason for the pilot is that many shoppers find the checkout a stressful experience. This is especially true of people with a medical condition and those suffering from dementia.
The aim of the ‘relaxed’ checkout is it is designed to allow the customer to take their time at the checkout to sort out change and to finish their shopping experience at their own pace.
The project was planned with the help and support of Alzheimer Scotland, which helped design a ‘dementia -friendly environment’ in the store.
Part of the success of such a scheme is the engagement the customer has with the team members. Alzheimer Scotland helped train the team members on the ‘relaxed checkouts’ to ensure they had the skills required.
No middle ground
As in many business and retail practices, it is the middle ground that is shrinking and it seems to be the same at the checkout. The future checkout experience will be designed with the consumer in mind, they will either want fast efficiency or the right engagement. They will decide, but average will not succeed.
Both the models being designed by Amazon and Tesco’s have a role to play, probably in the same store. The customer perception of engagement and experience changes based on the customer. The role of the retailer is to understand the customer and what they are looking for. One operating model will not be the same for all customers, we need to be adaptable.