How the bricks and mortar checkout experience could drive more people online.


Brits love shopping for their grocery products in bricks and mortar retailers. We like to pick our own fresh produce and decide on sell-by dates which suit our routines. However, with ‘unexpected item in the baggage area’ becoming the soundtrack to many a grocery checkout line, could we start to move our transactions online for a less frustrating experience?


The pitch to consumers on self-serve checkouts was that they can open staff up to be more available on the shop floor and give more control to shoppers. However, their introduction has resulted in fewer staff, reduced help at checkout and led to more frustrations for consumers. Let’s face it, how often do you nip into your local convenience store only to have to hang around for a staff member to verify your age or approve a transaction?


Further frustration comes when customers can clearly see the positives for retailers on driving more people to self-service tills. They take up less space, so more transactions can occur at once. They reduce congestion and more importantly they reduce overheads. However, instead of forcing people to use technology that they don’t like, retailers should focus on implementing technology in a more customer friendly way. There’s no harm in reducing tension at checkout – after all 70% of consumers find this their biggest pain point in store (Shopify)– but it needs to be done with people, not profit, in mind. If frustrations increase in store, then more people will be inclined to trial online shopping for their groceries. This could be a blow to retailers and brands as there is more choice for products, and more places to shop, online.


Retailers who are getting it right.


There are some retailers who are listening to feedback and improving their digital experience offline. Take M&S for example, they have just launched a mobile shopping service that allows users to pay for items without having to use a till. You just scan products as you pick them up in store and pay for items worth up to £30. You get to use the technology in your pocket, that you are familiar with, and you don’t have to queue. Simple.


Whilst not in the grocery sector Apple are perhaps the best know retailer for using technology to aid transactions. Rather than a checkout area each staff member is armed with an iPad which can view the status of items in for repair, take orders and book appointments. So instead of technology meaning less staff, it means customers have better equipped staff. McDonalds have also thought about the customer with the introduction of their self-service terminals. It’s easy to customise your order, you get to see the full menu and in the states, you even get free sauce for using it.


The company leading the way in this area has to be Amazon, with the opening of Amazon Go in the US. Their just walk out technology means that you just scan your app on the way in, pick up your products and then walk out. You don’t need to scan your items, you don’t need to queue – that’s what customers require from the term self-service.


In summary – the consumer is king, if they want to shop online they will, but they shouldn’t be driven there as a consequence of a poor instore experience. The reason offline takes 94% of transactions in grocery retail is because consumers still want the experience and level of service found when shopping offline, so retailers need to ensure they don’t remove the very thing which driving their repeat business.