There is nothing more disappointing than having a customer not return to your store or bombarding you with complains about your product quality. Of the many reasons that people may not return to a store, one of the main ones is a bad check out experience. Making a customer wait in lengthy checkout queues, only to be serviced by disgruntled retail employees could end in him simply leaving his shopping and going to another store and there is no bigger failure for a store than losing a customer right at its doorstep. To avoid this and to increase consumer loyalty, retail thought leaders are working towards faster and seamless checkout methods. Here’s a look at what they are doing to ensure a smoother customer experience.
A Quick Run-Down
In this day of running offers and discounts, a customer flashing his mobile phone to show a coupon code to the cashier or getting the cashier to scan a QR code isn’t an uncommon sight. This holds true especially for fast food chains like McDonald’s. Where this may make the customer owning the coupon happy about having fetched a great deal, it runs the risk of frustrating others waiting in the queue awaiting their turn. If the cashier is slow or worse if the POS system is malfunctioning, it can take long minutes for just one single billing to get through before the next person in queue gets his chance.
Recalling his experience at a popular multi brand outlet / department store at Mumbai’s High Street Phoenix, a customer, Abhay Singh says, “We were just about three people in the queue, and it was not even EOSS period. The store was about to close for the day hence we expected that the checking out process would be quick. But to our dismay, my turn (I was third in the queue) came in after a good 18 minutes out of which close to 10 minutes were spent to complete the billing of the customer at the till when I joined in. He had some coupons he wanted to redeem. The cashier was having issues with the POS and this delayed the entire checkout process. It left me so frustrated that I am certain I wouldn’t be visiting this department store for a long time now.”
Episodes like these aren’t uncommon. Customers leaving their shopping trolleys at supermarkets owing to long queues and going to other stores have pushed companies to opt for self-checkout methods. Alongside this, with the deeper penetration of Omnichannel retail, many brands are offering the ‘click and pickup at the store’ option. Technology is contributing in a big way to revolutionising the POS system, especially the billing part.
In a recent study titled ‘11th Annual Global Shopper Study’, Zebra Technologies Corporation identified diverging expectations on the impact of automation between retailers and store associates. According to the study, nearly 80 percent of retail decision makers – compared to 49 percent of store associates – agree that staff checkout areas are becoming less necessary due to new technologies that can automate checkout. It further stated that more than one-half of retail decision makers (52 percent) are converting points-of-sale i.e. their POS space to self-checkout and 62 percent are transforming it for online order pickup.
Since going Omnichannel is the flavour of retail, brands and retailers are opting for POS systems that allow Omnichannel retailing without hiccups. With six value-retail stores spread across NCR region, Nikhil Gupta’s All-IN value retail stores is aiming at adding 32 more stores. This implies he remains up to date on customer expectation and going Omnichannel for him makes complete sense. Gupta reveals, “We want to use the Omnichannel payment option all across our store and this year we are planning to implement the same.”
Manish Mandhana’s Being Human has a strong offline presence across the country. The brand has ensured it has a common POS across its stores including their franchise stores. Mandhana says, “As and when we have updates from our partner (POS service provider), we make sure that those updates are implemented across all Being Human Clothing stores. Currently we are working on the mobile POS concept and the same is scheduled to be rolled out soon.”
Accentuating the robustness of the system deployed, Mandhana shares with pride, “Planning and mapping play a key role to ensure that the entire checkout process is swift. At Being Human Clothing, we ensure that checkout processes are done within a minute.”
Meanwhile, Metro Shoes has a legacy of its own. The brand has been delighting customers with its footwear range, but it also needs to be complimented for the way the check-outs are taken care of where the wait time is not only negligible, but it offers a fantastic human touch with the goodness of technology seamlessly weaved in. At any given point of time, the salesman accompanies the shopper to the cash counter and the person behind the till effortlessly bills the customer without bombarding him with plethora of options and information on loyalty points and other reward programs. And considering the brand launched itself much before the advent of internet in India, it has not failed to keep up with the ever-changing dynamics of technology.
Alisha Malik, Vice President, e-Commerce – Metro Shoes says, “We have an ETP POS system across all our stores. This is in the process of being upgraded to get a near to real time view of store inventory. It involves faster updates and the ability to fulfi ll Omnichannel orders without toggling between screens.” But the transition wasn’t an easy one. To hear it from Malik, “When we first transitioned from our legacy POS to an enterprise POS we did face certain challenges. However, this was primarily due to a gap in our understanding of the capabilities of the POS versus our expectations of what features we would like a POS to have. Currently, thanks to our excellent IT team, we seem to be progressing smoothly on this journey.”
Syncing it Right
Apart from quick billing, the other important feature of a good POS is its ability to sync the stocks/ inventories. This proves helpful not only to the retailer to plan replenishment but also the customer in case he has something on her wishlist that is not available at the store but can be sourced from another store.
Revealing the salient feature of the POS system put in place for their retail stores, Dhiraj Agarwal, Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder Campus Sutra shares, “Its most important feature is providing auto-queuing that is when a piece is sold, information is sent to the warehouse. Dispatch and replenishment is done the very next day since it is integrated with our warehouse inventory. The POS also offers integration with our Omnichannel systems.
This implies that if a customer likes a particular style and the size is not available in-store, we can punch in the request and the order is sent directly to the customer from our warehouse. It is also integrated with mobile and sales data is available on a mobile app.”
On the success of their POS system, Mandhana shares, “Our POS system supports us with smooth inventory configuration along with offer and coupon configuration. It also helps us with capturing customer information with multiple fields such as name, mobile number, email id, birthdays and more.”
“We have special offers and promotions during our EOSS period which are configured on our POS system. The same offers are mapped to respective inventories and benefit is then passed on to the customers,” he adds.
Malik says about the system in place at Metro Shoes: “All promotion data is fed in centrally from the head office so the store staff has no issue during the EOSS time.”
It doesn’t matter whether or not a customer has a smile on his/her face when they enter a store. The fact that they leave it smiling says it all! Mandhana says, “Today everyone is trying to save on the check-out time and make things easier for the customers. We believe that customer centricity is a key part of strategy for any brad and things like swift check-out systems will only enhance the customer experience.”
Malik concludes with some key suggestions for brands / retailers looking at either buying or upgrading their existing POS system, “Don’t customise enterprise solutions unless absolutely necessary. Keep testing and rolling out new features in a phase wise manner. Ensure your support staff is there for the front end as your manager/cashier is the one in the line of fire. Ensure his concerns are adequately addressed. Take feedback from the front end before implementing changes at the back end.”