As consumers return to the bricks-and-mortar stores following the pandemic, retailers must place greater emphasis on a customer-centric design and invest in technology to remove friction in the payment checkout process. Consumers are placing greater value on convenience when shopping in-store. Amazon’s ‘Just Walk Out Technology’ and software such as True Fit are increasingly playing an important role in the retailer’s technology investments. These are just some of the ways that retailers are attempting to remove friction from the customer journey.
After listening to talks from Max Gill, Just Walk Out Technology Lead for Amazon, Paul Hornby, Digital Customer Experience Director at the Very Group and Sarah Curran Usher, EMEA Managing Director for True Fit, it became clear that frictionless shopping remains at the top of the agenda for the leading retailers.
Max Gill spoke extensively about the concept and benefits of the Just Walk Out technology pioneered by Amazon. The technology allows consumers to scan a code upon entry to the store, pick up their desired products, and walk straight out. Sensors and cameras are utilised around the store to keep track of which products are being selected and which products are being returned to the shelves. There is a clear purpose to all of this technology. It drastically reduces friction in the store by removing payment checkouts from the customer’s journey. This is likely to be highly appealing to the modern consumer who values convenience when deciding where to shop.
It is worth noting that the benefits of Just Walk Out Technology can stretch far beyond saving time for the consumer. Firstly, the store interior can be totally reinvented, with more space for additional shelves, as a significant proportion of the shop no longer needs to be occupied by checkout desks. The smaller store footprint also allows Just Walk Out shops to be located within a smaller footprint that could not house a traditional store. Secondly, the staff that have historically been confined to the checkouts will be able to roam the stores, assisting customers, helping them to make their shopping decisions and improving their overall experience. Finally, Just Walk Out technology has the potential to improve profit margins because the instance of basket abandonment decreases significantly, as there are no queues. Clearly, this new venture has a multitude of benefits that will likely entice many retailers. The grocery sector and convenience stores are prime candidates for this technology.
Paul Hornby and Sarah Curran Usher also spent much of their time on frictionless shopping. However, they focused more on e-commerce in the fast fashion sector. The pair suggested that many of the steps taken to remove friction from the e-commerce shopping experience have moved the friction to a later stage in the customer journey. A combination of the friction being late in the customer journey and issues surrounding the size and fit causes consumers to purchase multiple similar items to return the majority. This habit is expensive for retailers as inventory becomes challenging to manage and lots of effort is spent handling returns and processing refunds.
Sarah Curran Usher described True Fit; an add-on feature in the customer journey that allows consumers to get a better idea of what is likely to fit by entering their weight, height, build, and age. The technology generates a suggested size, which users can easily add to their basket. The software addresses the extensive product return issue that moving friction further down the customer journey has caused. True Fit also increases loyalty as consumers are far more likely to be happy with their purchases.
The Retail Technology Show clearly highlighted the benefits of removing friction from the customer journey and underlined the issues that post-checkout friction can cause, particularly when online.
The usual point of sale manufacturers, payment service providers, logistics and supply chain companies could be found on the exhibition floor. Amongst the payment companies, some of the larger stands included, Adyen, Amazon, Checkout.com, Cegid, Flooid, FreedomPay, Mastercard, Mollie, Newland, Planet, Worldline, RMS, Trust Payments, and Zebra. Square was there but no sign of Visa or Stripe. Bolt, the one-click checkout company, was one of the event sponsors. They were also describing their solution for a frictionless customer journey.
The programme was packed with some very interesting presentations and case studies from the leading UK and international retailers. Everyone we spoke to was thankful and so happy that this year’s show was in person for the first time since the pandemic. Footfall was high at the show, and it appears that many of the retailers are also starting to see some recovery in their own footfall statistics. Let’s hope this will translate into sales revenue at the virtual or physical payment checkout.
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