Comment: What’s the point of sales without service?

‘Showrooming‘ looks set to dominate our high streets, as pure-play online retailers continue to enjoy a surge in popularity amongst consumers who browse in store at one retailer, but ultimately buy online with another. In Australia, one retailer is attempting to put an end to ‘browsing only‘ visits by charging guests just to enter its store, an innovative approach to the problem facing the high street. The sad reality is that stores on the UK high street are closing at a rate of 18 per day. However, in this tough economic climate, it is important to note that the likes of John Lewis and Waitrose have continued to enjoy success on the high street by improving their focus on providing a pleasant shopping experience. For retailers to replicate their success and prevent ‘showrooming, I believe they need to evolve their offering from a ‘Point of Sale‘ into a ‘Point of Service‘, and shape the entire shopping experience with the customer‘s retail journey in mind.

The challenge of checkout?

There‘s no shortage of naysayers predicting the end of the high-street, but there is plenty more life in it still. This is especially true of sectors such as fashion, where 78% of shoppers still buy clothes in store. Only 38% of these shoppers said they will shop online in the future; the remainder believe it is more important to physically view goods before purchasing them. Though high street retailers have always had this physical advantage over online-only stores, a large majority continue to fall short on actually securing purchases. This is primarily because of the lack of sales and purchasing choices that retailers provide to customers, as well as a lack of focus on customer service and experience. The cause of this is an outdated understanding of the customer journey, with pay-points situated around the store to suit the retailer rather than the customer.

Having multiple checkout methods no longer means just having sales staff available to cater to elderly customers, or another type of traditional shopper demographic. Retailers must move beyond this ideology and realise that customers might choose to begin and end their shopping journey simply based on the reason as to why they are in the store. For this reason today‘s retailers must provide a choice of checkout options that cater to a range of customers‘ needs according to different scenarios. These scenarios can vary from how pressed for time a customer is; to when in the day a customer prefers to shop. A customer‘s choice in checkout could even be based simply on their mood when entering the store, so it is crucial that retailers have the tools in place to meet these demands.

Existing infrastructure is currently hindering retailers from approaching customers with innovative solutions that help secure more sales, such as providing product-specific information and stock availability. It also does not provide retailers with enough insight to offer customers alternative product purchasing options or suggestions related to items that a customer wants to buy. Most importantly, only a few retailers have the ability to let their sales associates accept purchases on the spot. The absence in choice around helping customers complete their shopping journey is a key reason why many shoppers today are switching to purchasing items online instead of in store.

Conversely, because typical Point-of-Sale terminals are slower and are situated in the same place across stores, many shoppers also fall victim to busy queues, which are a big deterrent to shoppers looking to make an impulse buy. Research shows that 75% of people said that they would abandon a high street purchase if they saw a long queue. This means that retailers are losing out on a potential revenue opportunity because they do not have checkouts in the right places to service demand. So what can be done?

Putting service at the front of the queue

For retailers


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