By Shaun Kirby, CTO, Cisco Consulting Services
Waiting in checkout lines is one of a consumer’s greatest frustrations when it comes to shopping. In fact, 52 percent of consumers report that they would actually take their business elsewhere if checkout wait times exceed five to 10 minutes. Independent retailers can end the frustration of waiting in line by using Internet of Everything (IoE) technologies such as mobile applications, Wi-Fi, sensors and predictive analytics to optimize the checkout or even eliminate it completely.
IoE strategies for eliminating checkout lines do not necessarily require significant new technology investments. With the prevalence of smartphones, Wi-Fi and low-cost sensors, even smaller, independent retailers can transform their customers’ checkout experience. By applying advanced analytics to the data from these technologies, retailers can gain real-time understanding of shoppers’ behaviors and predict as much as 30 minutes in advance when shoppers will arrive at the checkout. This enables store managers to open additional registers ahead of time so lines never even have a chance to build up.
- Mobile Devices – An increasing number of independent and boutique retailers are leveraging mobile devices to provide shoppers with alternative checkout methods. This can include equipping store associates with tablets or smartphones that allow them to swipe the customer’s credit card to check out from anywhere on the store floor without ever needing to approach a traditional register. Well-known retailers like Nordstrom have implemented this approach and experienced a 15 percent profit improvement, but we are also seeing many smaller and independent retailers implement this approach because it lends itself well to the high-touch, “clienteling” experience these boutiques provide.
- Scan-and-Go Applications – Increasingly, retailers are also offering mobile checkout methods that leverage scan-and-go applications on the consumer’s smartphone. These mobile apps allow shoppers to scan items with their smartphones, as they place them in their shopping cart. Smart shopping carts can sense the weight of items and confirm that additional items have not been placed in the cart without being scanned first, and the customer’s credit card can be automatically billed when they leave the store.
A recent survey Cisco conducted of more than 1300 retail consumers showed that shoppers are willing to download retailers’ mobile applications or share their mobile data with retailers as long as they are getting value in exchange. Specifically, survey respondents indicated they are willing to share their mobile data, personal information, or allow retailers to track their in-store behaviors in exchange for promotional offers and faster checkout times.
- Wi-Fi Technology – Wi-Fi is another foundational technology that many independent retailers already have in place and can leverage in new ways to eliminate the checkout line. Retailers can monitor the mobile activity of in-store shoppers who connect to the store’s Wi-Fi to understand how long consumers have been in the store, how much time they are spending in specific areas of the store and even what they are browsing for on their mobile devices. This can give retailers an understanding of where the customer is in their shopping journey, whether they are comparing prices from other retailers, or looking online for additional sizes or product information. These insights can help a retailer understand if the customer is likely to be checking out soon, or provide the opportunity to direct the customer to the retailer’s mobile website where they can order the item online for home delivery.
- GPS – Lastly, independent retailers are experimenting with additional ways to leverage mobile applications and IoE technologies to improve the customer experience and end the checkout line forever. Using the shopper’s mobile application and GPS location, a retailer can know when a customer is arriving at the store and have their order ready for curb-side pickup or have it ready to pick up at a designated counter in the store so the customer never has to wait in a checkout line.
Retailers can gain the most benefit from combining advanced analytics with their use of Wi-Fi, video, mobile applications, sensors and beacons. Using real-time analytics with these technologies to understand where customers are spending their time, retailers can gain insights that allow them to predict when shoppers will be checking out. For example, grocers can see when people are in the frozen foods or milk sections. Shoppers tend to buy frozen foods and milk at the end of their shopping trip so by using video analytics to know when the frozen foods section is busy, or shelf sensors to know when milk is being picked up, grocers can predict that the checkout is likely to be busy in five minutes. With the insights gained from predictive analytics, store managers are able to open additional registers or assign more employees to the checkout before a line builds up.
Ultimately, the ability to eliminate the checkout lines starts with understanding customers’ shopping behaviors. By using IoE enabled technologies such as mobile checkout, scan-and-go apps, Wi-Fi, sensors and predictive analytics, retailers can turn data into actionable intelligence that allows them to anticipate when customers will check out. Consumers love the prospect of never waiting in line again and retailers can experience as much as 15 percent profit improvement.