Check it Out: Rethinking In-store Payments
When the first Amazon Go shop opened in Seattle earlier this year, it created quite a stir. Rather ironically, customers braved huge queues to get in to a shopping experience which promised no queues on the way out. And with Amazon announcing six more 2018 locations for its checkout-free convenience format, now is the time for all retailers to reconsider in-store payments.
As innovations in digital technology continue apace, so too does the payment experience get one step closer to Utopia – for retailers and customers alike. In Taiwan, 7-Eleven stores are using facial recognition technology to charge customers on departure. China’s cashier-free store concept WeLife takes payments through the messaging app WeChat’s e-wallet feature, and Alibaba’s supermarket HEMA has eliminated the checkout process altogether – customers place orders for items as they browse, while staff collect the purchases for delivery.
Checkout areas are traditionally detached zones that lack any kind of sensory or experiential stimulation. The till is the last port of call in the customer journey, and after the joy of actually shopping, it’s when the dread of seeing the bill sets in. Considering payment is a pivotal point in the sales process, it’s surprising this is currently the norm. To encourage customers to return, the process of handing over one’s money should be not only be smoother, but more upbeat.
The payment experience should blend with that of shopping. Integrate it into the very heart of the customer journey and make it sensory, experiential and fun. Share the design language with the rest of the store.
It’s true that automation and AI technology will transform traditional payment processes, usurping all those purely functional tasks traditionally carried out by human employees. But as automated services slowly become the norm, they will simultaneously raise the value of in-store human interaction. Customers will look to employees to deliver unique, memorable and deeply personal experiences.
Self-service payment options will reduce current labour costs at the checkout area, so staff can refocus into higher value exchanges with customers. Meanwhile, any automated payment experiences should take on more human characteristics to provide a more memorable and rewarding exchange.