The digitalization of points of sale: what challenges do retailers face?

From queue-busting solutions to self-checkouts and smart screens, the digitalization of points of sale offers a wide range of opportunities for retailers and new in-store experiences for customers.

As the cause of 78% of abandoned baskets, queues at the checkouts are the scourge of retailers. These bottlenecks result in equal amounts of frustration for customers and lost sales for retailers. 
But there’s good news – digitalization offers new solutions and opportunities. Today, almost 36% of retailers equip their sales staff with tablets – now increasingly likely to include checkout capabilities – as a way of slimming down queues at the tills and to allow payment to be made at different stages of the buying process. On the customer side, 42% use their smartphones in-store to find out product information as well as to compare, reserve and even buy products directly. 
The result is that the world of retail is undergoing a total overhaul in order to provide a new customer experience and payment solutions capable of adapting to every situation. We discussed this phenomenon with Vincent Roux, Innovation Business Development Manager at Ingenico.

Where would improvements be advisable in terms of taking payment? 

Checkout waiting times are still a black mark against retailers – but the answer doesn’t lie in simply increasing the number of checkouts within shops. Instead, it lies in being able to approach the customer and complete the transaction at the right time. The checkout is just one step in the customer experience. Above all, retailers need to ask themselves what buying experience they want to offer to their customers. 

For example, one common source of frustration is in fitting rooms. You exit a fitting room with an item of clothing that you like, but it isn’t the right size or colour. And what’s more, you’re out of luck – the right item isn’t available. It would be in the retailer’s interest to have a salesperson with a checkout solution located at the fitting room exit, who could then order the right item, take payment and deliver it to you at home. This presents a host of benefits for the retailer: they make a sale, improve customer satisfaction and expand their CRM tool with customer data.            

More and more checkout solutions are arising. Which will dominate? 

There’s no right answer to that question. What matters is understanding the customer’s needs in order to understand when they want to pay. But it depends on the context. Queue-busting tools are valuable: when a queue forms, self-checkout tills or mobile self-scanning (where customers scan and pay for items with their own mobile phone – Ed.) are effective for busy customers who have popped in to buy a salad and a drink at lunchtime, and traditional tills have their place the rest of the time.  

Each brand has its own vision of the customer experience as part of what has now become an omnichannel outlook. One thing is certain: the retailers that will dominate will be those that have implemented the most comprehensive range of options. At Ingenico, we have a whole range of hardware-based and digital solutions to address retailers’ needs to begin taking payment – such as, for example, our connected screen. This touchscreen display accepts a variety of contactless payments (bank cards, Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc.). The screen will soon be given a high-profile roll-out in Paris.

What stages of the buying experience can retailers delegate to their customers? 

That’s something for retailers to address. What balance between benefit (checkout speed) and risk (mistakes and fraud) are they willing to accept? This brings us back to the central issue, the idea of the experience that the retailer wants to give to its customers. Retailers need to retain a certain level of control over payment. With the extension of self-checkouts, security staff in stores will certainly have to carry out more random checks. Checkout operators are increasingly fulfilling the role of customer assistants, and sales staff are taking payment via tablets. The checkout process is experiencing a major transition. 

Does the future belong to portable checkouts, or will we see checkouts disappear, like at Amazon Go? 

Thanks to digitalization, the number of checkouts in stores is growing. Sales staff and customers are all becoming a checkout in their own right. Amazon Go created a lot of buzz with its checkout-free shop. But here, it’s important to distinguish the user experience from payment. Amazon Go has not revolutionized payment. The technologies used to check customers in and confirm their purchases have existed for a long time.

The novelty comes from the customer experience. What Amazon did was to bring a range of technologies together in a single place in order to create an innovative overall experience.  At Ingenico, we offer all possible payment solutions, including Amazon Go-style solutions. Our philosophy is to help our customers create a user experience by offering them the right payment solution – after all, payment is still one of the key steps of the buying experience.