When you look at in-store technology today, the retail environment has evolved and is successful in providing a good customer experience. But a lot of that innovation such as certain payment experiences has not made its way into the grocery stores. This is largely due to the need to balance high scan volumes by maintaining short checkout lines. But as customer expectations for an elevated experience are starting to shift, there is a growing demand for innovation in the industry.
The leading edge of grocery innovation can include using technologies such as artificial intelligence to optimize product placement in the store, using mobile phones as scanners for checkout-free shopping and in-store virtual reality experiences. However, many “lower hanging fruit” opportunities may remain for grocers to update payment methods and the customer journey to enhance their experience.
For example, grocers are now considering how they can evolve their payment strategy using new tactics such as mobile POS while enhancing existing point of sale technology to speed checkout and enhance accuracy. Customer journey innovations include adding buy online pick up in-store (BOPIS), curbside pickup and local delivery services to help meet customer expectations set by retailers in other segments.
If you’re looking to enhance the customer experience for your grocery business, consider this:
Start with the basics: scanning must be fast, accurate and reliable
Grocery transactions are unique due to the number of items scanned per transaction. For perspective, think about how many items a parent buys to feed a family of four for a week – that’s a full cart! Now consider that on top of quantity, there are duplicates, things measured by weight and products that are new to the store’s inventory.
Accurately capturing every scan is crucial both for the grocer, who wants to get paid for each item purchased and for the customer, who doesn’t want to pay twice for one item. And all of this must be done without adding time to the transaction.
Takeaway: Not every point of sale solution is the same – some have fast and reliable high-volume scanning capabilities, and some don’t. Make sure the solution you choose is well-suited for this unique environment.
Self-checkout will soon be table stakes
Self-checkout lanes are not any faster than an Express Lane, but the customer experience says different. Customers like self-checkout because they are less frustrated when they can take charge to scan, bag and pay for groceries themselves. As customer demand for self-service expands, grocers who don’t offer it may be left behind.
Takeaway: While most customers like self-checkout once they get used to it, there are downsides such opportunities missed to add the personal touch to the customer experience and increased risk of theft. Counter both downsides by adding personnel to the self-checkout area to offer assistance and inhibit losses.
BOPIS and local delivery: bringing the eCommerce experience to grocery shoppers
While many consumers will continue to prefer the in-store shopping experience, particularly when it comes to picking out perishables, the influence of online shopping has changed expectations forever. Customers can get virtually whatever they want to be delivered to the door — or ready for immediate pickup in the store — including groceries. BOPIS, along with variations like curbside pickup and local delivery, are gaining traction with grocers that want to meet customer expectations. It may require new technology, like mobile POS devices at curbside in case customers want to add to their orders, and it requires a consistent omnichannel experience between the store and the website.
Takeaway: Implementing BOPIS can be challenging. It requires technology coordination, dedicated staffing and good customer communications. Start small, work out the glitches, and then expand your program to more items and categories.
Logistics, logistics, logistics
Introducing new experiences can require new technology. Logistic considerations should be part of the process when evaluating how to refresh the customer experience in a grocery setting. Here are a few to keep in mind:
- If you’re investing in new technology, think about how to make the most out of the investment. For example, consider enabling NFC/contactless payments to give customers more choices in how to pay.
- Managing Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity between devices can sometimes be a challenge. Be sure to evaluate how you will pair devices, manage IP addresses, avoid dead spots and keep connections stable for frictionless experiences. You may want to consider USB connections between devices to bring additional stability.
- Are you adopting mobile POS or other handheld terminals for your BOPIS or curbside pickup initiatives? Know how you plan to use the new technology and make sure it can accommodate all situations. For example, are you planning to use the device for curbside payments to sell seasonal items such as pumpkins at Halloween? This means considering things like battery life, strong in-store Wi-Fi connectivity and the device form factor.
Takeaway: Details matter when introducing new payment experiences. Understand what is logistically important for your business use case and choose accordingly.
As the grocery industry looks to evolve the customer experience to keep up with retail innovation, mobile POS, BOPIS and curbside pickup are great options to consider. When evaluating how to change up your strategy, it’s important to keep some considerations in mind: can this experience keep up with high-volume scanning? Can it integrate with the existing store technology? Does it match up with your store’s logistical needs? Deciding on payment experience and related solutions that can fulfill the unique needs of your store and satisfy these questions is the first step towards standing out from your competitors.
Have questions about how enhancing customer experience could benefit your grocery business? Drop us a line!
Marcus Hodge is Key Account Manager at Ingenico Group, North America