Flexible fulfilment, faster speed to market, seamless convenience … Retailers have been honing their abilities on these fronts since the dawn of the digital age. Now the epitome of retail excellence is to make shopping “frictionless.”
It would seem the consumer’s capacity for patience amid any form of inconvenience is growing thinner by the day. “Today’s younger consumers are increasingly unforgiving. They’re empowered by instant access and greater choice to want more and ‘put up’ with less, which means every brand experience needs to be exceptional,” said Alliance Data’s new report, “The Rules of NextGen Loyalty.”
While everyone is seeking it, frictionless retail is no one-size-fits-all destination. Retail leaders must decide what potential friction points matter most to their customers. Is it time spent waiting at the till queue? Is it not finding the desired product in the store? Or is it something more emotional, such as feeling anonymous? While the answers will vary a great deal, there is a common solution: the frictionless point-of-sale (POS) system.
Different Faces of Friction
Frictionless retail reveals itself in different forms. On one end of the frictionless spectrum are cashless grab-and-go retail settings such as Amazon Go, where consumers simply select what they want and walk right out. Super-fast fulfilment of online orders represents another face of frictionless retail. For example, at a new high-tech Walmart supermarket in China, the retailer makes 90 percent of items available online, promising delivery within a 1.2-mile radius within 29 minutes, according to a recent Reuters article.
Yet as amazing as these experiences are, they aren’t necessarily the ultimate benchmark. “Cashier-less mobile-first plays have their place, and the Amazon Go model will be at the forefront of this paradigm shift. With the convenience model, the grab-and-go technique will become the best practice,” said Brandon Rael, founder, BR Advisory, in a Retail Wire online discussion about Amazon Go’s future implications. “However, as you migrate to the fashion, luxury and specialty sides of retail, the store associates or brand ambassadors will continue to play a significant role in the overall customer experience. The combination of art, science and personal aspects of the retail experience will be essential, as the shopping experiences and expectations continue to evolve. Outside of pure technology strategies, it’s the investments made with your people that will make a substantial impact.”
Research findings from Alliance Data back up the notion that speed and convenience are only part of what consumers want when they shop. Consider these results of the firm’s survey of over 1,200 Gen Z and Millennial consumers.
|Top 10 Reasons Consumers Stop Shopping a Store/Brand||Top 10 Attributes Consumers See in Store/Brand They Love to Shop and Shop Frequently|
|1. High prices||1. Price|
|2. Poor quality||2. Quality|
|3. Poor selection||3. Easy to shop, Carries products I love (tie)|
|4. Poor customer service||4. Selection of merchandise|
|5. Poor experience||5. Discounts|
|6. Items are always out of stock||6. Convenience|
|7. Hard to find, get what I need/inconvenient location||7. Consistent products|
|8. Difficult to shop||8. Free shipping, Dependable, Rewards Program (three-way tie)|
|9. Stopped carrying brand(s)/products I love||9. Coupons, Customer Service (tie)|
|10. Store or brand not trustworthy||10. Fun/enjoyable experience|
Source: Alliance Data “The Rules of NextGen Loyalty” report.
Alleviating Friction with Omnichannel POS
The good news is that almost all of the Top 10 things consumers love (and hate) can be addressed with modern, mobile-enabled point of sale software. A frictionless retail experience is ultimately a connected commerce experience. With an omnichannel in-store POS solution, retail associates have real-time visibility to stock availability, online order status, customer preferences and loyalty program activity. They can bridge the online and offline worlds and cater to the individual consumer, thanks to having a 360-degree view of that customer’s shopping journey.
For example, if an item is not in stock in the store, the associate can easily find the product in a distribution centre or another store and arrange to ship it to the consumer’s home or to a store of choice. Perhaps the customer orders something online between store visits? Or wants to return a blouse that doesn’t fit quite right? With frictionless POS, everything is seamless. The store associate can handle all of these transactions with a few swipes on a mobile device, never leaving the customer’s side.
Indeed, the software and hardware advances that make retail more frictionless may very well make it more high-touch at the same time. Sterling Hawkins, co-founder of the Center for Advancing Retail & Technology (CART), sees a future in which automation will handle the more mundane, repetitive retail tasks, leaving people with plenty of time to engage with one another and create a better customer experience. “A lot of these emerging technologies actually enable us to be more human,” he said in Retail Wire’s discussion forum.
Does your retail business want to deliver a frictionless POS experience that puts people first? Contact Cegid today to discuss how our new “Shopping” in-store, omnichannel POS solution can get the job done.