What your customers are thinking when they reach the checkout counter

Here, Kevin Freeguard discusses why it is critical for retailers to understand the drivers behind their customers' purchasing decisions at the checkout counter.

With the rise of e-commerce and new retail technologies, the retail experience and customer expectations seem to be changing on an almost daily basis. Today, customers demand more from retailers than ever before. They expect payments to be instantaneous, convenient and secure, and to engage with retailers as an individual, not purely as a transaction. With the rapid pace of change, it’s essential for retailers to stay ahead of the curve and understand the drivers behind purchasing decisions at the checkout counter, otherwise known as the point of sale (POS), so they can engage with customers in a meaningful way.

The POS is the last experience before consumers reach for their wallets or mobile phones to pay for purchases. What happens here is so important because it goes beyond payment – it’s a symbolic and physical touchpoint that connects customer and retailer, leaving a lasting impression.

According to research by Dr. Ian Bushnell, senior lecturer of psychology at Glasgow University, who explores the psychology driving consumer behaviour at the POS, retailers who know understand their customers and know more about their behaviour are able improve the checkout experience, thereby building greater brand loyalty and cement shopping habits.

However, what we know from the research is that we still have a lot to learn! Customers are unpredictable. Their preference for payment method, or even which checkout to go to – whether manned or unmanned – is based on a deeply complex set of decisions taken by the individual.

Make information a commodity

What we do know is that customers are more willing to engage with the salesperson, and enjoy a positive payment experience, if they feel well informed and not under pressure. The UK government’s Behavioural Science Unit recommends employing a ‘nudge’ approach, where providing comparative information at the time of checkout – such as information stating how much the customer saved, the average wait time, or calls to action to sign up to a loyalty card scheme – have been shown to increase consumer loyalty and satisfaction.

Knowing this, bricks and mortar retailers should consider integrating marketing into the checkout experience – presenting customers with offers that appeal to them, or link to the items in their basket, like Amazon does at online checkout with its recommended products. A great example of this is a POS system that allows retailers to market products and offers at the time of checkout, increasing both customer loyalty and the bottom line.

Make payment easy

In-store payment acceptance has a significant impact on how shoppers feel towards the brand. Consumers want retailers to accept the payment methods and apps they prefer, whenever they’re ready to buy, and the rise of cloud services, NFC and contactless provides ample opportunity to meet such demands. Services need to be customised to suit the needs of the consumer – in the queue, in the aisle, and even at unattended points of checkout, both inside and outside the store.

Connect the online and in-store channels

Retailer should not only be able to supply payment options that support any method of payment consumers want to use, but the payment systems should also eliminate silos between online and in-store channels. This provides retailers with historically unavailable customer data and analytics, which they can use to enhance the customer experience and quickly adapt to change however their customers reach them.

Today’s latest payment innovations enable retailers to extend this omni-channel experience to customers far beyond the checkout counter—into the aisle, call centre and even the unattended shopping environment.

Ultimately, data can only take us so far. We have more information than ever before about how and why people behave the way they do both in-store and on-line and retailers need to use that knowledge to provide their customers with the customised, personalised experiences they demand. New technologies should make it easier for consumers to pay and easier for retailers to track data but this is only true if the technology that is being implemented actually improves the payment process.

Kevin Freeguard is UK & Ireland managing director at Verifone

Further reading on point of sale solutions

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Point of Sale solutions

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