For More Sales, Design Better Checkout Experiences

I’m guessing that many people who read the title of this post think it’s about online experiences. That’s where “design” and “checkout” most often show up in the same sentence. But I’m actually discussing in-store experiences. According to recent research, about 1.6 percent of customers abandon in-store checkout lines. For a typical retailer, that’s over $100,000 per store per year, which is more than $50 million per year for a 500 store chain.

My take: I’ve recently discussed new in-store merchandising strategies for Wal-Mart, Michael’s, and Macy’s. Companies are recognizing that store design has a significant impact on customer purchases during a visit and on the likelihood of customers to return to the store. But the last place you want customers to have a bad experience is when they’ve got a product in one hand and payment in the other.

So companies need to take another look at the design of their checkout experiences. This means examining their queue structure (multi-line, single-line, etc), the queue environment, and in-queue merchandising. Technology offers new options for in-store experiences like self-service checkout kiosks and portable checkout systems.

Since I mentioned online experiences at the start of this post, I’ll end with a comment about online experiences. I’ve written in the past about flaws in the Store to Web experience. With the growth of mobile applications like ShopSavvy, retailers will increasingly need to design experiences that cross-over online-offline boundaries.

The bottom line: Stop losing customers that are ready to buy.

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about these topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

3 Responses to For More Sales, Design Better Checkout Experiences

  1. Jae Kae says:

    Actually, when I read the title, I instantly thought of my last trip to Walmart. Stood in line for 20minutes, behind 2 customers who had full carts. It was a busy evening, I didn’t think I could do better in any other line. It wasn’t the quantity of products that needed scanning, it was the employee who was slow. With a watch, I timed the employee in the other isle, she scanned about 7 items every 10 seconds. Whereas the employee in my line was doing about 4. Like you, I was trying to figure out why the difference… physical ability, strength, coordination. Item recognition (couldn’t find the barcode), 3D spatialization and pre-planning (bagging the products). The whole system was inefficient.

    And then there was the self-serve line, which was continually halted because the computer would require the attendant to key in a password or verify something. The self serve wasn’t any faster than my line.

    I hope you helped out Walmart with their checkout process… it needs a lot of help!


  2. Bryan Lee says:

    I had an interesting checkout experience in a grocery store recently. While some of the self service checkouts are well designed for a smaller number of items, this grocery store I was in converted existing full lanes into self service. A couple of issues: customers could take full baskets of things, which means you have large and small items shoppers mixed together. Second, there were no baggers available, so in addition to shoppers unfamiliar with the checkout technology, this store stressed their bagging skills (or exposed the lack of them!) The bagging took much longer than the checkout, and served to get me a few dirty looks from the customer in front of me as I proceeded to start my checkout. No fun for anyone involved!

  3. Bruce Temkin says:

    Jae Kae and Bryan Lee: Thanks for sharing your experiences. Clearly “self-service” checkouts require more than just some technology slapped near the front door of a store. And it’s amazing to me that more stores don’t do basic things when they’re busy like having managers help out with slow moving lines (bagging, etc.). Hopefully the loss of revenue will motivate more firms to improve the checkout experience.

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