The Death of the Checkout Line?

The Death of the Checkout Line?

Who likes to stand in line for the privilege of buying something? How many times have you just walked away when the lineup was too long? Ever walked into a store, seen the lineup, and walked right back out again?

While many stores like to keep the human touch at the retail checkout, technology and smart phones are moving us away from the lineup. Check out the Apple Store near you. Just about every sales person on the floor is also a cashier. You bring your product to them, or ask someone to get it, and they check you out over their iPhone and email you the bill.

And, I’m sure that right at their fingertips, they have your entire purchase history, very useful in offering me something that they already know I would be interested in. I haven’t seen them do this at the Apple Store, but I bet they are setting up for near field communications (NFC). See this post for more on NFC.

Long cashier lineups cause stress, anxiety and even bouts of rage —and it can stay with you for hours. The last thing that commissioned sales people want to see is their hard-earned sale balking at the lineup and abandoning the purchase. And who wants to abandon their purchase after spending all of that time being sold? Lineups used to be a fact of life, but now people can find other options.

Mobile payments on the floor will stop those sales slipping out the door. You see a move in that direction at Costco, where they will scan your items while you are in line, and then you merely pay at the till. Kroger, a US grocery chain, has installed infrared cameras that track the number of customers in line by their body heat. Software tells managers how many cash registers are needed now and in a few minutes from now. They have reduced average waiting times to 26 seconds. But I’d bet that their labour cost is up.

Migrating over to mobile payments will only make it easier for retailers to bridge that gap between retail outlet and online shopping. It will help build stronger relationships between sales person and customer and it will help keep shopping gratifying by taking away the mind-numbing exercise of waiting in line.