What Will It Take to Create a Better Checkout Experience?
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion, is a summary of a current article from the Platt Retail Institute’s Journal of Retail Analytics.
Thanks to bar code scanners, self-checkout, pay-at-the-pump and smarter, faster POS systems, it’s likely we are spending less time in lines than we did decades ago. So why is there a near-universal perception that we now spend more time waiting?
We attribute this perception, at least in part, to our personal technology and the instant gratification it provides.
The optimal point-of-wait solution should:
1. Occur in-process, rather than pre- or post-process. Ideally, your customer should first be acknowledged and allowed to "get started" and make some progress in the path to purchase. Delays around pre-process (not being acknowledged) or post-process (payment hold up) are not tolerated as much. To make in-process waiting a better experience, many Toyota service centers provide movie theaters, children’s play zones, massage therapy stations, private Wi-Fi areas, and free snacks.
2. Prime the customer for waiting. Prepare your customers for waiting and manage their expectations of the wait. Disney has signs indicating expected wait times for attractions, and even strives to achieve a shorter wait than posted to provide a pleasant surprise.
3. Engage emotions that are motivating for the customer. Make the diversion irresistible by stimulating emotional buttons that your customers will likely respond to and find pleasant. At Brooklyn-based Mast Brothers Chocolate’s retail store, customers distract themselves from the reality of long lines by watching raw ingredients being transformed into chocolate.
4. Reward the customer for participating. The customer should get something out of the diversion itself. A reward can be concrete or have monetary value, like a prize or coupon, or intangible, such as a satisfying end to suspense. Movie theater chains such as AMC engage viewers before show time by displaying cinema trivia questions on screen in between promotional messages, with the answer revealed later.
5. Be social. Waiting alone in a line of strangers feels like it takes longer. Social media is one way to eliminate solitary waiting. Major League Baseball teams could easily use Foursquare, Facebook or Twitter to engage fans queuing at ticket counters and refreshment stands.
6. Maximize the value of waiting. A great point-of-wait diversion can’t make up for an inferior product or disappointing service. How does Washington, D.C.-based Georgetown Cupcake reward customers for standing outside with strangers for up to an hour to buy a $4.00 cupcake? As one customer raved: "One hour in line, two seconds in heaven!"
What are some tried-and-true as well as unorthodox methods you see retailers using to manage perceptions around wait times? What schemes could stores borrow from entertainment or other service sectors in dealing with wait times?