Four ways to reduce lines at big box stores
POSTED : March 18, 2020
BY : Anil Yanamandra

For customers, there’s nothing worse than having to wait in line. The recent footage of Costco and other big-box stores with lines of customers stretched around the block would raise anybody’s blood pressure. Lines like these while exacerbated by our current health crisis are not just a problem of the moment. Retailers are losing nearly $40 billion a year to long lines. Besides the revenue loss, lines foster a bad customer experience that can have a ripple effect on a brand’s identity.

In trying to reduce wait times, many big-box stores have resorted to self-checkout lines. In exchange for waiting in a shorter line, customers get to scan and bag their own purchases. We can all agree that this solution doesn’t create a better customer experience, which is probably why retail experts believe, “self-checkout is a stepping-stone technology to true automated retail.” As shoppers seek frictionless experiences, big-box stores will have to do better than self-checkout to make lines a thing of the past.

Just walk out

Amazon Go’s “Just walk out” technology is setting the bar for big-box stores. There’s no need to ever stand in line again. You scan your phone when you enter, grab your purchases off the shelf and walk out the door. All of this is enabled through a surveillance system of cameras, weight sensors, and machine learning.

Since shoppers must have an Amazon account to download the app and scan their entry into the store, Amazon is able to continue to build on your customer profile. The in-store and online Amazon experience become inextricably linked with the potential for further personalization. So next time you’re in the online Amazon marketplace don’t be surprised if it nudges you towards products you purchased in-store.

Digital ordering

Starbucks is working to eliminate the long lines at its stores through order-ahead technology. If you’re a Starbucks Rewards member, using your phone, you’re able to quickly and easily place an order at a nearby Starbucks. The entire menu is at your fingertips, and you can customize your drink. Digital ordering has been so successful that Starbucks is rolling out shops where you can only order and pay from your phone.

Big-box stores like Target and Walmart have incorporated buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS) into their omnichannel arsenal as well. With 50 percent of consumers deciding where to buy online based on their ability to pick up in-store, it’s a critical differentiator. The ability to skip the line is enough of a perk to drive serious sales. Soon enough we may find some big-box stores following Starbucks’ lead and opening BOPIS only stores.

Voice-enabled shopping

As ordering with voice assistants becomes more commonplace in people’s homes, we’ll begin to see it take over the in-store shopping experience as well.To date, most in-store kiosks rely on touchscreen technology to help customers find and purchase products. Oftentimes, shoppers end up waiting in line to use the kiosk, because typing and tapping can be a time-consuming process. That’s beginning to change. Kiosks are now incorporating voice assistants to help speed things up.

Put plain and simple, voice is faster than typing. With the role of self-serve kiosks expanding, big-box stores will want to incorporate more voice technology into the shopping experience. McDonald’s, for example, is aiming to have self-serve kiosks in all its U.S. stores by the end of the year. However, the majority of customers prefer to speak to a human than use a self-serve kiosk. Having those kiosks be voice-enabled would bridge some of the gap between a touchscreen and cashier.

Biometric payments

At this point, we’re all pretty much used to having our fingerprint or face unlock our phone. It’s only a matter of time before biometric payments take over the in-store point of sale, too. Biometric payments mean customers no longer have to remember their wallets while also having a built-in identity authentication. The anticipated growth is astounding with some estimates seeing a 2500 percent increase over the next few years.

Whether the future of in-store biometric payments is a finger scan, a face scan or even a mobile solution, as consumers become increasingly comfortable and more reliant on this form of authentication, they’ll come to expect in-store experiences that mirror the frictionless accessibility of their devices. Because they’ll be no need for customers to count out change, go back to their car for their wallets or even stop at a register to pay, biometric payments could make lines a thing of the past.

Big-box stores don’t have to be playing continual catch up with other industry leaders like Amazon, Starbucks and McDonald’s. Big-box stores have both the positive revenue outlook and the means to set the trends for how retail will thrive in the coming years. Being able to capitalize on the right payment, mobile and kiosk technology and help customers skip the line will determine the leaders in the space.

Learn more about technological changes improving the retail customer experience in our report, Reinventing the brick-and-mortar experience.


About the Author

“AnilAnil Yanamandra currently serves as Mobile Solutions Architect at PK and also heads the Mobility global Center of Excellence. He is a seasoned technical leader with over 11 years of experience in the development & architecture of enterprise & consumer-facing multi-platform mobile applications. He has lead development of 50+ mobile apps including chart-toppers on iOS and Android app stores with multi-million user bases. He is an expert in leading cross-functional teams, best practices & industry standards for development, code maintenance & reusability, app security & performance, platform UI/UX conventions.

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