The supermarket of the future is being shaped by expectations around one important element of the shopping experience: service. In an age where ‘shopping’ is no longer the same as ‘buying’, and digital continues to transform consumer habits, shoppers are now searching for experiences that shed meaningless friction from their lives and provide meaningful impact. As a consequence, the active components of service have become important to them.
For retailers, understanding the defining moments of active service during the shopping experience is important for tapping these evolving customer expectations.
In store, active service includes the form of payment at the end of the customer journey. Fitch research has shown that payment is one of two integral factors that contribute to a positive shopping experience. Retail experiences are defined by ‘peaks’, the emotional high point for the customer, and the ‘end’ – usually payment before departing.
If the payment process is annoying and convoluted, then it will negatively impact the whole journey and it will be fresh on their mind as they leave the store. If it is positive and the retailer can offer multiple ways to pay, they will be viewed as more service-orientated.
Ultimately, consumers want the easiest and most convenient payment service possible. With technology and innovations in ‘instant’ payment solutions, shoppers are increasingly expecting integrated payments. They want the ability to pay however they want, whether it be card, mobile device or wearable tech, as well as an easy process that is aligned with the rest of the shopping environment.
The retailers who have explored and invested in this technology are already reaping the benefits. In the east we’re seeing a shift towards AI-led frictionless experiences with Alibaba’s facial recognition technology known as ‘Smile to Pay’. In the west, Amazon’s Go stores are piloting hand-based checkout terminals. Both retail giants have reflected a commitment to moving with consumer demands and so they are successfully enhancing the overall brand experience. By making payments painless and easy, consumers are more likely to engage with a brand’s wider ecosystem of products and services from that point onwards.
The future of payments in physical retail will always be about choice. That choice is almost never going to include standing in a queue. Retailers must provide the best technological solutions that align with the ‘digital convenience’ mindset of the consumer. This means understanding and catering to the different ways their customers want to transact, and enabling them to shop on their terms. Payments may not seem like the most exciting or glamorous area to invest in, but retailers should not underestimate the power of convenient services within the wider shopping experience.