E-commerce skyrocketed when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, as more consumers realised its ease and convenience.
However, the past few years have also exposed what online shopping just cannot replicate – human interaction, experiential shopping and social connection.
“We are all inherently social beings. Whilst we love the convenience and real-time availability of the online experience, whenever there has been an easing of lockdowns, people have flooded back to the physical retail environment. Who could forget the long queues outside of Kmart at midnight on the eve of restrictions lifting last year?” observes Teaj Sian, Managing Director at Glory Global Solutions (Australia).
“There will always be space for physical retail. People flock to shopping centres and it is not just to procure goods and services; it is also about the experiential enjoyment, the social element and the ability to make more informed purchasing decisions.”
Of course, physical retail has had to undergo a few changes since the first wave of Covid, particularly at entry, payment and checkout. Here are some of the ways that businesses have reconsidered safe and convenient ways for customers to shop and pay in person.
Offering choices: Self-service vs assisted service, cash vs non-cash payments
As seen in major supermarkets, click-and-collect and self-service kiosks are now an in-store fixture, although there are more retailers from other categories deploying similar initiatives, such as sporting goods retailers, DIY stores and home hypermarkets. The kiosks are often used by customers who would prefer to limit chances of Covid transmission or have weighed up whether they would be faster checking out themselves.
“They want it to be contactless, safe and as efficient as possible,” explains Sian.
The other side of the checkout experience is assisted service, when the cashier helps and engages with the customer.
“In this case, retailers want their staff to deliver a great experience to their customers by engaging with them to provide support and participating with them in conversation,” says Sian. “We work with a number of retailers and independent supermarkets who are passionate about offering that human touch.”
Even though the proportion of cash payments in Australia is decreasing, many key retailers have chosen to not turn customers away with restricted payment options. Modern payment automation solutions simplify cash handling and allow staff at the checkout to focus on customer engagement and service.
“The benefit of assisted service is that it allows for great customer engagement and your people play a significant role in that environment. Customers come back for the conversation. That service is part of the value proposition,” explains Sian.
One of Glory’s clients here in Australia, an artisan bakery, has recently implemented contactless payment solutions in their stores to provide a safe hygienic environment whilst improving productivity.
“They didn’t want to go down the self-service route, it doesn’t work for their business. The reason why assisted checkout is important is that it goes back to focusing on providing a great customer experience,” explains Helen Clarke, Head of Retail at Glory Global Solutions.
“They like our contactless payment technology because it reduces contact and improves hygiene. But importantly, it allows the staff to talk to people about the artisan bread on display, giving customers the full experience – that’s their core value proposition.”
The hidden productivity benefits of cash automation in the store
Contactless cash checkout solutions allow customers and staff to feel hygienic and safe during the transaction process, but there are also benefits to the bottom line. In the current climate of staff shortages, every minute saved is crucial for retailers.
“We’ve been able to help many of Australia’s top retail customers through our automation technology; on average we have saved them 20 minutes a day per cashier at the checkout and three to four hours a day in the back office, when doing their end-of-day processes,” Sian says.
“Without the burden of manual cash handling, we’re able to help a retailer repurpose their staff’s time and utilise their people in the most efficient way in this challenging resource-constrained environment.”
While there is a belief that automation at the checkout or in the back office means staff cuts, the reality is that those employees can now work on more high-value activities, such as working on the shopfloor and engaging with customers.
Take your staff on the journey
Thinking about deploying a contactless cash solution for your customers and your staff? Don’t forget to take your staff along on the journey, advises Sian.
“Every business is different, we start with an understanding of how things work in our customer’s business, identify the options to implement, and then align the automation options to their business objectives and KPIs. We then work with their staff to deliver the transformation project. Our account managers, field service engineers, pre-sales team, and product support team all navigate the customer through that process,” says Sian.
“That whole change management process is key and those retailers who have engaged their staff early and taken them on the journey, have a much greater chance of success.”
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