Closing the Gap: How Retailers Can Put an End to Shoppers’ Frustration at Checkout

Skip Hinshaw, head of customer engagement, North America at Ingenico Group provides insight for retailers to end shopper frustration at checkout. 

Fast. Easy. Secure. Those are the words consumers use to describe their ideal checkout experience. But in reality, how often do those expectations ring true?

Truthfully, not as often as retailers may think. Despite merchants’ best efforts to provide a smooth and seamless checkout, customers have reported that the in-store experience still isn’t always up to par.

That’s according to the latest research, Emerging Trends at the Point of Sale, a report from Hanover Research sponsored by Ingenico Group and FreedomPay. The research explores consumer and merchant perceptions at the point of sale to understand the gaps between the two groups. The study found that while consumers are experiencing some frustrating technological issues at checkout, there's some education retailers should be doing on the payment options available to their customers.

To help retailers address these issues and elevate their checkout experience, here are three key findings from the research:

Issues at Checkout Create Negative Customer Experiences

In-store technology is quickly evolving for the better, with new and innovative payment options that can be customized to meet the changing needs of fickle consumers. Yet, our survey revealed that consumers are still feeling frustrated at checkout. More than half of shoppers surveyed indicated they have experienced a technical issue at checkout at some point, most often due to a card chip or magnetic stripe malfunction. These glitches slow down the checkout experience and add an extra layer of frustration, which can damage customer relationships and may ultimately impact whether a shopper decides to return to the store.

These issues demonstrate a disconnect between retailers’ efforts to provide a frictionless experience and their shoppers’ reality. One piece of good news for retailers is that the study shows that contactless payments could be a viable option to close that gap: 74 percent of shoppers who have used contactless payments find the technology fast and easy to use.

Awareness is the Largest Remaining Barrier to Contactless Adoption

2020 should finally be the year contactless payments hit the mainstream in the United States. Our study found that 84 percent of businesses now accept contactless payments, and it won’t be long until that number nears 100 percent. In fact, the contactless payments market is set to triple to $6 trillion worldwide by 2024, according to a report by Juniper Research. However, while adoption among merchants continues to grow and consumers report faster and easier checkout experiences, the study pinpointed a significant information gap: Only 37 percent of consumers are even aware of contactless payment methods. However, with the recent trend of consumers looking to avoid touching payment terminals, that’s quickly changing.

Retailers need to spend time educating consumers about their payment options, especially when it comes to contactless. The contactless symbol at the register often isn’t enough. Many consumers need guidance on where, why and how to use contactless payments, along with assurance that these methods are secure. Retailers that take the lead in serving and educating their customers will be rewarded with increased loyalty, while those that sit back and wait risk falling behind.

Rewards Are Important, and More Nuanced Than We Think

Customer loyalty is at the core of any strong retail business. Rewards programs have long been key to driving loyalty and increasing customer engagement, but our survey revealed that they're more important than ever before. Consumers now expect to earn rewards on everything they purchase — from groceries to clothing to gas, and more.

Most importantly, consumers want to be able to earn rewards easily and use them when and where they want to, without hassle. The study found that consumers are still facing a handful of issues creating negative experiences for them related to rewards and loyalty. Common challenges include too many promotional emails and highly restricted spending options, both of which retailers can easily resolve by redesigning these programs meant to reward the customers who are most important to their business.

Consumers have come to demand positive experiences from retailers and other merchants, and can be fickle in how they want to pay, how they want to be rewarded, how they want to discover new products in-store, and more. And consumers have all the leverage, given their unique access these days to products in many different channels. Understanding which gaps exist between the experience you think you’re creating in-store and what sticking points actually exist for your customers is a key first step to building a strategy around payments and positive customer experiences.

Skip Hinshaw is head of customer engagement, North America at Ingenico Group, a global leader in the fintech market.

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