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    Paying Attention to Checkout Pays Dividends

    Implementing self-service technology is one way to fix wait times.

    By Louis Ruiz, Tensator Inc.

    With so many convenient options for customers to shop, it’s hard to believe there are still checkout lines (single, multi-lane, manned or self-serve) that have customers abandoning loaded shopping baskets/carts. For some, it is a one-time abandonment; for others, it’s a forever thing. And along with the abandoned basket/cart comes passionate rants on Twitter and Facebook. 

    In a recent survey conducted by Tensator for a U.S. convenience store retailer, there were more than 164 walkaways in the span of one week due to lines that were just not moving fast enough for customers to justify their wait time. Can convenience store retailers really afford to leave money on the table for a problem that is readily addressable?

    Let’s take a look at the checkout landscape for 2015, fix those wait times and maximize every square inch of retail space with an eye on increasing profits at the checkout line.

    When customers experience long wait times, they get anxious and frustrated. In addition to the lost sales of a customer leaving their purchases behind, the staff now has to contend with putting abandoned goods back on the shelf or quickly back into the refrigerator. Sometimes, they even have to throw out the items. 

    To address these issues, take an objective view of the store and ask these questions:

    • Is the front end cluttered? Are there impulse items sticking out into the aisle?
    • Is the cashier hidden behind stuff?
    • Are multi-lane checkouts closed during high volume times?
    • Are cashiers yelling to customers to come forward?
    • Are customers completely dependent on attendants for all services?

    Here are some tips to help ensure customers complete their purchases and keep coming back to the store.

    GET RID OF THE CLUTTER

    To maximize the promise of “convenience” and quick access in and out of the store, make sure products are easily accessible, marked with clear signage and attractively displayed. Make good use of shelving systems and display stands that are extra space-efficient, geared for small footprints to make the most use of revenue per square foot.

    Impulse merchandising is a great way to maximize smaller footprints while capturing shopper interest and boosting incremental revenue, especially as customers wait in line for checkout. Just keep in mind, impulse items should be priced right (no higher than $9.99), be a known product and evoke a positive emotional response, with an element of fun or immediate gratification. 

    The checkout area is not a place to be introducing a new item as that will cause delays as people read about the product or deliberate as to whether they should buy it or not.

    MULTI-LANE OR SINGLE-LANE CHECKOUT?

    If a c-store has a multiple-line, multiple-server checkout configuration, it might be a good idea to switch to a single-line, multiple-server setup. In independent tests, implementing single-line electronic call-forward systems have been shown to dramatically reduce wait times and improve the overall shopping experience.

    The premise here is based on the universal concept of first come, first served — and the perception of fairness. Multiple lines can cause folks to jump lines and cut in front of others when they perceive a line is moving faster elsewhere, causing confusion and irritation. 

    SELF-SERVICE OPTIONS

    Offering quick-service products via kiosks or Multi-Service Machines (MSMs) may be a better alternative for providing customers with what they need in a timely fashion. Take a look around and see where these would fit best. They are ideal for gift card dispensing, stamps, lottery tickets and more.

    Kiosks and MSMs can reduce operational costs, improve staff efficiencies and decrease customer waiting times by allowing customers to skip the lines and letting them perform a large number of services themselves via secure 24/7 multi-service interfaces.

    THE BOTTOM LINE

    By taking a realistic view of the c-store checkout and implementing practical as well as technological innovation at this critical location, c-store retailers stand to convert dead queuing space into high-value retail space. This can increase basket size and margins from impulse purchases, decrease walkaways and improve customer retention. 

    Having a positive checkout experience may also result in an amazing tweet I came across recently: “Love this store, checkout was a breeze. They value my time; wish every convenience store was like this.”

    Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the view of Convenience Store News and Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner.

    By Louis Ruiz, Tensator Inc.
    • About Louis Ruiz As a Tensator business development manager, Louis Ruiz develops new customer relationships and supports his existing blue-chip retail clients' needs with innovative, revenue-generating queue management technology solutions.

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