Brits are known for their queuing etiquette. And when the average consumer spends more than 18 hours a year stuck in shop queues, it’s no wonder why. It could also be hitting retailers with a contribution to the £1b loss of profits per year. With Brits shopping more than ever these days, the queues are swelling and more staff are needed to take payments and control crowds, which results in an increase in employee numbers and wages. Alongside this, a lack of uptake in innovation could be costing big too. SMEs that don’t offer credit and debit card payments could also be missing out on almost £8.8b in lost sales. Whether it’s shopkeeper’s profits that are being squeezed or shoppers wasting precious time, it’s a lose-lose situation. However, with constant innovations in technology resolving these pain points, those numbers look set to change for the better.
The tech that’s changing the game
One particular innovation in payment technology has been key to whittling down those queues. The take-up of contactless in the UK has been exponential, and its popularity comes in the ease and speed of use. Self-service checkouts have had a similar effect, letting people scan and pay at their own speed.
In an always-on world, consumers want the ability to shop on their terms. The 24/7 availability of eCommerce means customers needn’t leave their bed, let alone queue, to make a purchase. Add this to the fact that being online allows retailers to reach all corners of the globe, and eShop innovations have irreversibly changed the way consumers shop and businesses sell. This includes the ability to provide next day delivery and customised products, as well as cheap prices thanks to the reduced amount of overheads needed to sell online.
Similarly, mobile commerce and branded apps give consumers the opportunity to purchase when they like but with even more flexibility. By firing up the brand’s app and making an order, even whilst in the shop looking at an item, consumers can get their purchase delivered without queuing and retailers don’t miss out on revenue. Similarly, the option to click and collect is not a new concept but to mobile commerce it’s becoming more and more useful in order for customers to skip the crowds. Especially true for retailers like Tesco and John Lewis who allow shoppers to purchase via their mobile and collect at a time and location convenient to them. However, this flexibility can present challenges of its own with showrooming becoming an ever-increasing trend across the UK. Showrooming - browsing for items instore only to purchase them online at a cheaper price – can mean trouble for brick-and-mortar retailers who are then pitted against eCommerce goliaths like Amazon.
It’s in our nature
To understand why technologies are so vital to the customer experience, it pays to look at consumer shopping behaviour. Loyalty schemes are a factor that 76% of UK consumers find important if they’re to hand over personal data. Linking this to the world of technology is fast becoming the most logical next step in rewarding consumers. In 2015, Harvey Nichols launched its loyalty app based on research that 80% customers preferred an app over “another card in their wallet”. Loyalty schemes are also easy to personalise, providing consumers with that all-important unique shopping experience. According to another study, 41% of consumers have scouted out vouchers and deals on their smartphone whilst physically in store, showing how offline and online shopping habits can work in tandem, as opposed to showrooming.
65% of consumers use their smartphones whilst shopping, and through targeting and analysis, brands can apply the stats from eCommerce and apps to profile customers more efficiently. As we all know, better customer profiling means a more personalised service, which means a better experience and greater propensity to spend.
This surge of technological advancements provides huge benefits to consumers. So much so that retailers who are slow on the uptake of such innovations can risk potential sales, customer sentiment, and profit. With Millennials, the first generation to grow up after the internet and mobile technology became the norm, likely to account for nearly a third of total spending by 2020 retailers would be best advised to keep on their wavelength.
Making even the smallest upgrade in technology can bring many rewards for businesses. The prospect of moving from cash to card payments may seem daunting to SMEs. However, with the range of Barclaycard payment solutions it can be a straightforward transition to get through those queues faster and keep customer footfall and spend flowing. A mobile card machine could help disperse queues, for example, by enabling staff to take payments anywhere on the shop floor much the same as Apple stores do. Similarly, moving a business online and setting up eCommerce abilities can offer consumers the freedom and flexibility to purchase at their leisure.
However a business decides to advance, the key is in ensuring that they do. With both start-ups and bigger brands constantly responding to customer pain points with new innovations, there’s no excuse not to enhance the shopping experience.