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Little shop of horrors: Are retailers preparing for a cashless society?

Thu May 10 05:30:00 EDT 2018

Shop horror!

The bugbears of shoppers are obvious: Queues, poor discoverability, unsatisfactory customer service, out-of-date payment methods…

We’ve all been there, you wait in line for ages at a café, but when you get to the counter, you’re fumbling for pennies because they don’t take cards, or your online shopping experience becomes a drag because of a clunky website.

Retailers are now catering for a new generation of consumers who want everything, yesterday. For example, fast-food chains such as McDonald’s have employed digital order kiosks at thousands of their UK branches. In June 2017, shares in the golden arches franchise hit an all-time high, thanks to Wall Street confidence in the new technology.

Effects of a cashless society

A decade ago it was inconceivable that you could order something online and receive it within the hour, but there are an increasing number of businesses offering just that. According to research conducted by Salmon, nearly two-thirds of consumers believe all online retailers should offer same-day delivery.

Amazon even delivers parcels directly to the boots of certain models of cars. And as the ever-evolving retail landscape generously affords us more ‘me’ time through progressive automation and personalisation, we begin to place greater expectations on all  businesses to deliver, every time.

We’re becoming far less patient. Lightspeed’s EPOS 2018 Consumer Trends Survey revealed six minutes 46 seconds to be the maximum time that shoppers were willing to wait in line. Of those surveyed 69% said that they had decided against purchasing an item due to the length of the queue. Shoppers in the aged 55+ bracket were regarded as the most patient shoppers with a wait-time of up to seven minutes, compared to the six minutes 39 seconds of the 25-34 age group.

Automation is having an effect

So, are we fast becoming a nation who’d rather interact with a robot than a real human being? In many cases, the answer is yes. This is backed up by research carried out by Accenture Strategy which shows that almost a quarter of UK consumers like the idea of using sensor-based digital services that pre-emptively address their needs.

Here, we explore some of the top on and offline gripes of the modern consumer, and why fixing the fundamentals is a great place to start.

The need for speed

It is unrealistic to expect that every online seller can fulfil orders in the same timeframe as the multi-billion pound corporates. What retailers can do, however, is be responsive.

Having asked a question in-store, you would not be best pleased having to wait 24 – 48 hours for a response, and yet more often than not, this is the reality for online shoppers. In many cases, such a timeframe is considered to be quick.

Rapid replies to questions and instant order confirmations can pay dividends for businesses looking to acquire new customers and retain existing ones. A test conducted by Adidas saw that of the first 2,000 people who signed up to their chatbot app, 80% reused the app and 60% continued to use it after a week – a retention rate the brand claims is far greater than what could ever have been achieved by their regular app.

Gartner, a US-based research company predicted that chatbots will power 85% of all customer service interactions by the year 2020, whilst Business Insider reported that 80% of businesses are expected to use chatbots in some capacity by that time. Why? Service times are fast, satisfaction rates are high, and consumer confidence is rising.

Better customer journeys

Consumers understand that no business, whatever the size, is infallible. Mistakes will be made and deadlines will be missed, but by building an enterprise around the customer-centric principles of valuing the time, energy, money and privacy of patrons first and foremost, then the process of providing first-class customer service can be made much simpler.

Working with a reliable and innovative payment provider is a first step to visibly demonstrating the value placed on a customer’s time and security. Accepting a variety of payment methods in a safe and speedy way is a sure fire win with consumers.

Barclaycard Smartpay offers a range of payment gateway solutions that are simple to integrate, easy to use, and meet the high level of service that customers have come to expect. Adopting a payment solution with industry-leading uptime not only makes a statement to customers, but backs it up with tangible results: faster payments, an improved end-to-end user journey, and peace of mind.

‘Surf and turf’

According to data from the Office for National Statistics, online now accounts for almost 18% of total retail sales compared to just 2.8% a decade ago. However, a new trend is surfacing amongst consumers to ‘surf and turf’ – adding products to their online baskets but never completing the transaction. The trend costs UK retailers an estimated £18bn in sales each year, but can potentially be combated by retailers paying greater attention to detail.

In the same way that you wouldn’t leave water leaking on a shop floor, retailers should conduct regular site audits to check the state of their online offering. Are all links working? Are products discoverable? Are terms and conditions still in date?  A tidy shop equates to a tight ship – a business running in an orderly and disciplined manner, with untold benefits for both the customer and seller.

Going omnichannel

One key metric for online businesses is abandonment rates – at what point on a user journey are sales lost? A high abandonment rate could mean that the content on a particular page is either not what the customer expected or wanted to see. From misleading copy to lengthy delivery times, to products that are hard to find – there’s a myriad of reasons why customers are calling it a day. By isolating the sections of a website that are underperforming, an opportunity is born to both address and rectify the issues.

According to a 2016 survey conducted by ecommerce recovery company Optilead, 81% of online basket abandonment is ignored by retailers with no customer follow-up whatsoever. By applying a real-time, multi-channel approach, businesses could expect to see recovery rates of up to 47%.

Death of a sales plan

Where once upon a time companies could rely on prompting a database of customers to take action with an email or a discount code, there now exists a crowded marketplace with brands – old and new – clamouring for a mere three or four seconds of attention within the social space.

Brands can no longer rely on their name alone. Nor does it suffice to be the cheapest, or the quickest provider. Consumers are savvier than ever and seek out shopping experiences to suit their needs. It is well-known that Jeff Bezos – founder of Amazon – insists upon there being one empty chair in important meetings to represent the ‘customer in the room’. And what is it that the customer wants? Choice. Speed. Shopping. On their terms.