The future of retail is all about eliminating friction for the shopper. Consumers want to shop across channels, but they want each experience to be seamless and efficient. In order to attract and retain customers, retailers must make strides to reduce friction and improve convenience.
Friction Point #1: Disconnect Between Digital and In-Store Channels
Retailers of all sizes have been working to bridge the gap between online and offline experiences, but there is still a great divide. A simple way to bridge the gap is to ensure data is integrated between online and offline, which allows customers to shop in-store inventory from their homes, and online inventory from the store.
While e-commerce is convenient, it is not always the ideal scenario for a customer. Similarly, spending a lot of time in a store isn’t always the best option. Giving customers the choice to browse real-time inventory and pricing at their local store online gives them the best of both worlds. They can choose an item and then go test it out before buying, or order the item and pick it up the same day, cutting out the wait-time of a traditional e-commerce transaction.
Friction Point #2: Locating Items
Many shoppers enter a store knowing exactly what they need – but they don’t always know where to find it. Maps in the entryway can help, but going the extra mile to help shoppers find what they are looking for without having to track down an associate can greatly reduce friction.
If a retailer’s e-commerce platform or mobile application includes in-store inventory, it is useful to tell shoppers exactly where they can find what they need when they get to the store. They simply pull the item up and know exactly which aisle and shelf to head to. In-store GPS navigation is also becoming more mainstream.
Friction Point #3: Fitting Rooms
While some people like trying on clothes in a fitting room, many people try to avoid the stressful and time-consuming experience whenever possible. If there are lines for fitting rooms, or if customers are limited in the number of items they can try on at one time, many simply abandon their trip. Even if they don’t mind the fitting room experience, most people agree that it is difficult to tell if you like an item of clothing after trying it on for a few seconds in a tiny room under fluorescent lighting.
Retailers are reducing fitting room friction in a number of ways. Some offer generous, free return policies that allow people to buy items, try them on at home and then return the items that they don’t want at no additional charge. Others are investing in virtual fitting rooms that allow customers to see images of themselves in clothes without actually trying them on. Amazon is circumventing the entire fitting room experience with Prime Wardrobe, which allows shoppers to select three to eight items, have those items delivered, and then pay only for what they keep. The customer is billed after they make selections and send back the unwanted clothing. Some retailers are even bridging the online ordering gap by allowing customers to set aside items in-store and reserve a fitting room in advance.
Friction Point #4: Long Checkout Lines
One of the most attractive aspects of e-commerce is convenience, allowing shoppers to avoid trips to the store and long waits in checkout lines. By making point-of-sale more convenient, retailers can encourage shoppers to return to the store when they need items.
Some stores are adopting “walking POS,” – arming associates on the floor with scanners and iPads to check out customers anywhere in the store. Mobile payment systems like Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Android Pay, also speed up the check out process by allowing customers to pay with a tap of their device, rather than fumbling with wallets, cash and credit cards.
The Key To Reducing Friction
The most effective way to reduce friction is to identify the bottlenecks that hinder shoppers from finding what they want, purchasing it quickly and providing a positive experience. Guesswork won’t deliver that experience. It requires analyzing both in-store and online data to uncover patterns and craft tailored solutions. By uncovering unique friction points, retailers can tailor an experience that builds relationships and lifts sales.