How can a cloud-native checkout engine drive change, security and speed all at once to create a unified retail journey?
Head of Product Marketing at Extenda Retail, Jonas Bergström, discusses the future of retail and the direction of travel for the next 12 months.
Fast-changing consumer demands – driven by supply chain issues, economic forces and the continuing pandemic – are still heavily influencing the direction of retail in 2022… and that means it’s time for leadership and bold action.
Over the next 12 months, adequately meeting customer expectations will force retailers, big and small, into focusing energy on convenience, simplicity and speed.
The Omicron variant of COVID-19 and the reestablishment of restrictions in some countries served to remind us how people’s buying decisions have changed forever.
Even with restrictions lifted, many remain far less tolerant of browsing in-person, either desperate to get in and out of the in-store experience quickly, or not entering at all. This trend will continue to define traditional retail spaces and offerings, alongside e-commerce growth.
The past two years tackled this in part by recognising the increased need for click and collect services, and a more distinct online presence with fast home delivery. But to survive into 2023 and beyond, retailers now have to be bolder, tackling the fears of their customers head-on and reimagining their journeys.
At the heart of this will be unifying their mobile experience and creating a seamless checkout experience wherever and whenever a consumer chooses to transact, and from whatever device they use to do so.
More interfaces to interact with the customer
Since the pandemic began in March 2020, we have seen an increased use in scan-and-go and tap-to-pay technology, and it is the former that will become the most relevant platform to meet consumers on. It is the one with the most potential because it enables moving between both in-store and online shopping environments from a mobile device.
This is the gateway to creating a unified checkout; it will be a bold step forward and become the next commercial imperative.
The pandemic has shown us that those who were brave enough, and fast enough, to spot the opportunity to transition from manned checkouts to self-serve reaped the benefits of reduced queues and more humans on the shopfloor to help with queries.
Success in this area was accompanied by a move away from on-premises POS to cloud-native POS solutions, allowing for a greater number of checkout options.
The next stage is to unify the checkout process and place a greater reliance on the personal mobile device to erase the borders between online and the store itself. This evolution will be as industry-changing as the adoption of mobile wallets and the rise in tap-to-pay transactions.
One device, many options to buy
We know that self-scanning via handsets provided in-store can revolutionise customer and employee experience, and boost businesses bottom line. But take-up and trust is still patchy among consumers, and that is why retailers need to be bolder and use the cloud-native technology now available to them to develop a truly unified checkout experience.
This would be run from a consumer’s own smartphone, undoubtedly their most-trusted possession and the one with them always. Utilising this side steps any fears they may have over privacy and security of a third-party device, or any confusion or lack of tech knowledge that might prevent them from wanting to use a handset provided in-store.
Crucially, activating this customer experience journey through a personal smartphone allows the same checkout process to be applied across a retailer’s physical locations and its e-commerce sites.
The positives are clear. Pricing and offers will always be up-to-date in real time, no matter where a customer decides to make their purchase. This information flow is unified, using cloud-native applications, rather than those based on servers in individual stores.
This is also especially useful given it removes the need for manual updating from store-to-store. It increases the opportunity for chain-wide, or localised, personalisation of discounts, as well as quick responses to changes in demand, new trends and seasonal influences.
A unified checkout delivers a consistent experience and can elevate retail even further by allowing the purchase of a mixed basket of items. This will be absolutely key to the retail experience going ahead. For example, a customer might pop into their local store for a bottle of milk and other grocery products, but spot a larger ticket item such as a TV or white goods they wish to buy.
With a unified checkout engine they can purchase that higher-priced item, during the same checkout process, but have that delivered to their home at a time of their choosing, while immediately carrying their groceries away with them.
This seamless transaction uses one receipt, and offers the idea of “endless aisles”.
Demand for convenience will drive unified checkout experiences
I believe that in 2022 and onwards such technology will be in demand more than ever, as COVID-19 demonstrates to us how consumers want such functionality because it offers convenience and speed. They want to be bolder in how they approach the technology available to them on the retail journey, to start it in one location, and finish it in another.
Retailers need to be bold too. For example, another use case might be a customer has taken time at home to research and choose that bigger ticket item, but wants to see it up close before finalising the purchase. So they head in-store to check it out.
If the retailer in question has bravely enabled unified checkout experiences, here, they can use their smartphone to order it from that retailer’s e-commerce site while in-store, and use that same personal device to scan and buy a number of other smaller products to return home with. A unified checkout architecture allows this with a seamless payment journey and transaction delivery.
For the bold and brave consumer and retailer, this speedier mobile-based customer journey benefits all ages, not just younger generations. What’s more, it’s not a dream, it’s already a reality.
Unified checkout experiences can be achieved through our own Extenda Retail Hii Checkout platform – available to any retailer, and powered by the cloud.
Through this technology, any device can become viable for a unified checkout, without having to run a different manual process for in-store checkouts and POS or upload information centrally to the back-end of e-commerce.
The benefits are many, but we understand some retailers might struggle to implement unified checkout processes because existing technical architecture will not support it.
Instead they might want to take an on-premises application already in play, and just move this to the cloud, but that simply creates another siloed application, rather than a connected set of applications sharing the same real-time data. That’s why the only choice is to be bolder.
Retail digital transformation must be unified
Harnessing a cloud-native platform like Hii Checkout equips new applications to monitor information across an entire retail business – both physical and digital – in real-time.
This up-to-date data provides the core building block for full digital retail transformation to succeed and produce a positive ROI.
Of course, not everyone will be bold and leap straight into all the benefits of a unified checkout process. But now is no doubt the time to unify around a customer’s own smartphone and bring a much fuller, and more vibrant, digital experience into their hands.
For example, in-store this could allow the suggestion of similar alternative products when something is out of stock, in the same way as happens when they buy online.
We are at the start of a natural evolution of scan-and-go and tap-to-pay, and it is in 2022 that this path will continue to encourage more money to be spent in-store, even when the time being spent in a store is now greatly reduced.
Smartphones have become indispensable in our lives as a way to deal with COVID-19 – from showing vaccine passes to scanning QR codes that will record visits to restaurants or using Bluetooth to identify if we have been near someone with Coronavirus.
And for the bold retailer, a consumer’s smartphone is the gateway to the unified checkout that is the future of retail.
A cloud-native system like Hii Checkout is optimised for that transformation. It is the final checkout a retailer will ever need to buy. It is not reliant on having to upgrade once every five years, instead it might upgrade instantly five times a day across an entire business.
It is clear that in today’s fast-changing retail world, any technology that reduces friction for the consumer is more likely to convert them to purchase.
And if you’re brave enough to see that as an opportunity, unifying your checkout is the next stage for any retail business to gain the leading edge over its competitors.
Want to discover our Hii Checkout, and how it enables multi-experience retail?
Author: Jonas Bergström
Head of Product Marketing