Learning From Our Nordic Neighbors

Sweden’s nearly cashless society has customer service lessons for American retailers.

December 09, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—What’s the secret to running a successful, cashierless store? For Mariette Kristenson, CEO of Reitan Convenience Sweden AB, it’s all about freeing up staff to provide a more personalized customer experience. “We’re working to make people feel welcome,” she said on this week’s episode of Convenience Matters, “Nordic Retail Trends.” With more automated checkout, store employees can help customers on the floor more, “doing more things that add value and not just helping them with their payments,” she added.

Sweden was one of the first countries to go cashless. In 2018, just 1% of the Nordic nation’s GDP was circulating in cash. “Cash is not gone, but it’s very hard to pay in stores, restaurants and hotels with cash nowadays,” Kristenson said. “There are a lot of places not accepting cash at all, and most customers use other payment methods, like cards or mobile phones.”

For Reitan’s 400 stores in seven Scandinavian and Baltic countries, going automated for payment was relatively easy. “The market is quite mature, and it’s been a customer-driven development,” she said. “People want to spend as little time as possible doing payments, and they really, really wanted it to be convenient.”

The company worked hard to tie its cashierless payment options to its loyalty program. “We worked with our app and loyalty programs, digital communications with the customer to prolong the customer experience and be personal as well. I think the mix is essential—personal and digital at the same time,” Kristenson said.

Meanwhile, while the pandemic has yet to abate, store sales have returned to pre-pandemic levels. “It’s pretty much back to normal trends,” she said. “We’ve actually increased a little bit with tobacco….otherwise, it’s quite normalized and customers have gotten back to their normal way of shopping.”

For more insights into how Reitan Convenience is tackling automation and the ever-changing market, listen to the podcast here. Each week a new Convenience Matters episode is released. With more than 200 episodes to choose from, the podcast can be heard on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and other podcast apps and YouTube and at www.conveniencematters.com. Episodes have been downloaded more than 130,000 times by listeners around the world.