ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Retailers are looking to improve in-store payment processes, as executives say this area has been lagging in the e-commerce space, reports the Wall Street Journal.
During the pandemic, there was a need to invest heavily in e-commerce, as retailers were unsure if consumers would return fully to in-store shopping. According to the National Retail Federation, e-commerce makes up 16.4% of retail shopping, down from 18.8% during the height of the pandemic.
Overall, retailers want to lose the friction in stores and offer increased convenience to their customers.
“There is an opportunity to remove the friction,” Yael Cosset, senior vice president and CIO, Kroger, told the Journal. “If customers are saying, I would love to be able to pick up a sandwich and walk out with it, then we would create that experience.”
The grocer is also exploring the option to install checkouts at the end of individual aisles, so customers could grab an item and check out right there.
Kroger is also testing a smart cart that allows customers to add items and pay on the cart through self-checkout. Sensors and cameras track what customers are buying. The technology is not unlike Amazon’s Dash Cart, which Amazon recently upgraded. Kroger also recently launched a temperature-controlled eCart that helps streamline order fulfillment and pickup for online grocery purchases.
Seeing that consumers are demanding faster service and a reduced friction way to get their essential goods, grocery stores are taking a page from convenience stores’ handbook and are attempting to gain smaller basket trips.
Nordstrom’s president of credit, loyalty and payment services, Dennis Bauer, told the Journal he is watching a nascent technology that would allow payment to be received via a mobile phone rather than a traditional payment terminal.
Bauer told the Journal that not having separate payment hardware would increase convenience and flexibility since employees could check out customers anywhere in the store from smartphone to smartphone, eliminating long lines at checkout.
However, retailers admit that the biggest barrier to implementing these advanced payment technologies and others is cost.
“If you have multiple hundreds or thousands of stores, if you think about the fact that those devices could break,” Bauer told the Journal about the potential smartphone-to-smartphone payment, “it’s a large expense.”
Kroger’s Cosset added that he believes it’s wise to wait on major technological investments to make sure it’s what the customer actually wants.
At the 2022 NACS Show, industry pros from Pilot Travel Centers and Mach 1 outlined some best practices for incorporating self-checkout in convenience stores.
Convenience stores are adding self-checkout, as well as checkout-free technology. Chevron announced checkout-free shopping at Chevron’s ExtraMile store in San Ramon, California, by partnering with Grabango. Bp, MAPCO and GetGo Café+Market also have partnered with Grabango to integrate checkout-free technology into their stores.
Choice Market convenience stores in Denver offer self-checkout, walkout technology and an app, which all sync and communicate with each other. Choice Market recently opened an autonomous store at The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus that will be open 24/7.
NACS offers a free webinar on self-checkout innovations at c-stores. Pre- and post-pay fuel transactions, loyalty, cash payments and age verification are also discussed.
Read more about frictionless checkout systems in “Self-Checkout Strategies” in the March issue of NACS Magazine.