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With customers less inclined to wait in long queues to check out or to receive less than exceptional customer service, frictionless shopping has become the latest way to effectively meet and exceed customer expectations within the retail and hospitality sectors.  According to a survey conducted by Alliance Data, 76% of customers will only allow brands 2 or 3 chances before they stop shopping with them. So it’s crucial to make a good first, second and third impression in order to keep a customer’s loyalty.

This is where frictionless shopping comes in to play; customers want their shopping experience to be as effortless and smooth sailing as possible. With the rise of contactless, PayPal One Touch, touch ID, and mobile payments such as Apple Pay, customers are becoming more accustomed to a fast and efficient transaction process, especially online. Having to fill out long forms online is guaranteed to make a customer click the X button and leave the checkout process. It’s important that the customer is remembered each time they visit a site; this makes them feel valued and saves time filling out delivery and card details.  Another bug bear for customers shopping online is to pay for delivery, especially when it is slow. Fast and free shipping is an additional way of making the purchasing process friction free for your customer and is something that the majority of retailers are offering.  Alternatively, by offering the option to click and collect this provides a convenient way to receive goods without browsing in store or queuing to pay. This is especially convenient when your store has a dedicated click and collect checkout – so queues for the regular checkout do not get congested and customers can quickly collect their items and leave.

How can these issues be resolved? Retailers could take pointers from Amazon, who created the first ever “Just Walk Out” shopping experience.  Customers browse items, simply pick up what they want from the shelves and walk out.  The item is then charged to their Amazon account. The experience uses computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning; all the same tech used in self-driving cars. This eliminates the need for a checkout, therefore eradicating long queues that can cause customers to turn away.

For in store shopping, the concept is very similar.  The process from when the customer enters the shop to when they leave must be seamless, experiential and most of all frictionless. Long queues to pay for goods can make customers turn around and walk out, while an overcrowded store can create a stressful environment for customers. Similarly out of stock situations can lead to anger and frustration. All these issues can cause a customer to leave, unlikely to return.

However, while this might be the future of shopping, not all retailers will be capable of operating a system like this in the short term for a number of reasons including cost, logistics or simply the size of the store. Too small and there is the question of whether the technology needed justifies the benefits of consumer convenience. However too large and the cost of retrofitting the huge numbers of cameras needed to track customers becomes astronomic. Furthermore, many consumers prefer to use cash in their transactions, which would not work with this format of shop, in addition many people have concerns about how their data is being used already. Entering a shop with cameras that track your every move may be incredibly off putting to some consumers.

Not all friction is bad though, and positive friction, such as a surprise sale, can sometimes mean your customers will spend more and come away from the shopping experience feeling satisfied. Some studies show that customers actually purchase more while waiting in line. Equally, if a store is too frictionless, this can also pose a problem, some customers like the aspect of human contact when it comes to shopping, such as asking for advice or knowing more information about the product.

A more accessible way for shops to reduce friction at the present time is mobile checkout, it first gained popularity in apple stores and now many larger retailers use this method, particularly during busy shopping periods like black Friday. It’s an effective method of checkout as it means customers don’t even have to visit a till, whether self-service or not, nor do they have to queue; they can simply pay for their goods on the shop floor with any member of staff equipped with a payment terminal and Bluetooth receipt printer. Similarly self-service checkouts are becoming increasingly popular in retail as well as other industries such as ticketing and hospitality. Self-service kiosks can be found in McDonald’s and Premier Inn to name a few, allowing customers to order their food and to pay or check themselves into their rooms and receive their room keys, all without going through the tedium of a traditional checkout process.

Digital receipting is also becoming more common as it saves customers from rifling through receipts in their wallet or purse, when they are conveniently stored on their phone or device. However, this can sometimes cause friction as queues build, waiting for customers to give e-mail details in order to receive the receipt. There can also be privacy concerns with handing over your email address at the checkout.

Star’s digital receipting solution, AllReceipts™ is somewhat different. All customers have to do is download the app, scan the QR code on the bottom of their receipt and it will be immediately stored on their phone or mobile device. There’s no need to give any personal details or e-mail address at the point of sale as it’s all handled automatically by the AllReceipts app, customers don’t have to spend time giving details or needing to worry about being added to a marketing list Receipts can be found in the app and even filed by date or retailer, so no more searching through receipts to find the right one.

In the age of contactless, click and collect and one touch payments, shopping should be as easy as possible for the consumer and it is increasingly important for retailers to realise and adjust their business practices accordingly to keep up with customer demands for a frictionless shopping experience.