We have become a society of consumers who increasingly anticipate ease, quickness and convenience in the shopping experience, regardless of what we are shopping for. Checking out at the clothing or grocery store is expected to take no longer in person than it would if you were simply adding a few items to your Amazon cart. This continuous rise in expectation has increasingly driven retailers to find new ways they can up their consumers’ shopping experience, giving a whole new definition to the term “frictionless shopping”.
What Creates Friction in the Shopping Experience?
The term friction, as it relates to the shopping experience, pertains to any step in the checkout process that could stand to slow it down and potentially frustrate the consumer. Years ago, this may have referred the time it took to hand-write receipts, add up the total cost of items or count back the correct change to a customer. Any and all of these acts could be time-consuming and, over time, have created a negative response from the consumer regarding their different shopping experiences.
How Has Frictionless Shopping Evolved?
Very few retailers are still relying on calculators and mental math these days. In fact, the frictionless shopping experience has evolved a lot over the past decade, in particular. For one thing, fewer and fewer consumers are using cash and more are relying on credit cards. The implementation of greater fraud protection has, in many cases, eliminated the need for signatures on credit card transactions altogether, making them a far quicker payment option. Add to that the introduction of virtual wallets and retail apps and the checkout process becomes exponentially easier. Additionally, paper receipts are increasingly becoming antiquated as more retailers and consumers are becoming eco-conscious and opting, instead, for their receipts to be emailed. These are only a few examples of the countless ways the frictionless shopping experience is evolving, and brick-and-mortar retailers are doing their best to keep up!
How is Frictionless Retail Affecting Retailers?
The growing need for a frictionless retail experience has driven many consumers online, where big name retailers like Amazon and EBay have begun offering virtual shopping experiences that are hard to match in terms of ease and convenience. Still, traditional brick-and-mortar stores are stepping up their games and learning to lean into the competitive edge they have through offering a more personalized experience to their consumers. Many smaller retailers are choosing to put the focus back onto their consumers, offsetting some of the pitfalls of the traditional retail transaction by offering unmatched, one-on-one service that feels more like a shopping “experience” instead of a necessary errand. For example, many grocery stores are implementing the use of technology by allowing their shoppers to fill online carts and then either pick up their groceries in-store or have them delivered to their front door. Clothing stores, as another example, may bring on extra help so that shoppers have the semblance of a personal assistant as they move about their shopping experience. Retailers are responding, not only by offering a more personalized experience, but many are also embracing and implementing the use of some of the latest technological trends to keep themselves relevant.
Growing Trends in Frictionless Retail
As the pressure to create a frictionless shopping experience mounts, new technological advances are emerging in response at a rapid rate. One new trend we may begin to see is the implementation of a form of augmented reality technology that allows the consumer to “try before they buy” without ever entering a dressing room. Currently in the field-test stage, this virtual experience can significantly expedite the shopping process, allowing retailers to greatly increase the velocity of commerce they are able to do. This incredible technology also allows the consumer to reach out to friends and family members for opinions before making the purchase, creating the opportunity for social-buying as a part of the new traditional retail experience.
Other new technologies, such as robotic-run kiosks, are allowing retailers to eliminate the need to hire employees, while at the same time removing the time constraints to the consumer of having to engage in conversation with the person at the checkout counter. Similarly, stores like Amazon Go are popping up and creating a tangible link between on and off-line retail. Through this technology, customers are able to enter the store and fill up their carts without ever having to go through the checkout process. Amazon uses cameras and shelving with built-in weight sensors to determine what has been purchased and automatically charges these items to a pre-registered account linked to a credit card. Voice recognition devices are also growing in popularity and offering consumers the chance to bypass the shopping cart altogether!
The verdict is still out on which of these trends will take root and which will not, but one thing is for certain. As the consumer need for frictionless shopping continues to grow, so must retailers’ responses to it.
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