The final barrier to a customer bringing home their purchased goods in a brick-and-mortar store is the physical act of approaching a person at a cash register and paying for their items. It is the last, crucial step in clinching a sale. Especially for small businesses, this step can make or break the business. A big retailer or mom-and-pop store, let’s take a look at how to improve a customer’s experience and make the sale.
What NOT To Do
Let’s start with a hypothetical. You run a hip, fairly new bowling supplies boutique. As you sit at the cash register, a customer approaches with the newest high-performance ball. It took them quite some time to decide, they tell you, as your few employees were busy with other customers. You had to man the register. You apologize as they take out their credit card. It’s new, they say, pointing to the chip in the card.
They stare at the credit card reader, where you have taped over the EMV chip reader slot with a hastily scrawled “Coming soon!” note. The note has remained there for more than six months. After a short, awkward exchange explaining it doesn’t work yet, they swipe their card and leave with their new bowling ball.
The next week, you find out there has been a hack in the credit card industry, and personal information and card numbers have been stolen. The customer comes back into the store with bad news. They only used that credit card here, and the card was used for fraud yesterday. You are now liable for the fraudulent purchases.
Upgrading Your Point of Sale Machine
The first major fix to this hypothetical story is your point of sale machine. In 2014, 95 percent of new credit cards in Europe had EMV chips embedded in the plastic. But as of January 2016, nearly two years later, only between 22 and 37 percent of cards in America have the security chip.
But why bother upgrading to an expensive machine for less than half of your customers? As noted above, you, the merchant, are responsible for any loss due to fraud on EMV-enabled cards. While EMV-enabled readers can run anywhere from $49 to $500, the initial investment is well worth the insurance against paying out damages for fraud.
In November 2015, a month after the deadline requiring EMV-enabled point-of-sale machines, 63 percent of retailers intended on upgrading their systems. Clearly, many have not yet made the jump - but you should, if only for peace of mind for yourself and your customers.
Make the Sale a Pleasant but Efficient Experience
Recent research into the checkout experience in a grocery store proved that customers care about cashier courtesy, bagging, and efficiency of line management. This is universal to a retail experience. Be courteous despite how a customer acts. Others in line will appreciate the courtesy and likely be lenient towards you.
If possible, always have a register open for incoming customers. Being efficient improves customers’ morale and will make them more forgiving - more likely to purchase or return for more business in the future. Try not to take too long bagging an item - no one wants to be Alan Rickman in Love Actually, waiting multiple minutes while the item is gift-wrapped.
Ensure staff at the till are trained and know how to solve problems, rather than always requiring the manager or owner. This will drastically cut downtime, letting the customer make their purchase and get on with their lives.
To cut even further on downtime, make sure you always have supplies at hand rather than in a back room. Use a small storage locker at the checkout area to store rolls of receipt paper, pens, notepads, or any other supplies you might need. Add a lock to ensure your extra supplies are safe.
Walk Around for the Mobile Sales
While it seems to contradict the previous point, don't hide from you customers. Get up and move around. New technology allows for mobile point of sale machines, allowing you to walk around the store and help guests as they browse, rather than waiting for them to approach the register. If you carry bags with you, they can pay anywhere in the store, improving your efficiency even further. If your products allow, you can take to the streets, selling outside the shop.
Being mobile, however, can be a double-edged sword. While you can and should walk around, don’t bother the customers by hovering over them. They will feel the eyes on the back of their head, fraying their nerves and potentially dropping a sale. Be available, but not a shadow.
A former professional journalist covering crime, court, and fire stories, Cole spends his free time freelance writing, playing video games, and slowly writing a crime novel. You can reach Cole on Twitter.