Eliminating pay-desks means rethinking store design says Julian Fisher of jisp


Published 5 June 2018 | Matthew Valentine

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The move to shopping online is clearly one of the key factors behind this constant barrage of negative news. However, ‘bricks and mortar’ retail still accounts for the vast majority of overall sales. Despite finding buying online more convenient and often cheaper, most consumers still value the opportunity to go shopping, to browse and see what is available, to try out products and get expert advice. Besides, no-one wants to see empty shops and run-down streets in the middle of their town or city.

So, there’s a consensus that retailers must enhance the instore experience if they want to compete with ecommerce. They must enhance what consumers have always valued - especially, what one retail commentator calls the “joy of discovery”.

Some of the improvements that need to be made are outside a designer’s remit. Free or less expensive parking, for one. However, there is another major change that could be made – one that would give shop designers a new freedom and re-write the rules of engagement between shop staff and consumers.

The move to payment for goods via mobile phones is well underway in some places – but mainly in stores with connections to US tech giants such as Apple stores and Amazon Go. Other retailers use roaming staff with mobile PoS technology. Some are looking at even more radical solutions including those using near-field communication (NFC) technology. These solutions provide customers with relevant product details when they tap their phones on stickers next to the product and then enable them to pay for their purchases by tapping the phone against a check-out pod.

Whatever method is chosen, doing away with the pay-desk presents a new opportunity for designers to rethink the rhythm and flow of the store. Often a great horizontal obelisk at back or left-hand side of the space, the pay desk often becomes a centre for clutter and the surrounding area becomes busy and fraught with queues of customers waiting to pay.

Without the pay-desk, the area can be used imaginatively - a seating area with coffee on tap perhaps, a cookery demonstration area, a virtual reality booth or an area where purchases can be personalised.

Depending on its size it could also be used as a ‘pop up’ area to trial new lines or brands. Or, as research shows that consumers don’t like to have to brush past other people to get to what they want to see, the extra metres could be used as just space, to make the whole store appear calmer, roomier and more luxurious. In other words, the customer ‘journey’ through the store no longer has to end with dead space at the back; instead this becomes an area of discovery or reward for making it through the rest of the store.

Designers will also have a further element to take into account – the roving shop assistant. With the barriers of a desk eliminated, shop staff will be free to actually talk to customers who wish to interact. A few inviting seating areas, where staff can discuss products with potential buyers, will help promote a relaxing environment and keep customers in-store longer.

Enabling customers to use their phones for payment has other major advantages for stores too. Not least, it provides a direct route for tailored messages, vouchers and other offers. According to a global survey by Mood Media, 50% (and 67% of younger consumers) would like to receive immediately redeemable discounts on their phones when in-store.

It also helps stores in another area where until now they have struggled to match online sites. When a customer visits a website, its owner can track every move they make, including whether they have looked at certain products or added items into a basket which is subsequently abandoned. Both the retailer and the customer can benefit from the enhanced convenience this brings.

With mobile-app based technology, bricks and mortar stores can have access to this information too, enabling them to better understand the behaviour of customers. In return, the apps give customers product details together with relevant offers and promotions, and even price comparisons on specific items.

Intelligence surrounding the customer journey through the store – where they stop, what catches their eye, the areas they avoid – will become of vital importance to store designers, who can use the data to help tweak their layouts, to create ‘stop and go’ areas where traffic slows down or moves on and ‘sweet spots’ within the store most likely to engender a sale.

Most retail professionals hope this current period of instability and upheaval is, in reality, a metamorphosis. The ‘bricks and mortar’ side of the industry has no choice but to change in order to thrive. Eliminating the pay desk might seem like only a small step forward, but the transformation it might encourage could turn out to be huge.

Credit: Retail Design World

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