CHICAGO — While “hello” and “thank you” go a long way in cementing customer loyalty, c-store retailers are also reckoning with changing consumer standards for the convenience channel. Fortunately, operators in the CSP Intouch Insight Mystery Shop are performing at a high level: More than 95% of shoppers considered their wait time acceptable, and most were waiting less than a minute to check out.
But as the development of mobile payment and scan-and-go tech continues, c-store retailers are wondering: Is this the only path to frictionless retail? And how will it affect expectations of customer service in the future?
“Today frictionless retail is expanded, and it means providing better, more unique experiences, such as improving speed, customization, mobile wallets and unique delivery methods for the product,” says Cameron Watt, president and CEO of Ottawa, Ontario-based Intouch Insight, which conducts the mystery shop on CSP’s behalf. “For the c-store, it means that retailers will have to keep up not only with ensuring positive interactions in their traditional stores but also assuring overall omnichannel experiences that not only represent the brand promise seamlessly but also keep up with ever-changing consumer demand.”
Wait a Minute
Most shoppers in the CSP Intouch Insight Mystery Shop experienced a wait of one minute or less, and more than 95% considered their wait time acceptable.
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High’s is tackling frictionless retail on a few fronts as part of its new “digital platform.” It is redeveloping its loyalty program into a mobile format, with fuel-pump activation and eventually mobile ordering available from its app. It also began installing Skip Frictionless Checkout in 2019; as of press time, 27 locations were live. With Skip, customers can purchase items by scanning barcodes using their smartphones instead of checking out with a cashier. Skip notifies employees when a customer who uses the app enters the store so they can monitor their purchases during the visit.
Brad Chivington, senior vice president and general manager of High’s, says customers and employees are adapting to the tech.
“We engaged our employees, online associates and support-center people in the program,” Chivington says. “We just went live to the consumers with it, and we are getting a good response rate and good responses from the customers who are enrolling in the app and using it,” he says. Employees wear T-shirts that promote the app, and High’s launched an internal contest this summer to boost new and unique user sign-ups.
With frictionless tech assuming part of the customer interaction, the relationship between the store employee may be forever changed. How much it influences that connection, and the role of the store employee, is yet to be determined. But High’s sees only a positive effect.
“One of the things we’ve been asked before is, ‘Well, how does that affect the customer experience?’ ” Chivington says. “The way that we’ve approached it is we really can offer both an associate-based checkout experience as well as the frictionless payment for the person that is on the go.
“I need to be mobile, I need to get in and do this and be on their way, so we can cater to both types of customers with their experience,” he says. “It also allows us to take labor to redeploy from the checkout function to engage customers on the floor.”