Alternative Checkout Methods: How Stores are Experimenting With High-Tech Tills

Alternative checkout methods | Shopify Retail blog

From the days of checks and cash, payment methods have evolved along with technology. Currently, payment cards dominate the transaction industry. According to The Statistics Portal, 34.7% of card holders use debit or credit cards for most of their purchases.

The same is true for the checkout experience. Customers no longer need to contend with old-fashioned registers and tills — technology is helping to eliminate long lineups and streamline transactions in the process.

So, what does the future of retail transactions look like for your business? What types of payments should your business accept going forward? And how should your checkout experience look for shoppers?

Tulip Retail states: “With a smartphone in every pocket and the expansion of advanced barcodes and imaging technologies for scanning products, faster alternative checkout methods will continue to grow across the retail sector,” says Tony Rodriguez, CTO of digital identification solutions provider Digimarc.

Here’s what you need to know about alternative checkout methods for your retail business, for now and in the future.

Contactless Payments

One way more retailers are disrupting the checkout experience is via contactless credit and debit cards. After all, data shows that 51% of consumers are influenced by a quick and easy checkout process. And with the right card reader and point-of-sale system, merchants can seamlessly accept card and mobile payments with just a tap — getting your customers through the checkout process more quickly.

Customers love contactless payments for the convenience and speed of tap-and-go checkouts. Ideal for small purchases (i.e. less than $100), tap-and-go payments are quick and easy, but are less secure than PIN-protected transactions.

As well as offering a payment method your customers want, contactless card and mobile transactions benefit businesses with faster checkouts. Getting customers settled faster means that your associates can help more customers in less time, and you can have less associates working checkouts and more helping customers in the store.

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Tap Credit Cards

Contactless credit cards have been available in some markets for years, and their popularity continues to rise.

“Cards equipped with technology that allows a user to pay with a simple wave or tap of a card is surging,” Global News reports, where “purchases at drug stores, gas stations, and convenience stores were the chief drivers of the spike.”

Industry publication reports that “In 2016, approximately 40% of merchant point-of-sale devices are contactless payment enabled. Contactless transactions represented 11.5% of total transactions (including cash) by the end of 2017”

With all of the major credit card companies, and even some financial institutions, equipping their payment cards with contactless payment technology, contactless cards will continue to be a vital checkout method in the retail world.

Mobile Pay

Mobile payment, Moneris | Shopify Retail blog

Image Credit: Moneris

Mobile pay was first introduced by Apple in 2014. Since then “mobile wallets have flooded the market with offerings such as Samsung Pay, Chase Pay, Android Pay, Microsoft Wallet, Walmart Pay, and Kohl's Pay,” according to Business Insider.

Predictions indicate that mobile pay could hit $503 billion in payments by 2020.

So, what do you need to know about mobile pay? Again, this is where investing in the right POS and payment processing technology can make a major difference in your bottom line.

Currently, there are two types of mobile payment technology — near-field communication (NFC) and Bluetooth. Currently, NFC dominates the mobile pay industry.

“Near-field communication, or NFC, technology works by bringing together two electronic devices, typically a mobile device such as a smartphone and a reader of some kind,” according to the aforementioned BI article.

An example is the ubiquitous Starbucks, which uses its own proprietary mobile app to allow customers to pay with a digital, reloadable store card on their smartphone — and collect loyalty points at the same time.

Bluetooth could be used more and more in the future though. “Bluetooth has a much longer range than NFC, as it can reach up to 50 meters compared to NFC's need to have the two devices centimeters away from each other.”

If Bluetooth could be utilized in-store, payment could be taken anywhere in store, which could open the door to in-aisle checkouts.

Portable POS

Shopify POS | Shopify Retail blog

Image Credit: Shopify POS

Who says that in-store payments have to be taken at a physical checkout? Portable point-of-sales systems, like Shopify POS, allow retailers to quickly take payments without being tied down by wires and stationary tech.

TRY SHOPIFY POS: Want to give Shopify's point of sale systems a test run? Start a free Shopify POS trial today.

These out-of-the-box POS systems are great for pop-up shops, small retailers, sellers who travel to markets or fairs, and those who want to break down the barrier between customers and the cashier.

As a model for this type of interactive checkout method, look to Apple stores. With no clearly defined checkout area, Apple stores have more space to showcase their product and the open store layout encourages the associates to interact face-to-face with customers. Instead of clunky cash registers, Apple employees whip through transactions on their iPhones and email receipts to customers. Not only does this keep checkouts speedy and queues under control, but almost every floor associate is empowered to help customers on the spot — no matter their need.

Another advantage of a portable POS is that the same store associate that helps a customer select a product can help them checkout as well, making for a seamless interaction with the customer from start to finish.

Scan-and-Go Stores

The ultimate alternative checkout method involves no checkout process whatsoever. Scan-and-go technology is a complex system that allows shoppers to get in, get what they need, and get out without any time-consuming lineups.

But how does it work? And how do retailers implement this kind of tech? Let’s take a look at a couple of innovative merchants using high-tech barcodes and scanning methods to get customers in and out of their stores as efficiently as possible.

Amazon Go

Amazon describes the Amazon Go shopping experience as a “just walk out technology” that detects any products shoppers put in their virtual cart. When they’ve removed any items they want from the store’s shelves, they simply leave the store. Any items taken are charged to the customer’s Amazon account, and they’re sent a receipt for their purchase.

By integrating your store’s shelves with product inventory and payment, you’re not only providing customers a simple, convenient shopping experience, but you’re saving money and resources in the day-to-day operations of your business and freeing up valuable square footage by eliminating checkout stands.

Sam’s Club App

Sam's Club self-checkout app | Shopify Retail blog

Image Credit: Sam's Club

Walmart’s bulk buying arm, Sam’s Club, recently introduced a self-checkout app where customers scan the barcode of their items as they put them in their cart. From there, the proprietary app keeps a running tally of the customer’s total purchase as they continue their shopping.

But what makes this app noteworthy is that a customer can pay for their groceries then and there instead of waiting in a checkout line. After paying through the app, a customer is free to go — they just need to show the digital receipt to an employee stationed at the door. The store associate, known as a greeter, helps temper theft, according to TheStreet.

With employees throughout the store to help customers as they learn to use the app and answer any questions they may have, with even a small percentage of shoppers using the scan-and-go app, lineups will get shorter and stores will need fewer employees working the checkout.

Alternative Checkout: Where Will You Go From Here?

Does your retail business use alternate checkout methods? Tell us about the payment methods you see for the future of retail. Share your thoughts in the comments below.