Changes in point-of-sale technology—both online and in-store—are allowing retailers to shift toward a focus on customer experience at checkout, rather than treating it as a necessary-but-unpleasant transaction.  Checkout may be a burden for customers, but that’s starting to change.  

Traditional POS technology allows retailers to process payments and subtract purchases from inventory, all while ensuring data security throughout the transaction.  Up-and-coming trends in technology allow retailers to take a more customer-centric approach.

One Cart, Multiple Brands
An important online shopping trend is a “universal cart.”  Shoppers can add items from many different brands into one cart, thus avoiding multiple checkout processes. For example, a customer could visit Ann Taylor, Alexander Wang, and Flowers.com, adding items from each store to one cart, and checking out just once.  Experiences like these are driving industry-wide shifts toward streamlined checkout and cart-building as entertainment.

Here are some examples:

  • Social shopping apps like WaneloLystKeep, and Net-Set allow users to share product to the app from a spectrum of digital retailers. Other users can purchase these items through a single cart. Many of these apps are also able to sync shopping carts across devices.
  • Several startups offer personal carts that follow shoppers around the digital world. For example, TwoTapand CosmicCart integrate with retailers in a similar way to the services mentioned above.  CosmicCart also offers shopping on blogs, publications, and apps.

Retailers can also streamline their carts by providing integrated checkout between their own brand sites—as Nordstrom has done with digital cart integration between Rack and Hautelook—or by partnering with carefully selected brands offering complementary products and services.

Shakeups in POS Hardware
In-store trends are also focused on streamlined customer experiences at checkout, and point-of-sale hardware and software vendors have realized they need to be increasingly flexible so retailers can optimize their use around shopper behaviors.  Meanwhile, the speed of innovation has recently increased in the U.S., as retailers gear up for the October 2015 switch to EMV credit card processors (which read information from a micro-chip in the card and verify customer identity with a PIN – something that has been available in many other markets for years, e.g. Canada).  These trends have opened space for new vendors to disrupt the POS market.

An example:

  • Poynt is a hardware and software vendor offering a flexible, $299 smart-terminal.
    • Hardware: Poynt hardware looks like a double sided tablet and can accept any form of payment, from Apple Pay to cash – and of course, EMV cards.  It can connect to any form of internet (Ethernet, wireless, 3G, etc), offers a GPS system to track where sales occur, and acts as a beacon device.
    • Software: Perhaps the biggest win for Poynt is its software – which offers the ability to run multiple apps for multiple services, from industry-targeted apps with specialized transactions, to apps designed for a specific retailer or customer situation.

Hardware and software combinations like Poynt set the stage for digital features to be integrated all the way from at-home browsing to physical point-of-sale.  Retailers can use these tools to integrate the checkout process further—for example, with mobile shopping carts that interact with in-store merchandise and physical cash wraps—delivering seamless checkout and cross-channel price matching.

The Bottom Line at Checkout
The experience of shopping and “checkout” is changing to meet more of consumers’ expectations around easespeed, and simplicity. It’s not a place to let pain-points linger, coloring memories of the entire shopping experience.  Retailers that identify customer frustrations during checkout—and creatively solve those problems—will ultimately win more of the customer shopping basket and gain a great deal of loyalty in the process. Retailers that can make checkout rewarding for customers, will win even more.

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