by Envirosell - First impressions are important, but final impressions are longer-lasting. The final impression sent at the cashwrap of most of today’s retailers doesn’t leave shoppers longing to return to the process. We employ some basic guidelines to make the cashwrap process easier for shoppers, hopefully leaving them with a positive final impression.

The Line Wait

The line wait is often the problematic issue at the cashwrap. Shoppers’ expectations for the checkout experience are set when they see the length of the line, and most think they have spent longer in line than they actually have. For instance, line-wait times at traditional supermarkets average around two and a half minutes; perceived (self-reported) wait times, however, average well over three minutes. Interestingly, wait times at the “express” lanes are roughly the same as other lanes; while the transactions themselves are faster, the lines are longer.

About 85% of supermarket buyers have to wait in line. Trader Joe’s, whose lines appear long because the store is typically smaller than a traditional supermarket, works hard at line management. At the busiest times, they deploy a line manager who assures people they are in the “right” line, asks if he or she can retrieve something the shopper may have forgotten, and (sometimes) offers treats like cookies or mints to those waiting. Whole Foods lines are often overwhelming, but these stores deploy an associate with a flag to guide customers to the “right” line, facilitating the parade to the belt. While none of these tactics impact actual wait times, they significantly lessen the perceived wait. Sometimes all shoppers want is their presence acknowledged.

Distract From The Wait.

So far, no one beats Disney at the line game. By allowing those waiting to see the action, Disney maintains the ride’s excitement and energy. Using simple signage, they also let those in line know how far along they’ve come and how far they have to go. Eye candy and information improve perception tremendously.

About 49% shop something while in the supermarket line. Typically, shoppers are drawn more to magazines than to gum, candy, tweezers, superglue, silly putty, etc. While in line only 15% do absolutely nothing.

The TSA has done a good job of teaching those in line. Signs remind travelers to take off their shoes, empty their pockets, take out their computers, and have their boarding passes ready. This helps expedite the process at the x-ray machines. Retailers should take note. What do shoppers need to know before the transaction begins? Should coupons be presented first or upon payment? When are loyalty cards necessary? Am I in the right place for my task? All of this should be communicated before or during the line wait.

Customers in line at the cashwrap are a captive audience for messaging. After all, one can only shop for superglue or read about Britney and Kevin for so long. Shoppers in line, not those transacting or next on deck, are most open to messaging. Remember that shoppers rarely leave the line, so this is not a place to entice them to buy something today that’s not immediately accessible. Cashwrap lines are opportunities to send positive brand messages. Remind shoppers why they should come back. In the supermarket, where 97% of those who enter make a purchase, shoppers need messaging at the cashwrap to be fresh. After reading a message once or twice, it’s tuned out.

Multi - Tasking.

One of the most cumbersome requirements of the modern cashwrap is multi-tasking. While the cashwrap should be a place to just pay, more often than not it becomes real estate shared with donation solicitations and mailing list, add-on, and loyalty-club offers. One of the worst-case scenarios we studied was an apparel store where the associates informed shoppers at they cash wrap that if they purchased three of a certain item, they would receive a free belt. Shoppers would then interrupt their transaction, go to the belt fixture and (often not so hurriedly) choose their free item. Imagine the frustration of the next customer in line. Clearly, this promotion was not advertised well enough at the point of sale. While this may have been a fantastic closing experience for those eligible for free product, it does not warrant the frustrations and extended line-wait times for other, equally valuable customers.

Another common competing task (although not at supermarkets) is the return. Returns take more time than a typical transaction. What message is sent to paying customers when they are waiting behind someone returning a product? Surely not one of confidence. Returns should have a segregated space at the cashwrap area.

Some counters are so cluttered with product and messaging that there is barely enough space for shoppers’ wallets. This is not a comfortable way to say good-bye to your patrons. While this is the last purchase decision in today’s visit, a cluttered, uncomfortable space isn’t necessary. Think beyond the counter. There are several other smart places in the store to tempt customers with add-on suggestions.

Managing the line wait, lessening perceived wait time, understanding what products customers want to shop from the line, and offering a clean, quiet space to transact: these are the basic principles that will drive positive experiences at the end of the store visit. Respect your shopper and give them their total due.