‘Why All The Questions? I’m Already A Loyal Customer’

How many bags would you like? Do you have a loyalty card? Can you scan it? What payment method do you want to pay with? Are you over 18 or do you look under 25? Wow. And I only popped in for a packet of crisps and a newspaper for my train home… OK, and a bottle of red to go with dinner.

When it comes to check out at the tills, we’re all just impatient customers that have somewhere more important we need to be. Whilst the size and scale of our shopping trips may vary, our shopping habits very rarely change, especially in supermarkets. Me for example: I have a loyalty card but always forget it, I never take a plastic bag, I always pay by contactless and unfortunately I look older than 25 so only ever get ID’d if I’m at the self-checkout.

Originally invented by David R. Humble in the 1980s, the self-checkout has become one of the greatest technological innovations introduced into supermarkets. Whilst speeding up most of our departures with newly purchased goods, there are a handful of scenarios at present where they do quite the opposite. In the UK, Yoti’s 2016 survey of just over 2,000 adults revealed that 32% of them avoid using self-checkouts when buying alcohol because age verification is frustrating or it takes too long. 20% of people went on to say they had to wait a minute or longer for age verification by an attendant at a self-checkout with alcohol.

The self-checkout is certainly an innovation, but needs to modernise in line with consumer demand if it’s to continue improving the customer experience. It needs an innovative digital interface to bridge the gap to us analog humans and make interactions quicker and smoother during these tricky moments.

I believe that ‘digital interface’ is already with us at all times and will soon become the answer to the question at hand – our phones. They boast a camera to scan both QR codes and my face, and have the power to both send and receive data securely with the right app.

Buzzwords about ‘knowing your customer’ have been around for some time, but have been tied to questions about compliance that are unfortunately only part of the bigger picture. In order to really ‘know’ their customers, companies need to listen first and learn the right information required to improve my experience. Not just focusing on what they want to know about me, but what I want them to know about me.

Retailers can become more open for my business by letting me share more information to improve my customer experience. Once I share my preferred information through a digital interface, the self-checkout won’t need to ask me how I would like to pay because it knows I always use contactless. It will know that I am (still!) old enough to buy alcohol so I don’t need to be verified by a member of staff. Or, it can ask me to verify my age by taking a selfie. It can advise me when I buy too much unhealthy food, and it won’t even ask me if I have a loyalty card as it knows I’ve forgotten it – as usual!

Scanning and logging my personal profile as I start to shop would allow a tailored checkout experience that saves time for me, the retailer, its staff and other shoppers.

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