By Bill Vetter, General Manager, Lawrence, a Tensator Group Company
It’s easily understood how some holiday shoppers might consider the entire shopping experience to be stress-filled. Many consumers associate holiday shopping with time lost waiting on endless lines. They may choose not to think about holiday purchases until the very last minute, or worse, become overwhelmed while shopping and leave the store and merchandise behind.
Each year, retailers must contend with shopping carts, bags, or baskets filled with un-purchased items, abandoned in the aisles, blocking merchandise, or entry and exit paths. What draws a customer into a retail store — only to leave behind everything they took the time to select?
This article explores key reasons for abandoned shopping carts and provides practical guidance on how to best ensure each customer successfully completes their intended purchases — returning each time a satisfied customer.
Retailers put much forethought into the weeks between Thanksgiving and the New Year. In fact, merchandisers begin planning for this seasonal push long before the first frost, taking measures to attract and retain new and existing customers. During the final days of summer, retailers must commit to stock. It is therefore necessary to identify early front-runners… the holiday seasons’ “must have” brands that are likely to appear atop everyone’s list. These are not only the products that will draw consumers into a store, they are the products that will keep them there.
Managing the Customer Journey
Based on market research, financial trending, and strategic competitor analysis, merchants will decide whether to approach the season optimistically or cautiously. Essential to their success is identifying and communicating the value they provide by creating an advertising campaign that will resonate within their marketplace. A successful ad campaign will drive traffic to a retail location, but marketers are tasked with the challenge of creating an entire in-store experience for their customers. It is this in store experience, the customer journey, which will keep the customer engaged from arrival through purchase completion.
Brand strategists work hard to establish and maintain consumer loyalty between their brand and their market. Retailers must employ similar strategies in order to engage shoppers, especially since one forecast from accounting firm Deloitte LLP states that online sales will see a large increase from the 2009 holidays, but that overall holiday sales will experience a modest 2% rise. Attractive merchandising displays, festive décor, and persuasive signage are components of such a strategy. Also instrumental in the process is the implementation of relevant in-queue solutions, with emphasis placed on increasing profits through impulse buys while improving functionality of queue flow.
In addition to these key preparations, retailers should take into account the customer flow in their stores. Best-in-class retailers understand that in order to remain competitive, every square foot of the selling floor must be optimized to generate the greatest ROI, while enhancing customers’ holiday shopping experience. Because consumers are spending more conservatively than ever, retailers cannot afford to risk losing one potential sale. Merchandisers must eliminate key contributing factors for shopping cart abandonment, including consumer stress caused by a disorganized store and ineffective line or queue management. Structuring a retail floor plan with the intention of leading the customer journey will mean the difference between staff ringing up sales instead of spending valuable time returning abandoned merchandise to store shelves.
The customer journey should begin from the moment the consumer enters the retail environment. If you plan to stock a product or brand that is in high demand this holiday season, it is probable that shoppers will arrive prior to your store’s normal business hours. It may become essential to implement crowd control measures in order to ensure customers will enter in a safe and orderly fashion. You might also consider utilizing a single line queuing system in order to assure customers are served at checkout in the same order in which they arrived there.
Use signage effectively throughout the store and at checkout. This is especially necessary during peak shopping periods and provides a sense of orderliness and control.
The checkout area often represents the greatest challenge for retailers and consumers alike. According to industry experts, this is where sales are either made or lost. If consumers can effectively navigate the store and select items for purchase, they’ll likely head to the checkout queue. If shoppers arrive to find an inefficient and slow-moving line — they may walk away without completing the purchase. During heavy traffic periods, retailers must be prepared to manage large groups of consumers arriving simultaneously at the queue. Queue management technologies, when applied correctly, are an efficient way to reduce “walk aways,” improve customer satisfaction and increase the average consumer purchase. Options include:
- Electronic call forward systems move consumers through the checkout process quickly and easily by directing the shopper at the head of the line to the next available cashier. These systems also can keep consumers informed of wait times, alleviating consumer stress by setting expectations;
- Electronic queue ticketing, or dispersed queuing allows multiple transactions to be handled fairly for all waiting parties.
- Other checkout solutions include lane-per-lane checkout, virtual queuing or single-lane queuing.
Working with a queue management expert can help identify which queue management solution will work best to improve customer flow of traffic at a given retailer. The system can even be custom designed to specifically guide consumers towards branded products or marketing materials. Properly designed checkout lines or queues have lowered customer wait times by 25% and reduced “walk aways” by as much as 90%. Effective checkout queues are a concrete way to improve margins in a difficult retail climate.
Revenue in the Queue
Retailers should take advantage of potential revenue opportunity in the queue area of the store. Opportunities include:
- In-queue merchandising systems can replace traditional checkout line barriers. These systems feature merchandising panels and accessories for impulse-type purchases. Retailers providing in-queue merchandising can generate up to 10 % more revenue through impulse purchases.
- With modular wall systems, retailers can promote and display products and include interchangeable graphic headers for promotions, sales or branding.
- A simple item like a merchandising basket or bowl can be an inexpensive way to maximize merchandising capacity per square foot of floor space, optimizing revenue per square foot performance.
- Feature and sale items should be strategically placed near to and within the queue to increase consumer awareness of products and to drive impulse purchases. Some of the merchandise that falls into this category may seem like regular selling items. Yet when properly merchandised these items continue to sell not only in their departments, but also in other locations where they are displayed for impulse sales.
Retailers that consider the customer journey are reinforcing their commitment to in-store shoppers. By providing innovative line management and unique in-queue merchandising campaigns, merchandisers are taking the necessary steps to enhance the shopping experience, greatly reducing in-store shopping cart abandonment.
Lawrence provides queue management products and technologies to help retailers engage in and create lasting relationships with their customers while providing incremental revenue through the near elimination of “Walk-Aways.” An experienced business development executive with a comprehensive P & L and operations management background, Bill Vetter has a proven track record in brand building, customer sales and business plan execution. Prior to joining Lawrence in 2009, Bill was vice president of franchise and business development at Sbarro Inc; and previous to this served as director and general manager of North American Corporate Sales for Weight Watchers International.