What is Frictionless Retail?
Customers expect their retail experience to be as effortless and smooth as possible. They want quality, value and speed when shopping. Frictionless retail is now a crucial consideration to incorporate into stores.
The concept of frictionless shopping is about removing all barriers to purchase in the customer experience. With the development of technology and innovation within the retail industry, frictionless retail has evolved to focus on a faster, more personalised experience that goes beyond a customer’s expectations.
The checkout process is seen as a source of friction for many retailers. With 69% of shoppers stating they’ve decided not to buy an item in-store due to the queue length.
The introduction of self-checkouts by grocery retailers to reduce queue times was the first step taken. However, now that payment and retail technology has rapidly evolved with innovations such as mobile wallets and digital receipts, retailers are taking the next step with ‘just walk out’ concepts.
Amazon Go is a truly frictionless experience. By logging into a dedicated app and scanning a unique barcode as they enter, customers can grab what they need and walk out, without queuing to pay. Using the same technology in self-driving cars, such as sensor fusion and deep learning, it can detect when products are taken or returned to shelves and keep track in a virtual cart. Groceries are automatically billed to the customer’s Amazon account.
Since its initial rollout in Seattle, Amazon has grown the concept globally and has recently announced they are taking the concept to Amazon-owned Whole Foods.
Ireland’s first frictionless store opened in February 2022. Following Amazon’s concept, Market x Flutter uses AI-powered computer vision technology to allow customers to walk out.
The success of these concepts has pushed retailers forward in how they can digitally transform their stores to meet the expectations of consumers.
Blending Online and Offline
The concept of frictionless retail has evolved from offering convenience to ensuring the customer receives a seamless, personalised journey. The pandemic shifted customers’ behaviours to predominantly purchasing online. Retailers must now look at how they can blend their online presence with their physical stores.
Accenture found that 91% of customers prefer stores that offer personalised recommendations. By leveraging the data retailers have on customers from their online shopping patterns, retailers can provide the same level of convenience and drive purchases in-store via personalised recommendations, either via app or loyalty programmes.
Offering the option to check stock levels in local stores via an app, and designing retail stores to have dedicated online order pick up areas, is one way to encourage online shoppers in-store.
Zara offers Store Mode to connect its stores with their e-commerce platforms. This functionality allows customers to check in at any Zara store and benefit from digital integration in several ways. For example, via Store Mode, customers can now check store stock in real-time, purchase items via the app, use the click & find function, which directs shoppers to specific items in-store, and book fitting rooms ahead of time. This has created a seamless shopping journey for their customers.
One of the major draws for customers to shop in-store is the connection offered by retail assistants. Thanks to the internet, customers can be more knowledgeable than ever on product features, pricing, and availability, often more than retail staff. This can create a friction point along the customer journey. By empowering staff with digital tools to offer visibility into product information and inventory, retailers can provide the same level of knowledge in-store, alongside personal interaction.
Frictionless shopping is quickly becoming the experience that customers desire. For retailers to thrive in physical locations, they must embrace technology and data, incorporate it in-store, and design a cohesive customer journey to elevate the brand experience, empower staff, and delight customers.
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