“Are You Ready to Checkout?” Mobile POS and Customer Experience

In Customer Engagement, Customer Experience, Featured on App by Kevin Kelly

Trends suggest MPOS systems will continue to impact customer experience and by extension, mechanics of brand loyalty.

I refused to take a basket at Nordstrom's Rack because I knew I came in for just one thing: a new oxford dress shirt. A half hour later, however, I found myself in the riparian checkout line hugging shirts, ties, jeans and even kicking a shoe box along on the tiled floor. If there are two activities that a checkout line is conducive to it is extremely rough budgeting and warped self-justification. I studied three hours last night and didn't buy a bagel this morning—I deserve these clothes. But wait, when is my paycheck coming? I should check my bank account…does Nordstrom have wifi? Do I really thi…

"Those are some nice shirts you've picked out. Are you paying with plastic today?" a Nordstrom employee unknowingly interrupted, clad with an iPhone with some contraption on top.

I answered yes and was swiftly plucked from the line and hailed to a table in the middle of the woman's section. This had been the third time that an employee had asked if I was ready to checkout (the other two times I had been browsing). Before I knew it, all the items were neatly resting in three plastic bags and the receipt in my inbox. There was no time to consider what items I had selected and there were no green digits telling me how much each item costs.

This is a new customer experience and in fact, Forbes attributes this mobile point-of-sale system to the rise in profits for Seattle's Nordstrom in 2012. Apple and Home Depot have been doing it for years but Nordstrom is one of the first clothing stores to take on this new tactic. The linoleum counter disappears and yields a personalized conversational point of sale experience for the customer. This system conveniently anticipates the time a consumer spends in line second-guessing their selection and further, allows the employees to collect important customer information conversationally. "Would you like your receipt e-mailed to you?" is the new shorthand for "Would you like to join our e-mail update list?"

Customer experience research clearly indicates that consumers do not respond positively to waiting in line. Justifiably, Nordstrom has done away with the register line and, due to its financial success, perhaps it will continue to wane in the consumer marketplace. That said, one only recognizes an absence when something is taken away—imagine a consumerscape in which every time you pick up an item, an employee is poised to make the sale. What, then, is the difference between an impulse buy and a rational buy?

This might be a good moment to admit that I am an established fan of Nordstrom's Rack—it fits my budget and my demand for higher quality brand/style diversity. Watching things that you love change isn't always the easiest process. Moreover, I admit the register line was nothing particularly special at the Rack (the home of five dollar bottles of sunscreen and phone cases you didn't need). Nevertheless, the register line offered a moment of repose for the customer—a moment in which I personally related to the purchase and decided what I really wanted.

This technology shows no signs of stopping as Barney's, Urban Outfitters, JC Penny's, Coach, REI, and countless small businesses have started to integrate MPOS in their stores. MPOS has rendered the business to customer relationships at once more intimate and more rapid. Consumers are seemingly responding well but I would caution for a more thoughtful integration of MPOS techniques at stores that constructively builds B2C relationships and also allows the customer time to experience the store before arriving at the point of sale.

I am loyal to you, Nordstrom's Rack, but let me experience the store before I make the actual purchase. Next time, I might lay out all my items in the empty size 16 shoe section and take all the time I need.

How have you experienced MPOS at your favorite stores?