At an industry event last week, two colleagues and I were discussing the oft-stated requirement that the POS (Point-of-Sale) must be as frictionless, simple and unobtrusive as possible. It is sometimes revealing to challenge the norm, remembering that smartphones
are less than a decade old and have revolutionised just about everything. What might happen if the POS received a comparable technology makeover?
My colleagues challenged me; there is ample market research showing that retailers want customers through the checkout as fast as possible, and consumers want the same. Is there another way to look at it?
Business schools sometimes use a well-known case study. Students must solve the problem of a large number of complaints raised by employees waiting for lifts in the atrium of an office block at rush hour. Quite simply, the lifts are too slow for the volume
of passengers. Something must be done!
The range of potential solutions includes more lifts, faster lifts, fewer people, and more. Eventually, root cause analysis is introduced. What’s the real problem here. The real issue is the passengers are bored. Watching the floor numbers change at an interminably
slow pace, pausing on other floors, is frustrating.
The solution is simple, and commonly found in office buildings old and new. Simply installing mirrors reduces the number of complaints enormously. Modern buildings have TVs, showing the news or advertising local restaurants.
LaGuardia airport in New York has taken optimisation of queuing one step further. When LaGuardia modernised, it reduced the area normally
ascribed to each gate, and to the restaurants; replacing it with a large number of iPad-equipped desks. Travellers enter their flight data into the iPad, which in turn informs them of the time at which they need to be at the gate. Because the airline is informed
of their proximity through the same system, passengers do not need to go to the gate until close to last call.
Having checked the news and e-mail, passengers are unobtrusively encouraged. ‘Mr Smith, it is 47 minutes until you need to be at the gate, may we interest you in a gin and tonic?’ A swipe of the credit card and the drink is duly delivered direct to the desk.
Airside retailers have seen their sales increase by up to 20%; ‘sales per passenger are well above other airports….’ Passengers are happy, airlines are happy.
Returning to our retail point of sale, might the inevitable queue be more opportunity than problem? Instead of waiting for the customer in front to remember where he or she put their purse, might an interactive screen divert attention, and perhaps promote
e-inventory and in-store special offers? Might the point of sale have something to learn from lifts and airports?