For More Sales, Design Better Checkout Experiences

I’m guessing that many people who read the title of this post think it’s about online experiences. That’s where “design” and “checkout” most often show up in the same sentence. But I’m actually discussing in-store experiences. According to recent research, about 1.6 percent of customers abandon in-store checkout lines. For a typical retailer, that’s over $100,000 per store per year, which is more than $50 million per year for a 500 store chain.

My take: I’ve recently discussed new in-store merchandising strategies for Wal-Mart, Michael’s, and Macy’s. Companies are recognizing that store design has a significant impact on customer purchases during a visit and on the likelihood of customers to return to the store. But the last place you want customers to have a bad experience is when they’ve got a product in one hand and payment in the other.

So companies need to take another look at the design of their checkout experiences. This means examining their queue structure (multi-line, single-line, etc), the queue environment, and in-queue merchandising. Technology offers new options for in-store experiences like self-service checkout kiosks and portable checkout systems.

Since I mentioned online experiences at the start of this post, I’ll end with a comment about online experiences. I’ve written in the past about flaws in the Store to Web experience. With the growth of mobile applications like ShopSavvy, retailers will increasingly need to design experiences that cross-over online-offline boundaries.

The bottom line: Stop losing customers that are ready to buy.

Written by 

I am an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile:

3 thoughts on “For More Sales, Design Better Checkout Experiences”

  1. Actually, when I read the title, I instantly thought of my last trip to Walmart. Stood in line for 20minutes, behind 2 customers who had full carts. It was a busy evening, I didn’t think I could do better in any other line. It wasn’t the quantity of products that needed scanning, it was the employee who was slow. With a watch, I timed the employee in the other isle, she scanned about 7 items every 10 seconds. Whereas the employee in my line was doing about 4. Like you, I was trying to figure out why the difference… physical ability, strength, coordination. Item recognition (couldn’t find the barcode), 3D spatialization and pre-planning (bagging the products). The whole system was inefficient.

    And then there was the self-serve line, which was continually halted because the computer would require the attendant to key in a password or verify something. The self serve wasn’t any faster than my line.

    I hope you helped out Walmart with their checkout process… it needs a lot of help!


  2. I had an interesting checkout experience in a grocery store recently. While some of the self service checkouts are well designed for a smaller number of items, this grocery store I was in converted existing full lanes into self service. A couple of issues: customers could take full baskets of things, which means you have large and small items shoppers mixed together. Second, there were no baggers available, so in addition to shoppers unfamiliar with the checkout technology, this store stressed their bagging skills (or exposed the lack of them!) The bagging took much longer than the checkout, and served to get me a few dirty looks from the customer in front of me as I proceeded to start my checkout. No fun for anyone involved!

  3. Jae Kae and Bryan Lee: Thanks for sharing your experiences. Clearly “self-service” checkouts require more than just some technology slapped near the front door of a store. And it’s amazing to me that more stores don’t do basic things when they’re busy like having managers help out with slow moving lines (bagging, etc.). Hopefully the loss of revenue will motivate more firms to improve the checkout experience.

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