What is Frictionless Shopping?

The shopping experience, whether it be in-store or online, centers on providing the customer with value- both in terms of the actual product or service, as well as the interaction as a whole. More than ever, retailers are realizing that in order to create this positive experience, they need to eliminate any unnecessary steps in the checkout process. This approach is known as frictionless shopping, and it is disrupting the retail environment more than ever because of recent technological advances. Keep reading to learn more about frictionless shopping- and see why it matters so much.

What is Friction in Shopping?

Friction is anything that slows down the checkout process. However, what slows down the checkout process today is not the same as what did 10 years ago, since any given part of the buying process can only become a source of friction once a more effective solution is available. Since payment and retail technology has been evolving so rapidly in recent years, more and more standard practices are proving to be inefficient. For instance, the traditional paper receipt now feels like a time waster when an email receipt can be sent in seconds. Or, consider the recent elimination of cardholder signatures by many major card issuers. With better fraud protection technology in place, the customer signature is now unnecessary, and therefore, a source of friction. And yet another example is the newest payment methods- customers can pay with mobile wallets and retail apps rather than having to dig around in their wallet for their credit card.

The idea of reducing friction in shopping experiences is not a new one, but the ways in which we are trying to reduce friction now are so different from before, that they have the potential to completely change retail as we know it. Much of this is driven by the growth of IoT technology (the interactivity of different technologies/devices) as well as mobile and online commerce. As offline and online shopping experiences increasingly blend together, we are better able to eliminate sources of friction.

The Latest Friction-Reducing Technology

A prime example of how this bridge between offline and online shopping can reduce friction is Amazon Go, the first completely checkout-free shop. Customers can enter the store with their Amazon Go app open on their phone, and once inside they can fill up their shopping bag with whatever they want and leave the store when they’re done. The store uses cameras and sensors to know what has been taken off the shelf, so it can be charged to the customer’s account. No cashiers, no long lines, no paper receipts.

Another example of frictionless technology is the recent launch of voice recognition devices, such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home. These devices allow the user to interact and make a number of vocal requests, such as ordering products or services. Voice recognition technology is gaining popularity with customers (the Amazon Echo was the top-selling product on Amazon this past holiday season), so it is sure to be utilized by a growing number of retailers as a frictionless retail channel.

Both of these examples incorporate some aspect of speeding up the actual payment process, which is only natural considering how much payment technology is changing. Advances in security are contributing to the proliferation of quicker and more convenient payment technologies, such as mobile payments. Although mobile wallets like Apple Pay and Android Pay aren’t picking up much steam, branded retail and restaurant apps are becoming very popular, since they enable the customer to pay and order ahead to save time, and the customer can even earn rewards while they’re at it. In fact, in November 2017 the use of restaurant apps to pay ahead and pick up in-store grew by 50% since the year before.

How Should Merchants Respond?

With an increasing number of big-name retailers launching advanced frictionless solutions, it can be intimidating for merchants who don’t have the resources to integrate such solutions. Fortunately, though, creating a frictionless experience doesn’t have to be so advanced. What works for one retailer is not necessarily the answer for another. The best thing that merchants can do is pay close attention and look out for potential opportunities to streamline the shopping experience. You can start small by upgrading to a new POS system or terminal that has features that will speed up checkout, or you can consider ways to simplify your online checkout page. And, it’s very likely that these small changes will make a huge difference.

Stay tuned for our next blog post for some practical tips on creating a frictionless experience.