The Point of Sale Experience Affects Your Brand
The point of sale in any type of retail environment is more than a collection of hardware and software. The entire checkout process has significant impact on brand impression. We all know this by experience, don’t we? At one time or another everyone has fallen victim to a poor point of sale experience; waiting in line too long, crotchety and/or dirty cashiers, poorly bagged items. Any one of these, or myriad more, factors can impact the customer’s perception of a brand. Conversely, a stellar experience will leave a lasting positive brand impression. The right POS hardware and software are necessary to provide a solid foundation for positive customer experiences. Beyond that is, of course, training employees to use the POS System; as well as providing training on how to handle merchandise at the point of sale, interact with the customer, and up-sell at the point of sale. Everything that happens at the register needs a protocol.
I was introduced to this concept during a brief stint in a large, retail clothing chain store where I earned a mind-boggling $7.00/hour to provide a consistent and efficient point of sale experience to trendy, mall-frenzied shoppers. The training involved in this position rivaled that of an air-traffic controller. Every possible action had a script and a protocol, to which anything other than strict adherence meant serious consequences. This is how I learned the importance of consistency at the point of sale— through fear. Of course, this protocol is not intended to frighten young cashiers, it is designed so that the brand impression is consistent. Just as we come to trust people based on consistent behavior, we also learn to trust stores.
A new restaurant opened just around the corner from where I live, walking distance. A cute, little place in the same plaza as a store I frequent with my son. I was stoked to see it open and my initial experience was good. The people were nice, the environment cozy, my five year old was keen on the food. However, subsequent visits made me so uncomfortable that eventually, we stopped going. I realized I didn’t like going there because I was never sure what I was supposed to do once I got ther. It made me uncomfortable. Sometimes we would sit down and they’d come to our table, other times you ordered at the counter; pay first, pay last? The people working there seemed to want me to make those decisions, and frankly, the only decision I wanted to make was ‘mayonnaise or mustard?’ In addition to making customers like me feel uncomfortable, over time, an approach like this leads to a brand impression something like: they don’t know what they’re doing.
Compare this to the point of sale experience at the Saks Fifth Avenue cosmetics counter. The employees are trained to assist you in making decisions (if necessary), and should you arrive knowing exactly what you want, you simply ask for it—no need to even look. The woman (or man) behind the counter will pull it out for you while kindly suggesting products to complement it. It is rung up, usually somewhere outside of your line of sight, wrapped up, and returned to you looking like a gift. The only decision you have to make is ‘cash or credit?’ It is precisely for this delightful experience that I choose to buy cosmetics at Saks. Additionally, I am comforted by the fact that this procedure is the same in San Francisco as it is in Sarasota. It’s as though no matter where you are, if you’re in Saks, you’re home… Granted, there is a premium to pay, but I leave the point of sale feeling not only prettier, but special. Who can put a price on that, right?
These are two very extreme cases, but the concept is clear. Every event that occurs inside your establishment has an impact on your brand. The only way to control the impression, is to design the experience.