Report • 13.09.2019

How to turn your checkout zone into the village hub ...

... with opportunities for community engagement

The checkout zone is not only the actual, but also the emotional conclusion of the purchasing process. Top or flop - the experience at the cash register can impact how customers rate their overall shopping experience. 

For retailers, this is also the last chance to make a great lasting impression as a brand and service provider.

A key way to set your business apart from the competition is to offer more than just a place where payments and transactions are processed. Your employees interact directly with customers at the cash register – a chance that should definitely be used! Ideally, your customers will later associate the faces of your staff with far more than just the checkout process.

Deliver the total package

In times when customers have seemingly endless choices of products they can order online and get delivered the next day, many brick and mortar retailers wonder how they can stay relevant. One strategy is to provide both goods and valuable services.

What are some things that will make your customer’s day-to-day life a little easier? Which simple things can earn you high scores with customers, making sure they keep coming back to your store? "When I shop at XYZ store, I can also withdraw cash, take care of any returns, pay my bill, check the bulletin board for the latest help wanted ads in the neighborhood and donate my old CDs to the local charity shop. All at the same time.” Some other practical ways to help customers are hazardous waste collections of ink cartridges, paints and varnishes, LED light bulbs or aerosol cans. This saves your customers legwork and time.

If retailers offer these types of services or similar ones at the cash register, the retail checkout process can turn into an amazing customer experience. Customers leave the store with the great feeling of having crossed off tasks from their to-do list in addition to ticking off their shopping list. Ideally, this turns retail stores into a go-to place for any customer matters. Now you may ask yourself: How can I accomplish this?

Localism – Become a key interface

Globalization is so yesterday? That’s a slightly exaggerated claim but the fact is: There is a trend towards regionalization. People - including younger generations - are making a symbolic return to their immediate environment. How can you take advantage of that? Take a look around your community – your town, your district – and take inventory. What is happening, what are citizens concerned about, who needs help and who offers what types of services?

Always stock the local newspaper and sell or give away local magazines. Become a part of an event by displaying flyers and posters and selling tickets. Feature local information on your point of sale screens, including news, event announcements or the local weather forecast.

Hand that throws money into a donation box
Source: PantherMedia / elmar gubisch

It doesn’t always have to be the Football Champions League. Why not approach fans of the local fencing, Frisbee or fly fishing club? Split the cost for fan merchandise that fans can buy at your store. Sell tickets and have your name prominently displayed as a sponsor and partner.

Get involved with a good cause and encourage your customers to do the same. Is there a Kindergarten project or a local volunteer fire department that you can support by displaying flyers and collecting donations at your point of sale? In the best-case scenario, you get the media spotlight, promote a sense of community, and your customers, who put two euros in the donation jar at the checkout go home with a good feeling they associate with buying at your store.

Put down roots and promote your brand

"Do good and talk about it!" The checkout zone is indeed a great place for that. Customers have time to look around while they wait in the checkout line. Showcase your local community engagement and efforts on your social media channels – with content that practically writes itself. Update donors on your campaign’s progress and post about the Frisbee team’s success, which you sponsor. This is how you claim your place in the community and show how much you care about its people and local life. 

Take this opportunity to introduce yourself, your company and your employees. Do you have a story to tell? Perhaps it’s the company’s history or how the company got its name or why you are so passionate about a specific product. What kind of employer are you? Show photos from the last company outing and add a salesperson job ad.

Analog photo prints, pinboards, digital signage or display panels above, behind and along the checkout counter perfectly lend themselves to this. Thanks to an attractive design and regular updates, they become great conversation starters with customers. (But please make sure you obtain copyright permissions to use any images and graphics.)

Halloween
Source: PantherMedia /alexraths

Take advantage of events and occasions

Focus on events and activities in your town or community. How can you inform people about it, get involved or get your customers involved? Splurge on a great marketing campaign with branded marketing items and promotional giveaways that reference an event or local attraction: beach umbrellas, handheld fans, chair cushions, fans, snacks and drinks. Souvenirs and postcards make perfect gifts and keepsakes and people often tend to pick them up as an impulse purchase in addition to any planned purchase.

The start of a new season or holidays is always a great opportunity to redecorate the store and checkout area. Such occasions are also perfectly suited for small gifts or impulse products. Ideas include ice cream on hot days, teas and cough drops during cold and flu season and mini rabbit toys for Easter.

What’s more, holidays and ancient celebrations make entertaining content. "Did you know that Halloween has been celebrated for more than 6,000 years? I just learned this at XYZ department store. That's also where I found these Dracula-style gummy bears.” This word-of-mouth advertising is worth its weight in gold.

Author: Julia Pott

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