How Retailers Use Mobile Apps to Provide Progressive Customer Service

Woman staring at phone

By Tricia McKinnon

With many retailers facing declining foot traffic the race towards providing more progressive customer service is in full force.  One of the elements of the customer experience that has long been a pain point for both customers and retailers is the checkout process. A study by UC Berkley found that a third of customers will leave a store if their wait in line in store is greater than seven minutes.  With statistics like this in mind Macy’s is one of many retailers that has introduced self-checkout.  Walmart, is tackling another element of customer service, finding products quickly and efficiently, with its mobile app.  Finally, Nike has done a great job with its “Scan to Try” functionality that allows customers to scan product barcodes with their phones to receive more product information.  Self-service appears to be a key element of a more modern and progressive in-store shopping experience. See how these retailers are leading the way by providing examples of more progressive customer service.  

1.  Walmart upgraded its mobile app early last year to include a “Store Assistant”.  The Store Assistant makes it easy for customers to find products in its stores. It does this by directing customers using its app to the exact aisle and the shelf area where a desired item is located. To provide this functionality Walmart created store maps that are unique to every store, with more than 4,700 of them created to-date. It is like Google maps but for the inside of a store. With the average Walmart store spanning 178,000 sq. ft. the benefit for customers is that they do not have to wait to find help to find an item or wander the aisles searching for items.

2.  Last year Macy’s launched a new app that allows customers to self-checkout called Scan & Pay.  Customer scan merchandise tags using their Macy’s app and also pay for merchandise using the app. Before leaving the store, sales associates take off security tags on items, confirm the payment and provide shopping bags.  

Nearly half of millennials (46%) prefer self-checkout, while 39% still like an experience that is led by a cashier. Over time as self-checkout options at retailers increase the preference for self-checkout may also increase.  According to an eMarketer report 60% of internet users polled worldwide prefer an Amazon Go like self-service shopping experience.

Speaking about the Scan & Pay initiative at an investor conference, Macy’s CEO, Jeff Gennette said “if you want to talk about the single biggest pain point in our stores right now, it’s the checkout process.  It’s finding the register. Is there going to be somebody there? Is there a long line of customers and how long is it going to take me to get out?”.  Macy’s hopes the initiative will provide a better customer experience and so do several other retailers.  Meijer and Sam’s Club are among several other retailers experimenting with self-checkout.

3. Nike recently opened its 68,000 sq. ft “House of Innovation 000” store in New York. Using Nike’s “Scan to Try” functionality on Nike’s mobile app customers can scan the barcode on any product in the store using the app to learn more about a product and see what colours and sizes are available.  With the app customers can also see if a product is in stock, or if it is available at nearby stores or online all without speaking to anyone.  Using the app customers can also request that a sales associate bring items to designated locations in the store or have items placed in a fitting room.  


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