They may not think so! As customers, we’re becoming increasingly used to convenience with short delivery slots, free and easy returns, and automatic subscriptions. But in-store, the check out process is rarely anything like convenient. And retailers not solving the biggest in-store pain point will quickly lose custom as soon as their competitors do.

One third of convenience shoppers are not loyal to their grocery store. Online-only fashion retailers such as ASOS are seeing phenomenal sales increases versus their bricks-and-mortar counterparts. So, stores really can’t afford to give their customers another reason to go elsewhere. Although the journey to the perfect payment solution will be iterative, to show that they care and provide real convenience, retailers always need to be one step ahead of what their customers expect.

Retailers always need to be one step ahead of what their customers expect

So, what do customers expect?

In the coming years, they expect to be digitally enabled to control their own shop – basket creation, checkout and payment. A study by Apadmi app developers suggested that 50% of customers are waiting to be empowered to shop via mobile apps in-store. Most UK retailers are therefore lagging behind even if they offer customer scan-as-you-shop options with in-store devices.

Apps like Self-Pay that can be used in multiple (registered) retailers are likely to be part of the next step as retailers play catch up. Customers check-in on the app as they arrive in a store, they scan the barcodes of their chosen products and they’re immediately added to their account basket and through to checkout on the same system.

80% of consumers are not willing to wait longer than five minutes to pay, so fast checkout is high up on the list of customer expectations. In the UK retailers are trying to meet this using self-service checkouts and as such, they are no longer a service differentiator. Their prominence is predicted to almost double by 2021. Assisted checkouts such as Panasonic’s robot Regi offer a short-term step forwards – a full basket placed on a surface is swallowed and reappears bagged, totalled and ready for payment in a few short moments.

Staying on the front foot

To be one step ahead in the future, retailers need to remove all these unnecessary processes. US store, Amazon Go, is halfway towards exceeding expectations, having implemented automatic basket creation and checkout. However, shoppers still need to link a physical basket to the app for it to work. Alibaba, removes this requirement by scanning customers to identify products on their person as they exit through a door that looks like a metal detector.

Such automatic payment is the future but for now ‘touch and go’ spending is poised to rocket by 317% in the next four years. 59% of British shoppers are already using contactless and 74% are using mobile payments. They will be awaiting exciting new instant payment technologies such as Flomio, who use Near Field Communication (NFC), Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to link credit cards to people’s accessories, such as a ring.

Biometric payments will also become more common place. Two-thirds of European consumers say they are ready for it. Customers register accounts linked to bank cards, activated by a unique physical characteristic. iPhone X’s facial recognition or Costcutter’s trial of Fingopay in its Brunel University London Outlet (using a 3D map of the finger’s veins) are good examples of this becoming the norm.

“One in five consumers want retailers to implement technology that will make their shopping experience more personal.”

Although faster, this is not the only benefit retailers should be focusing on for the long-term to exceed customer expectations. One in five consumers want retailers to implement technology that will make their shopping experience more personal. To achieve this, retailers jumping on the mobile payment app bandwagon should think more like Starbucks, whose users love the linked pre-orders, loyalty benefits and forward-thinking introduction of bitcoin payments.

In the future, payments will become an instant or automatic non-event, so to exceed expectations, the focus needs to be around service and experience in store instead. Biometrically linked accounts such as Fingopay or fingerprint technology Touché, which launched in January in a restaurant and a member’s club in Singapore, enables the retailer to record customer preferences to provide a tailored service.

China’s Tao Café uses facial recognition to identify customers as they enter the store – once a food order is placed, a screen with the customer’s photo appears with an estimated wait time. This is great for managing customers’ wait expectations in a personalised way while also fulfilling the desire for speed.

Retailers have a hard job ahead. They need to act now by rapidly trialling technology, keeping up with customer expectations and their competitors, while innovating to out-think them both for the future.

Retailers left behind, leaving shoppers to suffer slower, clunkier payment and exit processes will see themselves left uncared for by their customers. Because not embracing innovation and investing in payment solutions sends a clear message to your customers: you don’t really care about them.