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Don't Wait! Speed Up Your Checkout Lines With These 4 Tips

Jennifer Dublino
Jennifer Dublino

Here's how you can use your POS system to bust long checkout lines at your store.

Five minutes. That's all the time you have to move your customers through the checkout line before they abandon their purchases and leave your store, according to 70% of retailers surveyed by TimeTrade. Further, if your lines appear long, customers may take one look at the queue, decide they're not willing to wait and go somewhere else.

Your customers expect the checkout process to be quick and straightforward, and they feel frustrated and annoyed when lines are long. As your business grows and becomes more popular, it's essential to take steps to maximize efficiency and keep your checkout lines short. Here are several ways to use your point-of-sale (POS) system to move your customers through the checkout process faster.

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1. Arm your sales associates with mobile POS units.

Connecting additional tablets or phones to your POS system can be an easy, cost-effective way to check out more customers quickly, without sacrificing precious square footage and purchasing countertop POS equipment for additional checkout stations. With POS tablets or phones in hand, your sales associates can approach customers in line and ring up their purchases. Or, after helping customers find products, associates can ring up purchases on the spot, sparing your customer from any wait at all. 

Mobile POS systems to consider

Here are some popular and effective products to consider when you're choosing a mobile POS system.

  • Clover Go: This compact mobile credit card reader connects wirelessly to a tablet or mobile phone to accept swiped, inserted and tapped cards, as well as with digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay. The Clover Go mobile payment app gives you the full functionality of a fixed POS system, including product selection, discounts, customer data capture and loyalty programs. The Clover Go card reader costs $49. For more information, check out our full review of Clover

  • Square: The $49 Square Reader for contactless and chip payments is similar in size and functionality to the Clover Go and uses Bluetooth to connect to a tablet or mobile phone. If you want a device that accepts payments and prints receipts, consider the $299 Square Terminal. This versatile device connects via Bluetooth to a mobile device or connects to a fixed POS location with an Ethernet cable. The Square Terminal has a fully digital interface with no physical buttons, giving it a sleek look. For more information, read our review of Square and its products and services.

  • PayPal Zettle: The Zettle card reader accepts chip, magnetic stripe and NFC cards, and digital wallet payments. It's lightweight and small, with numeric buttons for debit card PIN entry, unlike the Clover Go and Square Reader. When you sign up for a merchant account with PayPal Zettle, the first Zettle card reader is $29. Subsequent readers are $79 each. For fixed cashier locations, you can use the Zettle card reader with a charging dock. Zettle's regular POS system is mobile-ready, as it's designed to be installed on an iPad you can mount on a stand (sold separately). For more information, read our article on how to accept credit cards with PayPal.

  • Helcim: The Helcim card reader is small and features physical numeric buttons for PIN entry. It accepts inserted, swiped, and tapped cards as well as mobile wallets. The Helcim reader can interface with your POS system on a Windows or Mac workstation, tablet, or mobile phone, or a combination of these devices. It can connect to the device via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or a USB cable. When you want to use it at a fixed checkout location, place it on a countertop stand (sold separately). For more information, read our review of Helcim.

TipTip: If your POS system accepts mobile wallets, learn the differences between Google Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, and find out what you can expect as they become more widely adopted.

2. Don't gather customer contact data when lines are long. 

Many POS systems allow you to gather contact information for your marketing efforts during the checkout process, but when your store is busy and you have customers waiting, it doesn't make sense to prolong the checkout process by gathering this data. Instead, train your cashiers to skip nonessential steps so they can ring up sales quickly and move customers through the checkout process efficiently. Consider that customers who receive prompt service are more likely to return to your store than those who languished in line.

3. Allow your customers to order and pay online for in-store pickup. 

This option allows your customers to sidestep the traditional checkout process entirely, broadening your customer base by catering to individuals who prefer online shopping but don't want to wait for shipping. You'll need your POS system's inventory management tools to integrate with your online store in real time for this process to work, as customers will want to be sure that the items they want to purchase are in stock and ready for pickup before they visit your store. An additional benefit of this option? According to PYMNTS.com, 30% of consumers purchase more items when they shop online and pick up their purchases.

4. Add self-service checkout kiosks to your store. 

Although primarily used at big-box retailers and grocery stores, self-service technology is growing in popularity among smaller retailers because it allows a single sales associate to monitor several checkout stations. Customers have a favorable view of self-checkout kiosks and perceive them to be fast and convenient, particularly if they're purchasing only a few items.

Did you know?Did you know? Certain industries should look for specific POS system features. For example, retailers may benefit from customer loyalty features, while restaurant POS systems should offer text alerts for pickup orders.

Benefits of POS systems

There was a time when cash registers were the only option when completing sales in a store or restaurant. With modern technology, the options have changed to include systems that are easier to use and more beneficial for your business. POS systems have several benefits that can boost sales and retain customers.

  • Sales reports: A POS system provides an excellent overview of your business and automatically maintains a record of its cash flow, making for easy cash flow statements. Another benefit of POS systems is their ability to save information about inventory and sales status. This information allows you to plan the expected revenue for next week or longer.

  • Time savings: Since the POS system keeps track of specific products that have been sold and what you have in stock, you no longer have to spend hours doing a physical inventory. With POS inventory management, the POS system does the work for you. This is also helpful when customers need information about specific products, because all information about each product is stored in the system. An employee can check the program without the customer waiting for someone to check on the product physically.

  • Fewer mistakes: Prices frequently change, but you no longer have to manually update all pricing because the system automatically updates prices as they change. This helps reduce customer frustration when prices on the shelf don't match prices at the register.

  • Loyalty program: POS systems can save all your customer information. It allows you to learn each customer's favorite products, which is extremely beneficial when you adapt product offers and promotions for customers. For instance, if your store offers a loyalty card for customers, and you offer coupons or promotions that can be loaded onto the card, the system can match frequently bought products to the customers.

Keeping your customers' checkout wait times to a minimum is key to creating a positive experience that generates repeat business and customer loyalty. These tips can help you move customers through the checkout process faster, and in some cases, it may eliminate wait times. 

Additionally, by offering in-store pickup and self-service kiosks, you provide your customers with options, allowing them to choose the checkout method most convenient and comfortable for them.

TipTip: Aside from cash flow statements, POS reports your business should consider include employee reports, inventory reports and store-comparison reports.

Additional ways to optimize the checkout process

While shortening the checkout wait time can improve customer satisfaction and prevent lost sales, there are other ways to improve your customers' experience (and your sales revenue) while they're waiting to pay. Here are some checkout optimization tips: 

  • Protect customer health and safety. COVID-19 is still a concern, so measures to keep customers safe from germs benefit everyone. For example, post stickers and signs that remind customers about social distancing, place plexiglass barriers between customers and cashiers, require cashiers and other employees to wear masks, and provide hand sanitizer at checkout.

  • Become a topic of thought and conversation. When you display eye-catching artwork or a thought-provoking statement or quote at your checkout, it can distract customers from their boredom while waiting in line and can also prompt them to snap a photo and post it on social media. When you include your business's name and social handles, these posts serve as free advertising. Win-win!

  • Sell more things. The area around your checkout line is prime real estate for displaying impulse-buy products. For example, display small seasonal items, products that young people want (think candy for kids or makeup for teens), or cross-sell items (such as socks at a shoe store). 

  • Suggest additional items. Train your checkout staff to suggest complementary products based on what the customer is already buying. For example, for some items, you can promote extended warranties or buyer protection programs. Employees can also upsell customers to a more expensive version of the item they're planning to buy if it's a better fit or something they should consider.

  • Make it attractive. The checkout area should be well lit, relatively uncluttered and branded with your store name. You can even add a plant or two to soften the appearance and give the counter a natural look.
Image Credit: YakobchukOlena / Getty Images
Jennifer Dublino
Jennifer Dublino
business.com Contributing Writer
Jennifer Dublino is a prolific researcher, writer, and editor, specializing in topical, engaging, and informative content. She has written numerous e-books, slideshows, websites, landing pages, sales pages, email campaigns, blog posts, press releases and thought leadership articles. Topics include consumer financial services, home buying and finance, general business topics, health and wellness, neuroscience and neuromarketing, and B2B industrial products.