A high street store well-known for fast fashion, Zara is also rather famous for its slow-moving queues.
Personally, about three-quarters of my time in Zara is usually spent in the queue.
And I’m not sure whether it’s down to a lack of tills or incredibly laid-back staff, but it certainly makes for a frustrating experience.
You can imagine my interest in learning that the Spanish retailer is to introduce self-checkouts in stores.
That’s right. No longer reserved for supermarkets, fashion brands are beginning to realise the potential of using technology to improve the physical shopping experience.
But will it actually improve the customer experience?
Here are a few reasons for and against putting this kind of technology in place.
For: Greater efficiency and fewer abandoned shops
One of the main benefits of the self-service system is that it simply speeds up the checkout process. And as I previously mentioned, long-term fans of Zara will undoubtedly lap up this new efficiency.
We’re used to hearing how often consumers abandon their online shops – but just think how many people give up and leave a store after getting fed up with waiting.
With faster service having a positive impact on satisfaction, there’s no denying that it could lead to happier customers.
Also, with more self-checkouts and fewer tills, it also might encourage consumers to actually buy in store rather online, safe in the knowledge that they will be able to get in and out much quicker.
Against: Frustrated shoppers
As the lack of interest in supermarket self-checkouts show, not everyone finds the service so convenient.
A surprising number of people still prefer traditional methods of checking out.
Frustration surrounding complex systems, glitches and a basic lack of confidence in using the technology means that some shoppers might be put off altogether.
Whether or not Zara’s core demographic will find the idea more appealing remains to be seen.
For: Less-stretched staff
Another benefit of the self-checkout machine is that it will free up time for staff, allowing them to balance other responsibilities much more efficiently.
From assisting in changing rooms to sorting stock, consumers seem to forget the fact that working on the till is not the only part of the job.
By being able to utilise their time elsewhere, this is one aspect that could benefit both staff and customers alike.
Of course, another big benefit for Zara is that it might be able to reduce staffing costs as it needs fewer people working on the tills.
Against: Technology overload
It’s not only a resistance to the self-checkout that might prove to be an obstacle here – but a lack of interest in technology as a whole.
Alongside self-checkout systems, Zara is also reportedly to introduce other innovative features such as LED screens to allow shoppers to view products, and touch-screens in the dressing rooms to enable customers to request different items.
As exciting as this might sound, it is certainly not something that shoppers are used to.
In fact, my colleague Ben Davis has previously been critical of in-store tech, describing it as ‘the screen in the corner that nobody wants to use’.
Consequently, making technology accessible, user-friendly, and appealing is going to the biggest challenge in future.
For: Enhanced customer experience
We’re constantly being told than an engaging and interactive experience is the key to customer loyalty.
With self-service checkouts putting the control into the hands of shoppers, it is certainly one way to ramp up some level of involvement.
Though it is still far removed from the world of virtual reality, Zara’s new venture could spell the start of retail brands bringing more technology into stores.