5 Best Practices for a Better Retail Customer Experience at Checkout

Cashier receiving a credit card payment

Closing the sale is your ultimate goal as a retailer. Everything you do is leading to the moment of purchase – so you want that moment of purchase to be perfect. You don’t want anything that potentially dissuades your customer from completing the purchase, or sticks in their mind and prevents them from making a future purchase.

With that in mind, let’s talk about some ways to make sure your checkout customer experience is the best it can possibly be.

1. Ensure your staff is well trained.

First and foremost, you need to train your staff well. At the end of the day, you can have the most beautiful checkout counter and the best technology in place – none of it will matter if your staff is poorly trained. Here is a short list of the things you need to teach your cashiers:

  • Pay full attention to the customer. There is no bigger turn off than getting checked out by someone who is, well, checked out. Whether your cashier is day-dreaming or talking to their favorite coworker, they’re going to give your customer the distinct impression that your brand does not care one whit about your customers. So rather than talking to Rhonda who's on break, train your sales staff to center their attention on the person they’re ringing up, asking them questions along the way, making small talk if there’s time.

  • Be friendly. In addition to paying full attention to the customer, you want your staff to be friendly and open. Smiling is the most obvious way of conveying friendliness, but asking a customer how their day is going is another fantastic way.

  • Be efficient. No one wants to stand at the register for more than a few minutes - less if you’re buying only one or two things. Ensure your staff has the practice to move quickly, but accurately, through the process. While they shouldn’t seem to be rushing (unless the customer wants them to rush), you most certainly don’t want to have someone ringing who has no idea how the software works.

2. Have a clean, optimized counter set-up.

If I’ve learned nothing watching the Food Network while salivating over all the delicious dishes, it’s that presentation’s pretty darn important. In this case, it is nearly as (or sometimes even just as) important as a well-trained staff. First, of course, you want to make sure your checkout counter, whether traditionally large or modernly small, is clean. You don’t want it dusty, sticky, or otherwise dirty.

Secondly, you want to ensure you have the right merchandise around the counter. The checkout zone is your best impulse buy zone. Customers have very little time to consider their purchases once they’re already at checkout, so lower priced items grab their attention and you’ve typically already checked them out before they have a chance to decide whether they really needed that travel size mascara. Sephora, in particular, has a very effective impulse buy strategy. They actually use shelving coated in travel-sized and other small sized beauty products to create their checkout line.


Thus, as you stand in line, you’re forced to consider why you shouldn’t spend $15 on a mini bronzer. This particular set-up also has another by-product which may or may not be intentional: once you’re in line, unless you’re the last person, you can’t get out of line without having to push past people, making it easier just to purchase.

Finally, you should be sure to have gift cards clearly displayed at the counter. Anyone coming in just to purchase a gift card will expect to find it at the register, and you need to streamline that process as much as possible.

3. Use eReceipts.

Having the right technology in place makes a world of difference in your checkout experience. After all, imagine if you still had to be rung up by an antique manual cash register. That process takes forever. Well these days, paper receipts are going the way of manual cash registers, not only are they bad for the environment and potentially cancer-causing, but they really ruin a checkout experience. As a former retail employee, I can’t count the number of times we had some type of malfunction with the printer that caused a receipt to be printed illegibly or, worse, not at all. And even if the printer was working, there was always the awkwardness of what to do with the receipt. Do you fold it up and put it in the bag and risk them never finding it? Hand the whole long thing to them and watch them struggle to figure out where it goes?

So improve your checkout experience vastly by implementing digital receipts. Simply by implementing eReceipts you get rid of all of the problems I listed and you also get rid of the problem of making your customers feel harassed when your staff asks for their email. In the case of digital receipts, any time your employees ask for an email, it is a natural part of the conversation with a clear benefit to the customer.

Additionally, if you have a loyalty program, your staff won’t even have to ask for an email. As long as your customer’s email is linked to their loyalty account, your cashier can pull up the account as usual, and simply confirm the email address and send the receipt. The experience is as seamless as possible.

4. Use mobile POS.

Again, having the right technology in place makes a world of difference in your checkout experience. mPOS can vastly improve checkout in a number of ways:

  • First, mPOS software tends to be more efficient and intuitive because it’s newer, which means your staff can ring even more efficiently.

  • Next, it’s mobile. That means your staff can ring a customer anywhere in the store. This allows them to ring a customer they’ve been working with one-on-one right in the fitting room for instance. (Bonus: if you’re using digital receipts, you don’t even need to worry about how where you’ll print their receipt!) Ringing customers anywhere also helps you cut back on lines at the register.

  • Finally, iPad registers are much cheaper, and take up a fraction of the room that traditional registers do. That means you have more registers. More registers = less lines. And of course, unlike traditional registers, iPads take only moments to boot, so you can be sure to only have the registers you need powered up.

5. Pay attention to the little details.

Finally, when improving your check-out experience, pay attention to the little details. Here are some details you should watch:

  • Packaging. What do you wrap/bag your items in? Is it pretty or haphazard? Not only is it important for the sales associate to show care while bagging, but the packaging is also a take-home part of your experience. A good wrap job reminds the customer later of how much they liked your store.

  • When there is no line, do you have employees standing behind the register? It’s pretty rare that a store requires a constant staffer at the desk. For most stores, having anyone stand behind the desk makes them look unfriendly, unhelpful and off-limits to customers. Train your employees to stand in other places around the store.

  • What’s the go-back situation at your check-out? At many stores, the check-out counter can become buried beneath unwanted items that need to go back. Racks of clothing tend to appear blocking part of the desk in. Is this happening at your check-out? If it is, you need to find a new place to put go-backs.


The check-out counter is your goal line and you don’t want anything in the way of your customer purchasing. Ensure that you have the right technology in place, your desk is clean, and your employees friendly so that your customer experience finishes strong.