Does the shopping experience at a brick and mortar store end when you are done shopping or when you are done checking out?
For many who live primarily in a digital environment, the experience ends when they are ready to check out. The check out process for them is a necessary evil, one they are defining as more and more unnecessary. They can check out in 1-Click on Amazon.com; why can't they check out in a few minutes at a mall clothing store?
In truth, brick and mortar stores don't make 1-Click check out as part of their brand promise and have set no expectation that they need to live up to. For most of them, checking out at a register is part of the shopping experience. In fact -- done well -- it is necessary as that is one more opportunity for the sales clerk to up-sell additional merchandise.
As the digital shopping experience push further and further into the culture, retail stores will probably need to begin to address this issue more overtly. Some will choose to incorporate the check-out experience (or wait during the holiday season) into the shopping experience by engaging with customers as they wait or even check them out in line with a mobile solution. Still others may want the shopping experience to end as quickly as possible and staff the registers more to move customers through a frictionless process.
Some retailers rely on the checkout procedure to build a relationship with their customers, especially those that give their customers a more DIY experience while shopping. For example, Big Y grocery stores will be eliminating self-check out in favor of cashier-assisted checkout, saying its customers were not saving time as "self-checkout lines get clogged as the customers needed to wait for store staff to assist with problems with bar codes, coupons, payment problems and other issues that invariably arise with many transactions." For these customers, Big Y chose to include the check out process as part of the retail experience.
Still others manage the check out process by setting expectations early, like Whole Foods in Columbus Circle in New York. They post a sign in store and on their website with wait time expectations. The customer can then choose what kind of shopping experience they want just by selecting the day and time they come into the store.
However the retail shopping experience will change in the next few years depends first on the retailer asking, "Who am I?" early in the process. Once they define who they are, they can begin crafting the retail experience around that which contributes to setting expectations for their customers.