Retail and financial computer networks have almost frozen for 2015, and businesses big and small are gearing up for what will no doubt be an interesting holiday season. Does EMV chip dipping, which is not nearly as awesome as guacamole chip dipping, drive transaction times up and make lines longer for retailers? Do we see more physically abandoned shopping carts as more turn to online retailers to effortlessly complete their transactions and get back to Netflix and chilling?

Supported, by boliston

Supported, by boliston

Let’s focus on the transaction times for a moment. Retailers with inefficient implementations of EMV terminals may end up suffering from added labor costs. In order to keep people moving through their lines, more registers will need to be open, which means more employees operating those registers. Large retailers have their front end metrics down to some serious mad science. One retailer I work with knows exactly how long a transaction must complete in, otherwise they need to open another register. So far, the feedback on EMV usage during checkout is mixed. Some retailers have done extensive front end training and transaction optimization, others are just waiting and seeing.

Consider this viewpoint that I heard recently. I was speaking with an industry insider and the topic of transaction time came up. He suggested that retailers that have not solved for the longer transaction time will end up driving sales to Amazon during the holidays as people choose to avoid longer checkout lines. The abandoned cart problem is typically associated with e-commerce, but perhaps we’ll see some physical cart abandonment on the weekends in December.

Amazon’s business model and its disruption of traditional retail is well published in practitioner and academic literature. Traditional retailers lose out when consumers who still like to interact with a product before buying will do so in a big box retail store and then place their order on Amazon—sometimes while they are still in the store! Why? Is it cheaper? Or is it easier to have something delivered versus loading it in the car? Maybe our increasingly anti-social nature makes it easier to click than to talk to someone?

It’s probably a combination of all of these things.

My question for you is this: If you had a cart full of goodies this holiday and saw a 20 minute line to check out, would you wait in line or would you scan those bar codes with the Amazon app and walk past those lines to get done sooner?

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