Jan 14 2022

Why Application Performance Is Key to Modernized Checkout for Retailers

Rising customer expectations for the in-store experience demand an approach that uses the latest technology.

When discussing the checkout process in retail, most customers and employees likely first think about point-of-sale. It is easy to equate the checkout experience with the tool being used to complete the transaction, and for customers, that purchase is often the reason for their trip to the store.

But as retailers have grown their presence across channels, customers — with smartphones in hand and a seemingly endless pool of buying options — have come to expect more from the checkout process. That means it’s more critical than ever for organizations to meet the moment.

“The consumer has so many points of leverage,” says Chris Cushman, enterprise technology strategist at CDW. “It's now on the retailer to create the best possible experience and really advance against that expectation.”

Digital tools play a significant role in this experience, particularly with the rise of omnichannel retail. Organizations must have solutions that can link brick-and-mortar stores with online orders. 

“As a consumer, if I don't get an email instantaneously from the system saying, hey, we've got your online order and it's going to be shipped, or we're packing it to ship it, I going to feel like something's wrong in the process,” says Phil Taylor, CTO for digital velocity solutions at CDW. “So, I'm probably canceling that transaction and going to Amazon or going to a different outlet to get my product.”

Powering this communication are digital applications, which perform quickly and consistently to deliver the promised customer experience. Ensuring that performance is key to a modernized checkout.

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How Application Modernization Is Critical for Modern Checkout

For the checkout process to be truly modern, the applications being used must be modern as well. Taylor says that organizations should approach their applications similar to how they approach their data centers.

“If you're not refreshing your data center every five years, you don't have new technology in there, right?” he says. “It's aging, it's old. It's not going to be able to do what you want it to do. Same thing with your applications. You should look to refresh those every three to five years.”

Customer expectations are a big part of what’s driving the shift in this area, Taylor says.

“Meeting those expectations takes application modernization, meaning rewriting those old legacy applications and creating a new microservices architecture,” he says. 

Retooling legacy programs to build apps that can use newer technologies is a core component of a modernized process, Cushman says.

“Sometimes, it’s not just about the application but also the integration of a lot of technologies,” he says. “Further integration of technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning can expedite both the customer experience and employee productivity.”

Once implemented, modernized applications allow retailers to gather data from the in-store experience, much as they do from online transactions.

“Online, we look at the average revenue generated per visitor,” Cushman says. “We don't really think about that with in-store, because it's tough to track the visitor. But with more integrated technology in the point-of-sale system, compared with the kind of traffic patterns that we see on the web, we can get analogous data that allows us to drive inventory and infrastructure.”

MORE MODERN CHECKOUT: Explore the framework for a transformed checkout experience.

The Role of Automation in Maintaining App Performance

It doesn’t matter what the application can do if it isn’t performing properly. Because there are so many different buying options for customers, subpar performance can have a lasting impact on business.

“It used to be that we could have poorly written internal business apps, but now that everybody's carrying an Android device or an iPhone, if that app is not performing, customers are going to want to know why,” Taylor says. 

The first step in combating these potential roadblocks is adopting application performance management solutions to monitor how the apps are running. This gives retailers visibility into what customers are dealing with and allows retailers to test solutions. Technology that incorporates automation can save IT teams significant resources. 

“Application performance management solves what used to take 40, 60 or 80 hours of work,” Taylor says. “It goes through and traces back to find out why the application is performing slowly.”

Modernized applications also need to be integrated into other technologies throughout the organization for optimal performance, Cushman says. Automation is key in this area as well.

“It’s moving away from just the application performance management and toward the customer experience or the employee productivity,” he adds. “That requires integration, measurement and improvement across several technology domains.” 

Retailers that adopt this modernizing approach now stand to gain significant benefits down the line.

“Growth, optimization, new experiences and employee satisfaction — all of these can help an organization scale,” Taylor says.

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