How Helping Customers Save Time Boosts Sales

Short checkout lines and entertaining activities make time fly at your store.
Group products by category so that busy customers can get in and out, while also pleasing customers who want to peruse. (Photo: Africa Studio/Shutterstock)

Think pricing your products a couple bucks less than your competitors is the best way to draw customers? Think again. Saving your shoppers time may be just as effective as low prices.

“There are psychological similarities between time and money,” said Bruce Sanders, consumer psychologist and author of “Retailer’s Edge: Boost Profits Using Shopper Psychology.” “This includes the time in selecting a product, time until delivery and time learning to use an item. Plenty of shoppers look at time as perishable, and if you don’t use it wisely now, it will be gone forever.”

Understanding your customers’ relationship to time can help you boost loyalty and bolster your bottom line. And surprisingly, shoppers occasionally want the retail experience to take more time than necessary. Here’s how to get timing right at your store.


“In general, research shows that if you have richer staffing, up to a certain point, you’ll get better revenues per square foot at your store.” -Bruce Sanders (Photo: Bruce Sanders)

Offer speedy checkouts

Waiting forever to pay is “a slam-dunk bother” to most customers, said Sanders. Don’t waste shoppers’ time at the checkout counter — even if it means spending more on self-serve kiosks or additional staffing.

“In general, research shows that if you have richer staffing, up to a certain point, you’ll get better revenues per square foot at your store,” he said.

Stores with unpredictable foot traffic may end up with occasional lines. In this case, a streamlined queueing system can help you limit customers’ irritation.

“One of the things that makes waiting around seem like it takes more time is when shoppers aren’t sure where they are in the order of the line. People get irritated when they see another line moving faster than the one they’re in,” said Sanders. “I recommend having one single line that leads to different check-out stations.”

Remember, paying is the final experience customers have at your store. Make it a smooth process to leave a lasting impression.

Related: How and Why to Set Up Mobile Payments at Your Small Business

Keep them entertained

Some customers consider shopping to be a time suck. Keeping them entertained can help shoppers feel like the time they spent at your store was worthwhile, said Sanders.

“Help your shoppers assume what’s called a flow state. That’s when they lose track of how much time they’re spending on making purchases. It helps them enjoy the experience itself.”

Setting up items that customers can browse can keep them distracted while waiting to pay, said Sanders. Since most customers will use their smartphones in your store, it might be wise to offer free Wi-Fi. You could also consider having different in-store activities, like sample stations and product demonstrations, that will entertain your shoppers.

Related: How Using Humor Can Boost Sales in Your Store

Group products by category

Customers’ individual personalities can make a big difference in how quickly they like to shop.

“There are some shoppers who just luxuriate in the decision-making process, and they love going back and forth between products for a long time,” said Sanders. “But more commonly, you get folks who would like to make a decision quickly.”

Grouping products by category can please both of these types of customers. People who want lots of options will love seeing a broad range of categories to choose from, while shoppers who want to get in and out can zoom in on a specific category and pick a product quickly, said Sanders.

“The perception of time is relatively elastic. People like categories, and having them available will save the amount of time they perceive they spend in your store,” he said.

Related: 4 Types of Shoppers and How to Appeal to All of Them

Don’t rush special orders


Customers expect to wait for customized products, so longer delivery times are acceptable for special orders. (Photo: 88studio/Shutterstock)

The speediest service isn’t always the most satisfying experience for a customer. This is especially true when it comes to special orders, said Sanders.

“When it comes to products with a custom or artistic component, purchasers tend to consider a longer delivery time (within reasonable limits) as a sign of higher quality,” he said. “Although people say they would never pay more money if it meant waiting longer for delivery, some of those same people report experiencing substantial pleasure from anticipation during the wait.”

It’s akin to the experience of fine dining, he added. While customers don’t want to wait hours for a meal, they expect a special dish (like the forbidden black rice risotto) to take longer than regular meals to prepare — and they enjoy it so much more when it finally does arrive at the table.

Take your time on special orders, and avoid spending extra on rushed delivery unless the customer specifically requests it.

Related: How to Boost Sales with Customized Products

Delay payment for big-ticket items

Everyone has to make expensive, but necessary, purchases once in a while. Giving customers some extra time to come up with the money can make the purchase more pleasant for your customers, said Sanders.

“Let’s say a shopper orders a new bedroom set that will be quite expensive. If you tell them it will take a month to deliver and they don’t need to pay until it arrives, that shopper can breathe a sigh of relief. They’ll use the waiting time to save for it,” he said.

Perfect timing is subjective, depending on a customer’s preferences and shopping habits. But the more you can understand each shoppers’ perception of time, the better you can make time fly at your store.

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