Technology is no longer just a means to an end – it’s become incredibly personal. Today, people regard their mobile devices less as tools and more as extensions of themselves; they identify with them, express themselves through them, and use them to form deeper relationships. So it stands to reason that new, mobile Point of Sale (POS) technologies hold significant power to make connections – and make sales – on the store floor.
Is it really necessary for retailers to have more than a Point of Sale device or access to inventory? It is, because many of your competitors have already discovered how emerging in-store technologies, especially a new generation of mobile tools, can improve customer experiences in- and out-of-store. Mobile POS devices are no longer just a tool for micro-merchants to accept card payments. Increasingly, large U.S. and global retailers are equipping associates with smartphones and tablets that let them respond to customer needs from the sales floor.
The 2014 National Retail Federation Big Show validated that the in-store customer experience should be a huge priority for retailers. Specifically, the volume turned up on discussions around technology’s power to help with this, a departure from recent years where the focus has been more on solutions for inventory and supply chain management. Experts at the event said that the current focus on in-store technologies is driven by two major retail realities:
- Retailers who in recent years have heavily invested in back-end supply chain technologies are now ready to direct resources toward customer-facing operations.
- Fierce competition from online channels that offer vast product selections and free shipping is compelling brick-and-mortars to ramp up their customer service processes. Offline stores are realizing that they must do everything possible to improve the variables that can make or break the in-store experience, including register wait times, access to product information, and higher-touch personalized service.
- Line-busting. During busy periods, associates can reduce the average time spent in a checkout line by processing transactions on a mobile POS device, while customers are standing in queue.
- Flexible sales environments. For special promotional events, such as sidewalk sales or warehouse clearances, as well as “pop-up” stores, mobile POS eliminates the time, cost and complexity of having to set up conventional registers or move bulky merchandise.
- Incomparable service. Mobility empowers associates to stay with a customer as the individual moves through the store, supporting the entire shopping experience, from merchandise requests through payment.
- Inventory lookup. Associates on the floor can answer customer queries about pricing and product availability across the enterprise. They can also do physical inventory counts and cycle counts on fast-moving products.
How does mobile POS trump traditional POS?
Historically, POS equipment has provided value to retailers, but this technology has had limits. With traditional POS, retail associates are tied to fixed locations in the store. Associates are equipped to complete transactions but their ability to assist customers with their purchasing decisions is stifled. Today, mobile devices are omni-present and people have become very comfortable using them to find information and communicate on-the-go, so much so, that retailers using them to enable store associates to better service customers on the sales floor should come as no surprise.
With recent advances in wireless technology, portable handheld POS systems are providing smart retailers with improved ways to serve customers, improve the shopping experience, and streamline inventory and back office functions. The key differentiator from legacy POS systems is the ability for associates using a mobile POS device to truly connect with customers at the most pivotal point – before they arrive at the counter to pay.
Mobile POS can be used in ways that contribute to a consistent brand experience across all customer touch points. This allows a retailer to offer an omni-channel experience without having to sacrifice the brand message based on the channel the customer is trying to shop. Prior to mobile POS tools, retail associates weren’t given the tools that empowered them to fully respond to the full range of customer needs, desires and questions, while still on the floor. Now they are with mobile-enabled capabilities and benefits like:
In addition to these customer-facing advantages, mobile POS solutions deliver operational benefits to retailers. For example, a wireless POS can generate additional savings by cutting hardware costs and, without the need for as much landlocked POS space, can open up valuable floor space to make room for more product promotions and smoother traffic flow. And because mobile POS operates on the network like any other POS system and connects directly into back office applications, associates have access to data for business intelligence, supply chain analytics, work flow processes, shipping and receiving, and inventory management, without compromising the time they spend on the floor serving the customers’ needs.
A retail revolution
Stores that have reduced their traditional POS systems in favor of mobile POS are already realizing greater customer satisfaction, something that makes perfect sense considering our increasingly mobile way of life. Customers are empowered by the information they have access to through their mobile devices and are accustomed to being communicated with in a near real-time manner. Missing out on mobile POS could mean missing out on significant opportunities: to streamline the shopping experience, make the sale, and most importantly, engage with customers in the relevant and convenient manner they’ve come to expect. It is important to remember, however, that the increase in use of mobile POS does not mean that we will see traditional POS systems entirely phased out. There are other aspects to consider, some of them social, and many people are still most comfortable when they have a counter to go pay at. There also needs to be a station to store bags and other items, so wrap desks will never disappear completely. This is an opportunity for retailers to reduce the number of service desks and increase mobility using mPOS, while ensuring that it integrates seamlessly with your traditional POS system.