Gareth Cornish, Vice President EMEA at global POS solutions developer Posiflex, discusses the impact that mobile point of sale is already having on the retail landscape.
Today’s shopper has a wealth of devices and channels through which to browse and select products and retailers are continually challenged to deliver satisfying experiences to their customers.
But the same technology developments that have benefited shoppers online or via smartphones are also enabling retailers to deliver an enhanced service in-store. Mobile point of sale (MPoS), whilst being available for the last couple of years, is only now becoming more widely adopted as retailers respond to the explosion in personal mobility devices and turn to MPoS to create an informed, flexible response to customer needs.
Many retailers are now focusing on the delivery of a unique in-store experience, often as part of an omnichannel strategy. Aware that customers enter their stores with detailed information literally at their fingertips, and not just about their products but more importantly about competitor’s products, they are determined to arm their own sales assistants with access to the same information via web-enabled MPoS solutions. As a result, sales assistants are empowered, able to engage on a personal level with customers, and equipped with the means to drive sales.
MPoS is not designed to replace fixed point of sale terminals, however, which are well established and around which many stores are designed. Instead MPoS facilitates a change in how shops will operate in the future, transforming sales assistants into brand ambassadors, allowing them to create relationships, answer queries on the spot, take orders and payment, and generally enable a smoother more efficient shopping experience. Both fixed and mobile PoS can work in tandem, in fact, according to research from Accenture, introducing mobility to PoS helps retailers leverage their existing investments in fixed terminals and makes PoS easier.
Implementing MPoS successfully requires time and careful planning. There are various stages to the process from supplementing the existing fixed PoS terminals and finding a way to integrate with existing PoS software and peripheral connectivity; gradually increasing the amount of interactions on MPoS; successfully managing ordinary daily operations and increasing MPoS usage during peak footfall; and finally to the stage where MPoS is widely regarded as a valuable service extension to the overall PoS system. Additional considerations include using MPoS to assist during peak selling periods, or assessing areas of the store that are furthest away from a till, and ensuring an MPoS unit is always nearby.
Selecting the right MPoS solution very much depends on a retailer’s own environment. Some retailers are already using MPoS functionality on consumer devices such as tablets, but dedicated solutions will undoubtedly prove more reliable in the long term. What retailers should be looking for in MPoS is the ability to port existing, established software applications without modification, and compatibility with existing PoS applications and built-in components, such as magnetic strip readers and barcode scanners. MPoS tablets that can be docked into a fixed PoS system offer flexibility for store staff, but, unlike consumer devices, dedicated MPoS solutions for retailers are specially designed to be robust, offer long battery life and are light enough for sales assistants to carry and use all day.
According to ABI Research, MPoS technology is set to increase fivefold over the next five years, reaching 51 million in 2019 or 46% of the overall PoS market. The research also shows that merchants of all sizes are looking towards MPoS to provide added value services and improve in-store mobility levels.
It’s understandable that retailers may find the thought of MPoS implementation daunting, but they are already challenged by the battle with online, the practice of ‘showrooming’ – customers looking at merchandise in-store and then buying it online – and the demand for quick, seamless service. A mobile-driven, customer-facing team using dedicated fit-for-purpose devices will set them apart, enable them to meet customer expectations and reinforce their brand.