GUEST OPINION How Retail is being transformed by mPOS
Owen Chen, President and CEO of global POS solutions developer Posiflex Technology, Inc., discusses the impact that mobile point of sale is having on the retail landscape.
Rising internet access through smartphones and tablets together with the growth of online retailing has led to a new breed of customer, one with a choice of devices and channels through which to browse, select and purchase products. Today’s shopper is constantly connected, armed with a wealth of detailed product information before even entering inside a store. Many customers engage with different channels simultaneously: for example 60%, according to Cisco Research Insight, of smartphone owners use their devices whilst in-store to search the web and compare prices. Accordingly, customer expectations of the in-store shopping experience have altered: they now expect a consistent shopping experience across channels with almost unlimited choice and a real-time response to every demand.
As this line between online and offline channels becomes increasingly blurred, retailers are realising the need to adopt in-store mobile technologies that deliver omnichannel capabilities and fulfil ever-increasing customer requirements. Giving stores the innovative solutions they need to suit changing customer behaviour and provide an integrated customer experience in the new connected world has become essential. A more personalised customer service
Customer service is the biggest differentiator that sets the physical store apart from the virtual environment. Therefore, enabling staff to guide customers with all the information they need through the buying journey is a key function of any in-store mobile strategy that aims to put the customer at its core.
Mobile POS frees up sales staff to engage with customers directly on the sales floor delivering a more personalised, seamless in-store experience in which the customer is assisted at all stages of the shopping process. Staff have easy access to detailed product information, such as stock levels, product reviews, price comparison and promotional offers, allowing them to be part of the customer product research process and guiding shoppers to the best informed decision.
Customers also want the ability to easily redeem promotional vouchers issued through Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Failure to integrate on-line and offline promotions can interrupt the smooth consumer experience, undermining perceptions of trustworthiness and potentially impacting on future sales.
Moreover, with CRM integration, mobile POS can be used as an integrated customer engagement tool to create desirable offers, promote loyalty programmes, and customise vouchers for the individual shopper. The net effect is that staff are empowered, able to engage on a personal level with customers, and equipped with the means to drive additional sales and encourage customers to return. Minimise lines, speed up transactions
With the emergence of e-commerce, the in-store checkout process has become an even more critical part of the customer experience. If lines are too long, the likelihood of shopping trolley abandonment will increase, as will customer dissatisfaction. In the practice of line-busting, mobile POS serves as an extension of pay points to accelerate the checkout process and make the customer experience as fast and effortless as it is on the web. Bring the online experience into the store.
Another benefit of mPOS is it gives retailers the capability to bring their website in-store and create an ‘endless aisle’. Consumers can browse from a virtually unlimited inventory of products stocked online, in-store and in distribution warehouses. They can then order the items they want to be delivered to their home – even if they are not in stock or sold in that particular store. It requires mobile devices to be synchronised with existing business operating systems and processes so that POS, ERP and accounting systems are updated in real-time. Whilst helping consumers find the items they are looking for, sales staff can also recommend related products, leading to cross-selling or upselling opportunities to increase average order value.
To achieve a successful mobile POS rollout, retailers need to incorporate the right solution together with careful implementation. Simply installing consumer-type mobile tablets into stores so that sales staff can access the website and take web orders is not sufficient if retailers want to create a truly integrated customer experience across channels. Considerations that retailers should focus on include viability (mPOS tablets need to be robust with commercial-grade operating systems and hardware); sustainability (such as long battery life and lightweight design for sales assistants to carry and use all day); compatibility, (integration with the existing POS systems); and multi-use mobile versatility with the flexibility to transform into a station-based POS when necessary. To place the right mobile POS at the right location is essential so that mobile POS and stationary POS can work in tandem helping the retailers to drive the revenue.
Mobile POS is not intended to replace stationary POS terminals but instead it 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.
In summary, despite the expansion of online retailing and e-commerce, customers still spend most of their time shopping in brick-and-mortar stores and still make the majority of their purchases in-store. However, while the physical store remains very important to shoppers, the role it plays in the customer purchasing journey is rapidly being transformed as new mobile technology and channels evolve. Retailers realise they need to erode the notion of channel and reposition the physical store as more of an omni-channel hub that integrates the online environment with the in-store environment, bringing the entire spectrum of the shopping process together and delivering a seamless customer experience.