Focus on: Mobility

Best Buy Canada expands use of mobile POS solutions

After a successful pilot, Best Buy Canada is expanding its use of fully integrated, enterprise mobile point (mPOS) solutions on its selling floor. The new, tablet-based technology has improved customer service, including reducing checkout times, and staff productivity.

Initially, the retailer tested the technology — Motorola's Android-based ET1 enterprise tablet and MC40 mobile pocket-size computer — in five locations for several weeks. The ET1 tablet is designed for assisted selling, mPOS, item locator and planogram management and compliance applications, and the MC40 mobile computer incorporates inventory management with collaboration and line-busting mPOS capabilities. The stores were equipped with five of each device for employees to share.

"Our associates use a login to identify ownership of a transaction," explained Kevin Satterfield, director of IT application development and maintenance, Best Buy Canada, which operates 72 Best Buy big-box stores, 54 Best Buy Mobile stores and 140 Future Shop stores.

The mobile deployment and management solution is now being expanded into another 20 Best Buy Canada doors, with the devices being used for "end-to-end selling of all in-store products and inventory look-up for all stores," Satterfield said. The company plans to add more stores this holiday season, with a full chain-wide rollout beginning spring 2014.

Both the tablet and the mobile computer are enabled with Motorola's Bluetooth Mobile Payment Module, so shoppers can be checked out on the spot.

"It offers debit, credit, gift cards for EMV and magnetic stripe functionality," Satterfield said, noting it also has the ability to build a transaction, suspend it and complete it at the store's frontend register.

The mobile devices have also helped reduced customer lines at the front lanes during busy times. Service has improved, too, as the tablet and the handheld computer allow sales associates to interact with the customer right where the product is on display, according to Satterfield.

"Providing inventory data (via the mobile devices) has also armed our associates with the information that they need so they don't have to leave the customer," he added. "Additionally, associates no longer have to take time looking for an available terminal."

From a bottom-line perspective, the cost per mobile device is far less than a standard fixed-counter terminal.

"A hardened register has a cost and maintenance cost associated to it at almost three times the cost of a single ET1 Table of MC40 handheld device," Satterfield said.

Looking for more efficiencies, Satterfield envisions leveraging the devices for other tasks.

"There is opportunity for further inventory capabilities, planogram execution, sign printing, in-store communications, assisted selling solutions, reporting and Web browsing," he said.

Ken Morris, a principal of Boston Retail Partners, said more retailers like Best Buy are moving in a mobile direction with mobile POS, meaning the "customer has become the point of sale."

"Product details and inventory information available through mobile can enable retailers to turn a 'B' or 'C' associate into an 'A' associate," Morris said.

Boston Retail Partner's 14th Annual POS Benchmarking retailer survey revealed the shift to mobile, with 91% of its respondents saying that increasing spending on mobile POS is either "very important" or "important." While traditional registers will still play a role, "it will continue to diminish" and that by the end of 2014, "the shift in point-of-sale hardware will be significant."

In sync, a 2012 Motorola Solutions' mPOS study found that 75% of retailers currently using fixed computers for customer-facing applications expect to use handheld computers, smartphones and tablets "in the near future."

Laura Klepacki is a contributing editor to Chain Store Age.

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