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By Ed Weiser, motorolasolutions.com/mobilePOS
On a recent trip to an electronics store, I found myself contemplating the art of the sale – or more accurately, the digital technology that really drives the sale. While browsing, I overheard a woman discussing the features and benefits of several digital cameras with a sales associate. The exchange seemed pleasant enough and the associate helped her select a camera that best fit her needs.
Having found what I came for, I headed toward the register only to be greeted with long lines. The lady with the camera was in the one next to me. She looked anxious – maybe irritated – with the length of the line and was tapping energetically on the screen of her smartphone. She put the camera box down and walked out of the store. I wondered if she had been looking for a better price or was sending out a tweet for advice on the brand she selected. Obviously, I could only guess, but the sale was lost nonetheless.
How could that sale have been saved? Perhaps if an associate armed with a mobile computer and the right application checked her out as soon as she received her merchandise. In this digital, all access age, we expect more; it’s leading to a steady revolution of the retail shopping experience. Building a stronger, more personal relationship with this new class of customer will ultimately drive sales and loyalty, but it takes the right strategy and investments. To stay in the game, you need to step up your digital toolkit and mobile point-of-sale solutions (mPOS) can help.
POS is not a “point” anymore
POS solutions have been a mainstay of retailers’ strategy for years. New, more advanced technology has transformed the capabilities of traditional POS systems, improving the shopping experience by speeding up transaction times and providing immediate access to product information and additional savings. Their impact on retailers’ business operations remains equally impressive, increasing customer satisfaction and intelligence, cutting labor costs, improving inventory management and adding to the bottom line. Making POS mobile has the potential to redefine this concept and deliver even greater benefits for the retailer and their customers.
A recent Motorola Solutions mPOS study found that 75% of retailers currently using fixed computers for customer-facing applications expect they’ll be using handheld computers, smartphones and tablets for this purpose in the near future. And while only 23% of respondents indicated they are currently using mPOS solutions they anticipate replacing more than 36% of their fixed POS systems with mPOS by the end of 2013.
While there are numerous reasons to implement mobile POS, strengthening customer service is a big one. According to our 2011 Holiday Shopper Study, 71% of retailers agree that improving customer service is their most important goal. With greater access to information from a variety of sources, today’s shoppers walk through your door with a wealth of information at their fingertips – competitive pricing, social network reviews and more. Eighty-three percent of the associates surveyed indicated that “shoppers can easily find a better deal, so customer service is more important than ever.” And having access to mobile solutions gives them an important advantage by keeping them in the store.
A more personal, profitable touch
Every square foot of space in the retail environment has a dollar amount associated with it. Taking advantage of mPOS technologies allows retailers to minimize the use of fixed POS solutions, freeing up valuable space for more merchandise and allowing greater interaction with customers.
Current mPOS solutions come in a variety of forms and with several options. The latest combine scanning, signature capture and payment technology, empowering sales associates to engage directly with customers and meet their increasing demands. A growing number of retailers, like Home Depot, are taking advantage of this new tool, arming sales associates with handheld devices to provide increased coverage, line busting, and full mPOS with payment on the store floor.
The new level of responsiveness these solutions deliver makes the shopping experience more personal and interactive – two important elements in building brand loyalty. By eliminating the walk to the register, mPOS solutions can save sales. According to our 2011 Holiday Shopping Survey, 33% of store visits ended in shoppers leaving without purchasing everything they wanted. This resulted in an average loss of $125 per customer walk-out. Allowing an associate to stay by a customer’s side and answer questions, order out-of-stock merchandise for direct delivery and reinforce their purchasing decision increases the likelihood of closing that sale. And closing the sale on the spot seals the deal.
Mobile POS solutions provide greater operational flexibility. Associates can handle more tasks, manage purchase transactions from anywhere in the store and allow you to better understand customer wants and needs and how to meet them more effectively.
Implementing mPOS solutions does require some planning. To start, you will need to thoroughly evaluate your existing wireless infrastructure capabilities to determine if additional coverage and bandwidth are needed to support the solution. Having the proper security measures in place to protect financial and customer data and manage all deployed devices is also a critical consideration. Others include:
- Managing compliance with all PCI requirements;
- Having a POS application that supports, suspends, and resumes functionality and contains an optimized mobile user interface. Scan, beep, total, tender is easy. Make sure your solution handles exceptions and error conditions seamlessly;
- Determining the right type and number of devices to be deployed – single users or shared devices?;
- Determining what types of applications need to coexist on devices;
- Managing those devices. Break-fix service, software updates, implementing plans to mitigate lost or stolen devices, monitoring battery life and allowing for real-time battery change;
- Facilitating convenient customer checkout in-store, including things like cash, security tags, and bags;
- Type of payment technologies needed -- MSR, chip and pin, PIN, debit – secure, private – separate keypad?
- Managing cash purchases – how to handle accountability issues with associates sharing devices; and
- Identifying the right number of associates needed on the floor and what level of access they require.
Delighting connected customers
The art of closing the sale. Today, it demands more – mobile technology, service and engagement. New mPOS applications coupled with devices, like Motorola’s ET1 enterprise tablet, can empower associates to control a sale from beginning to end, allowing them to connect with customers in powerful new ways. Those retailers that do it best will ultimately end up on top. And while IT investments must be weighed carefully, business growth depends on the ability to close sales. The good news is the latest mPOS solutions allow you to do that for less.
Ed Weiser is principal, retail solutions at Motorola Solutions.