By Ian Goldman | CEO, Celerant Technology
Relationships matter. Whether selling houses or chewing gum, the relationship between merchant and customer is key to driving sales and more importantly, loyalty. Even retailers that market highly commoditized merchandise can stand out from the crowd by offering customers experiences that eclipses those of competitors. In fact, 86% of customers say that they have quit patronizing businesses because of bad service. Even more telling, 80% of companies believe they deliver superior customer service; but only 8% of their customers agree.
This is one of the great ironies of technology. Its goal is to increase sales, but it can actually deliver the opposite effect by interfering with human interaction. However, technology is not inherently a wedge or a bridge; it is up to each retailer to decide what technology is best to implement and how it can be used. These decisions ultimately impact the role tech has on sales. As hardware becomes more compact, user-friendly and mobile, it is getting easier to make decisions that enhance human engagement while simultaneously reduce capital expenditures.
Mobile POS is one of the great advancements in retail technology that serves to both enhance the shopping experience while removing barriers between people. The results are improved relationship building, better experiences, and rekindled loyalty. These are achieved in three primary ways.
Removing physical boundaries that separate people
For many decades, the technology that was used to accommodate advancements in retail like credit card transactions, inventory visibility, and returns processing gave frontline employees more capabilities than ever before and brought convenience to shoppers. But it also required bulky hardware, and the cash wraps needed to house all of the gear drove merchants and customers further apart physically. Some retailers even added vertical levels to their cash wraps, elevating cashiers above customers and preventing easy eye contact.
Mobile POS solutions put all of the functionality of those large cash wraps into handheld tablets, allowing store employees to offer the same level of service without requiring physical separation from customers. Wireless connectivity also allows employees to be fully mobile themselves -- that means they can walk with customers, showing them merchandise and answering questions from any location in the store. Information on pricing, inventory, etc. can be looked up easily using mobile POS tablets, and transactions can be completed any time from anywhere.
Mobility frees employees from cash wraps and allows them to cultivate relationships with customers, providing better experiences and building goodwill.
Increased capacity with decreased capital expenditures
Since cash wraps are resource heavy in associated costs and physical space requirements, retailers usually design them to accommodate typical store traffic. This leaves a twofold problem: During times of peak traffic, there may not be enough checkout counters available to handle transactions in a timely manner, leading to long lines and frustrated customers. In contrast, unneeded cash wraps occupy valuable real estate during slow times and are superfluous. It’s therefore nearly impossible to successfully optimize cash wraps given fluctuations in store traffic.
Because of their small size and low cost, mobile POS solutions are extremely easy to scale. They are simply consumer grade tablets that can be easily stored in a back office without taking up any floor real estate space when not in use. Similarly, they are easy to retrieve and arm employees with the same exact functionality of full cash wraps during peak times. This scalability enables transactions capability that is limited only by the number of tablets and staff available. For most retailers, it makes sense to purchase as many tablets as needed during peak periods and distribute them on the sales floor as the particular needs of the day dictate.
The ability to quickly scale checkouts to demand keeps lines and frustrations low, and frees employees to complete other tasks when not needed to checkout customers.
Enable remote selling locations beyond the reach of a cord
Many retailers have seen success launching temporary remote locations that bring them closer to target markets. This can be for any number of reasons like seasonality, holiday opportunities, or venue marketing where on-site locations are set-up during large events. While often successful, these pop-up locations can be logistical nightmares when it comes to everything from processing transactions to reconciling inventory and reporting sales data.
Mobile POS gives pop-up stores the same exact capabilities as their permanent big brothers. Whether shoppers at these locations want to use gift cards or place ecommerce orders for out of stock items, any function supported at the brick and mortar store is also available using mobile POS. These temporary stores can even operate in locations without electricity for parking lot tent sales and similar situations. For extended operating hours, portable charging bricks or a rotating supply of precharged tablets can be brought onsite.
Consumers have had long standing relationships with their mobile devices, using them for showrooming and increasingly, m-commerce. Cutting the cord and going wireless yields large rewards for retailers that take advantage of the freedom to engage more personally with customers and cut overhead in the process.
Ian Goldman, President and CEO of Celerant Technology, is an expert software engineer and entrepreneurial enthusiast with an extensive knowledge of Point of Sale systems, CRM, and inventory management.
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