Brick-and-Mortar Retail Stores Are Going Mobile
Mobile POS is helping retailers improve the customer experience, increase sales, and pursue an omni-channel strategy, while helping reduce overall costs
The mobility trend continues to gain traction across the retail industry. At the 2016 NRF Big Show, customer engagement and retention strategies ruled, along with a renewed focus on the mobile technology needed to support these critical initiatives at the brick-and-mortar store.
Many consumers today use mobile devices before and during their shopping excursions and retailers are challenged to keep up with them. Mobile POS is a key part of that drive. In-store shoppers want speed, efficiency and convenience on the sales floor. An associate-friendly mobile POS system throughout the store encourages higher levels of customer engagement and customer satisfaction. Interacting with shoppers using tactics such as proximity marketing and in-store sales assistance, a retailer can increase sales opportunities, reduce lost sales, and make the shopping experience more pleasant and convenient.
Retail IT and Mobile POS Spending is Growing
There’s ample evidence that spending on in-store technology and mobile POS is growing. One recent survey* of more than 500 retailers representing various diverse segments of the retail industry revealed that:
- 35% of retailers plan to invest in mobile POS in 2016
- Nearly 33% are prioritizing wireless networking
- 28% are planning to implement a POS software solution
- More than 28% plan to invest in mobile printers
- Nearly 25% plan to invest in mobile devices for store associates
Mobile POS Challenges and Benefits
The first challenge for brick-and-mortar retailers is to determine the right strategy for their business operations. Next is to figure out how best to leverage mobile POS to increase customer engagement, improve store operations, and ramp up sales associates’ productivity. And finally, they need to choose the right solution partner ‒ as well as the right hardware, software and mobile printer ‒ to help them achieve these goals.
While the challenges may seem daunting, the rewards for successfully implementing a mobile POS strategy can be significant for retail organizations. Here are five ways in which mobility can help improve customer service and business operations.
- Improved customer engagement early in the process can boost customer satisfaction and loyalty, turn casual shoppers into customers, increase sales, and reduce the number of abandoned shopping carts.
- Greater engagement with shopper can also help retain effective sales associates by making their jobs more interesting, engaging and fun. It could also help them more effectively achieve their sales objectives.
- Better workflow efficiency makes associates more productive and can help increase transactional speed during busy times. This takes pressure off the check-out counter, eliminating long lines and delays.
- Effective end-to-end in-store mobility can link sales floor transactions with the store’s centralized accounting system, and portable mobile printers can be deployed so associates can issue customers’ sales and return receipts right on the spot.
- Mobile POS and other in-store mobile technologies can play a key role in supporting a retailer’s omni-channel strategy of linking their e-commerce and in-store messages and presenting a unified face to customers.
Best Practices for a Successful Mobile Strategy
For most retailers, the goal is to find an affordable, associate-friendly solution which can be implemented within a relatively short timeframe and is not disruptive to existing store systems. Decision factors should include an accurate assessment of the store’s existing networking infrastructure, the connectivity options (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth) desired, and a clear understanding of the software’s functionality. To make these tasks easier, most retail organizations choose to partner with an external solution provider or VAR (value added reseller) with industry experience as well as IT expertise.
It’s also important to ensure the interoperability of system components across computing platforms and protocols. Standardizing on easy-to-use mobile devices – such as consumer smartphones and tablets ‒ across the store or group of stores, will make the mobile POS system easier to deploy, manage and update as business needs require. Here also, a knowledgeable business partner can be helpful in ensuring that all components will work seamlessly together.
One final step before deploying the mobile POS solution is associate education and training. Sales associate support and enthusiasm are essential for the system to work as planned. So it’s important to bring associates into the loop by communicating their value as ambassadors of your brand and providing thorough and systematic training before the mobile POS system is deployed.
Receipt Printers Essential for Mobile POS
Don’t overlook the importance of the selecting the right mobile printers. Receipts are still a necessary part of POS workflow and, even though the range of receipt delivery choices has expanded to include email, secure text, and web registry, most customers still prefer to receive printed receipts for their in-store transactions. With paper receipts printed on the sales floor, these customers no longer need to wait in long checkout lines to complete their purchases or return previously purchased items. And some retail organizations are using printed receipts to add bounce-back reward coupons that drive customers back to the store with discounts and promotions.
Key considerations in selecting a high performing mobile printing solution include:
- Connectivity: Does the printer offer flexible connectivity options, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth?
- OS Compatibility: Is the printer interoperable with the operating platforms of devices you use now ‒ and will it connect easily with devices you may plan to use in the future?
- Power Supply and Portability: Can you move the mobile printer anywhere in the store and be confident it will function reliably for the full shift?
- Broad Functionality: Can the mobile printer print a wide range of high-quality labels and receipts anywhere in the store ‒ from the sales floor, to the stock room, to the sales kiosk outside?
Brother Builds Next-Generation Mobile Printers
Brother’s next-generation retail printing solutions include compact, affordable wireless thermal printers with high-resolution, full-color display screens, intuitive menus, and fast print speeds. The versatile portable printers can be used anywhere in the store to print top quality POS receipts, product and price labels, shelf markers, and more. In fact, Brother mobile printer capabilities span retail operations from the warehouse, to the distribution channel, to the sales floor ‒ and even to kiosks outside in the mall.
Our top-selling Brother mobile printers for retail include:
- RuggedJet® 3 mobile receipt and label printer (RJ-3150). Designed to deliver the ultimate in user-friendly convenience and flexibility, it features built-in AirPrint® support so associates can wirelessly print receipts, coupons, tags and labels using a smart device running on iOS®, Android™, Windows® or Windows Mobile operating platforms. Dual wireless connectivity via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth ensures reliable operation virtually anywhere inside and outside the store. A first-in-class large, full-color LCD display with simple, interactive menus offers simple operation and easy, intuitive navigation, even for non-technical sales associates.
- RuggedJet 4 Wi-Fi mobile receipt and label printer with Apple® AirPrint technology is ideal for warehouse, transportation and in-store applications. The compact RJ-4 can instantly print receipts, labels and other documents from 2- to 4-inches wide directly from Apple iOS smart devices such as iPad® and iPhone® ‒ without having to download special printer drivers or interfaces.
- The Brother TD-2000 Series is a line of powered desktop thermal printers that go anywhere to print two-inch wide labels, tags and receipts, complete with text, barcodes and graphics. They are available with a rechargeable battery pack, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth radios, label peeler, and an innovative touch panel with display to enhance retail operations workflow in the backroom, on the sales floor, on a cart or in an external kiosk.
Competing in today’s retailing environment is all about customer engagement. In-store mobility can make your store more competitive, dynamic and responsive in real time, offering customer convenience and speedy service. This is a huge advantage for retailers faced with fierce competition and shrinking profit margins!
As mobile technologies continue to advance, Brother will continue to support our retail customers with creative, accessible and affordable mobile printing solutions that can help boost sales opportunities and improve business results. To learn more, visit www.brotherruggedjet.com
*Survey Source: Innovative Retail Technologies Retail IT Forecast 2016
About the Author:
David Crist is president of Brother Mobile Solutions, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Brother International Corporation and premier provider of mobile thermal printing solutions for retail and a host of other industries. Visit our website at www.brothermobilesolutions.com.
All trademarks and registered trademarks referenced herein are the property of their respective companies. Apple and AirPrint are registered trademarks of Apple Inc. Android is a trademark of Google Inc. Windows is either a registered trademark or trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.
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