Brands and retailers have been running point-of-sale systems that are built on an archaic technology stack that is decades old. You remember the days of client-server technology when mobile and “the cloud” didn’t exist? Fast-forward to today, and all technology is mobile and cloud-first, yet the store POS is stuck in the Nineties, and it’s still collecting dust on the counter. These clunky and rudimentary systems are holding back the growth of stores with their inability to solve for modern retail use cases. Not only do they provide a poor customer experience, but they severely impact store associate productivity. It’s not uncommon to see store associates juggling between multiple systems, devices and applications to solve basic workflows.
It’s high time brands and retailers upgraded this outdated technology and migrated to a modern POS. The transition to a modern POS should not require several years and millions of dollars of investment, rather, it should be fast, seamless and cost-effective. In recent years, the industry has begun to make efforts to adopt mobile as a medium for stores and associates to better connect with consumers. But before we discuss how to transition to a modern, mobile-first POS, let’s review what a modern, mobile-first POS actually does.
Modern POS Defined
First things first. Let’s debunk a misconception associated with a modern point-of-sale experience. A modern POS isn’t just a mobile POS that allows for faster checkout. It’s built around a complete customer experience and includes clienteling and endless aisle as part of its offering instead of separate apps. A modern POS not only accepts Apple Pay, Android Pay and credit card payments, but also includes a cash drawer, receipt printer and a barcode scanner. Additionally, a modern POS supports mission-critical features including the ability to transact during network outages, split transactions (store and online) and retail operations.
Most retailers are familiar with the concept of mobile POS or mPOS — this is typically an iPad- or smartphone-powered application that can accept credit card or digital wallet transactions. With nearly $40 billion of sales lost each year due to long checkout lines, brands and retailers stand to benefit significantly if they can improve the checkout process. An mPOS is particularly effective at managing the chaos of peak shopping periods, like Black Friday or other popular sales around Presidents’ Day and Memorial Day. Many brands and retailers have introduced mPOS as an extension of legacy systems to empower sales associates to simplify checkout anywhere in the store. Others have taken a more innovative approach — just think of your last trip to an Apple store, there are no checkout lines and no counters. While mPOS has done wonders to shorten checkout wait times and improved customer satisfaction, it’s not enough.
Trade No Matter What With Off-line Mode
A modern POS should be able to operate, even with intermittent connectivity and network outages. Picture this: It’s Black Friday or the last weekend before Christmas and you have 20 people in your store clamoring for merchandise, and then you lose network connectivity and the ability to transact. During this period, it is imperative that stores continue to place orders and take credit card payments. A modern POS solves this with off-line mode capabilities, so that during this period of downtime it stores all transactions in an encrypted format on a local device, and when reconnected online, it intuitively forwards the transaction records for payment processing.
Clienteling Creates Customer Connection
Consumer expectations are on the rise. Shoppers today still crave the one-on-one interaction with a store associate but want the efficiencies and recommendations inherent in online shopping. They want a modern POS that includes clienteling, providing store associates with a 360-degree, highly personalized view of the customer, including their personal shopping history, wish lists, loyalty status and more. This enables store associates to facilitate future store visits by booking appointments, sharing new looks, and sending product, sale and promotion information via SMS or e-mail messaging. Having that personal relationship with customers allows brands and retailers to engage a customer into a loyalist and create a positive association between brand and customer.
Never Lose the Sale With Endless Aisle
There has been an industry-wide shift away from large, sprawling retail stores and toward smaller stores that use space more efficiently. Brands and retailers can curate a small in-store selection while still giving customers access to a full breadth of the online product catalogue, all from the convenience of a mobile device. In other words, even in a smaller store, retailers never have to find themselves “out of stock.” Products can be viewed, and orders placed, all from an in-store store associate app or self-service kiosk app. Glossier, the digitally native beauty retailer, offers a small selection of products in its handful of retail and pop-up shops, with the majority of products being ordered via in-store iPads and shipped directly to the customer. Bonobos, the men’s clothing retailer, and M.Gemi, the luxury shoe retailer, offer similar experiences.
Buy-Online, Pick-Up-In-Store, or BOPIS
Customers are increasingly demanding the convenience of shopping anywhere and anytime. While 90 percent of sales still occur in physical stores, encouraging free in-store pickup assists in driving foot traffic to stores and provides additional sales opportunities for store associates. Retailers can combine the ease of online and in-app shopping with the immediacy of in-store order collection to meet modern consumer needs. And BOPIS is on the rise, with NRF estimating that by 2021, 90 percent of retailers will offer this convenience. A modern POS should solve for this with the ability for store associates to pick, pack and notify customers that their order is available for collection.
A Modern POS Is an All-in-One System
Store infrastructure is a series of fragmented systems built for devices with multiple user interfaces. These systems are not intuitive and don’t integrate or talk with each other, inhibiting the efficiency of day-to-day store operations. A modern POS is one fully integrated, cloud-based app, in one device.
A modern POS empowers store associates to improve the in-store experience at every step of the customer journey, and this ultimately leads to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
As brands and retailers begin planning their technology investments for 2019 and beyond, they should consider investing in a modern POS with a robust foundation and flexibility for continual innovation. A modern, cloud-based solution that solves for multiple retail use cases is undoubtedly the best store technology investment a retailer can make. Brands who miss the boat of upgrading store POS technology will be left behind in the Nineties.
Nitin Mangtani is founder and chief executive officer at PredictSpring.