As retail technology continues to evolve, the once distinct lines between online and in-store shopping experiences become more and more indistinct. As these lines become increasingly blurred, omni-channel readiness becomes increasingly critical for a retailers success.
Whether retailers think so or not, hyper-connected consumers expect to use their mobile devices to stay connected and thus informed everywhere they go. Consumers have instant access to product information, price comparisons, and customer reviews online and, because they’ve been conditioned from shopping online at retail stores like Amazon.com, they expect the brick-and-mortar retailers to provide the same information at a moment’s notice.
When consumers are shopping in-store, they think it should be just as easy as shopping online from their home. After all, their home is connected to Wi-Fi, why shouldn’t the retail store they are shopping in have the same capabilities?
According to a research report on the in-store mobile device usage compiled by the Google Shopper Marketing Council, almost half of consumers use their smart phones for 15+ minutes to browse the Web for product information and to make price comparisons. Every minute that their customers are unable to connect, retailers lose value and credibility. A store with free Wi-Fi allows customers to stay connected, which adds value. Moreover, the more customers are connected in-store, the more their connectivity will benefit the retailer. Why? Because mobile devices are equipped with Bluetooth, GPS, and other devices that help harness data from a consumers’ device. Retailers can use this data to make changes to the marketing mix, make product recommendations, offer coupons and other personalized incentives for the customer, and enhance the customers overall shopping experience.
Failure to provide instant connectivity for consumers usually results in store associates being bombarded with questions about inventory, sales and the like, which eventually results in “Let me speak to your manager.” When this happens, checkout lines become slower (due to questions being asked about products/prices at the point of sale) and the retail store’s value gradually depreciates with every second/minute that passes on the clock.
What’s worse is that Wi-Fi connectivity is only one hurdle retailers face without omni-channel readiness. These are the types of hurdles that retailers who already have omni-channel readiness have long overcome. These retailers’ success is why retailers all over the world have been scrambling to adopt omni-channel capabilities.
Because of the widespread mobile usage and consumer expectancy of brick-and-mortar retailers, mobile point of sale (POS) has become perhaps the biggest facilitator of the recent uptick of retailers who are scrambling to adopt omni-channel capabilities.
Mobile point of sale devices, such as tablets and mobile phones, not only gives store managers the freedom of mobility so they can remotely manage reports and sales data, but it also gives them the ability to interact with customers, view inventory, access a customer’s loyalty program, and ring up sales when fixed POS lines become too long.
Mobile POS has become what Joe Skorupa of RIS News describes as “the lifeline that connects stores to the future of omni-channel retailing.”