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3 Mobile Retail POS Pitfalls and How To Steer Clear

Michael Colpitts
Omnichannel Solutions Director

Mobile is now a must in store. Our Setting the Bar report found the majority of consumers associate convenience with a great shopping journey, and putting critical information at associates’ fingertips via a mobile device is paramount to providing a convenient visit. However, nearly 60% of retailers agree that while their company is embracing digital and mobile, they are not investing quickly enough to keep pace with the speed of technology change or consumer expectations, according to Oracle’s Retail Mobility Insights report.

What’s more, when retailers do make the move to mobile, the transition isn’t always flawless. Both at the corporate and store levels, culture, staffing, and store operations can all cause unanticipated bumps in the road—just consider these real-life mobile mishaps:

Pitfall #1: Losing Sight of Reality 

While working with one fashion retailer to plot a course towards mobile, we had a conversation focused on the customer experience and the ways mobile could create new opportunities to connect with shoppers. We know mobile can bring new flexibility and agility, and the idea of a tablet or mobile device in the hands of each store associate evoked the sense of a true shift in the dynamics of engaging with customers. The only problem? As the team focused on the big-picture shift, they neglected to consider the tactical realities of their boutiques. With just two associates in store at any given time, their staffing model called for one person to offer hands-on assistance to customers while the second, seated behind the cash wrap, kept their eyes on the exit to ensure no unpurchased items walked out the door. If they were to ditch the traditional register and move to a fully mobile retail POS model, they’d need to add dedicated security staff or leave one associate, tablet in hand, guarding the door.

How to Steer Clear: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Before a retailer makes a major change such as moving to mobile POS, it’s important to consider the potential impact of the change on everything from staffing to service, as well as potential ripple effects, such as the financial impact of hiring additional in-store security staff. A highly engaged experience is fantastic, but few retailers (other than luxury) can afford to engage one customer at a time. Taking a full view of the implications of a shift to mobile or other changes will help retailers make more informed choices.

Pitfall #2: Mobile In Name Only

In retail businesses like jewelry and luxury, store associates may stay with a single shopper from browsing to fitting to check out. While a mobile device can empower associates to access customer profiles, helping them provide better service, or quickly pull up endless aisles’ of complementary items to pair with a potential purchase, it also can become an impediment as a shopper’s journey comes to a close. Whether the associate heads to the back of the store to wrap up a purchase or needs a free hand to shake a high-end client’s hand, at a certain point, they may set down their device, often where a traditional register once sat. After considerable planning and investment to bring the retailer’s mobile vision to life, the journey has come full circle only to end in the same location as before.

How to Steer Clear: At the outset of the journey to mobile, retailers should consider how associates interact with guests. Whether they’re buying or just browsing, associates have been trained to provide shoppers with the smoothest possible experience. If that means walking them to the cash wrap so they can pack up an item while continuing the transaction, they will, even if that means not using the mobile capabilities to their fullest.

Pitfall #3: Forgetting Functionalities 

As consumers adopt the BORIS (buy online, return in store) model and head in-store to return online purchases, many retailers face the challenge of balancing traffic from returns and new purchases alike at the register. Recently, as I accompanied a friend making an online return at a department store, I noticed he was not the only one with a box containing a past purchase in hand. In fact, of six customers in line, just one waited, at the back of the line, with an item on a hanger, ready to make a purchase. As store associates dutifully unpacked the online orders and completed the returns, the new buyer waited, likely growing more frustrated as time passed. In the hustle and bustle of handling a bevy of returns, the store staff had lost sight of one of mobile’s most prominent use cases—line busting. With a mobile POS, an associate could have stepped in, helped the guest complete his purchase and sent him on his way in a fraction of the time he might stand in line waiting out the returns.

How to Steer Clear: Retailers considering a mobile investment should consider the possibility of this and other challenging scenarios playing out in their own stores to help them understand how they unfold and where technology can lend a hand. As well, retailers should plan for flexibility so that associates have the tools they need to solve challenges on the fly—whether that means line busting with mobile or standing up a mobile scanner and printer as a pop-up return center.

Fortunately, not every mobile retail POS journey will be like these stories. With ample planning and consideration, the right strategy, and the right technology for the job at hand, mobile point of service solutions can improve the in-store experience, empower associates and create more meaningful connections along the way. 

See how retailers around the world are leveraging mobile in store:

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