Mobile is the Best of Both Worlds

When e-commerce first came on the scene, developers were figuring out how best to represent the store experience online. They created ways to see offers, browse products, and pay for purchases. But soon they exceeded the capabilities of the store in many ways. For example, they facilitated comments, ratings, comparisons, and wish-lists to name a few. Each channel (store, catalog, online) has its own experience with its own pros and cons.

Starmount mobile POS.PNG
But now a forth channel has emerged, and it has the potential to unify the store and online experience, giving the consumer the best of both worlds. Urban Outfitter's CEO Glen Senk said as much at the recent summit held in Dallas.

For their initial foray into mobile, Urban has enlisted the help of Starmount to build a mobile POS on iPod Touch devices. Urban's brands are already running Oracle Retail POS, so the open interfaces are ripe for a mobile extension. This solution is very similar to that being deployed by two other major retailers I've discussed before.

Its clear that mobile is a game-changer for retail, so retailers need a solid strategy to quench the thirst of consumers as they buy more and more smartphones and leverage then in the store. The keys to succeeding are:

  1. Don't let your mobile strategy be governed by marketing, direct, or store operations. It needs to be bigger than all three, and it mustn't be siloed.

  2. Multi-channel was good enough to start, and cross-channel is a marked improvement, but I think Brian Kilcourse is right in saying that omni-channel is the real target.

  3. Your mobile application must offer consumers something beyond just a shopping assistant. It needs to enhance the consumers lifestyle with features not found elsewhere. (A tall order indeed.)

Mobile represents an opportunity to put e-commerce features in the aisles, speed checkouts, and provide contextual offers anywhere, anytime. Make sure you're part of this innovative wave.


The problem with Mobile POS (outside the US?) Chip & PIN--

there is practically no way to get the phone to do the processing (and I personally wouldn't want it too--quite enough problems with hacking of certified Chip & PIN hardware to create a man in the middle attack to swipe the number and the PIN--and I wish the scheme was changed to have two PINs for a card--a puchase PIN and an ATM PIN).

So the options for mobile POS are not very paletable:
a) a honking great pinpad with a very narrow API to pass the transaction details
b) buying a specialist wireless bank card terminal (as used by taxi drivers in some countries) which doesn't connect with the mobile POS (and creating a reconcilation problem and cashier fraud hole)
c) forgoing the liability shift that Chip and PIN gives the retailer (and hence eating a lot of chargeback fraud)
d) treating it as offline commerce, and force the customer to use 3d secure to get the liability shift--which is a poor user experience online already.

So, as you can see, I find it difficult to get excited about Mobile POS. Mobile scanning and then paying at a pay station, yes (and the pay station can be staff-attended mobile or self-service fixed)

Posted by Miles Thomas on October 26, 2010 at 08:30 PM CDT #

Great points, Miles. There's a similar situation in the US accepting debit. I guess for now we'll have to rely on alternative payment methods.

Posted by David on October 27, 2010 at 02:53 AM CDT #

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David Dorf, Sr Director Technology Strategy for Oracle Retail, shares news and ideas about the retail industry with a focus on innovation and emerging technologies.

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