In almost every industry, technology is driving a more seamless experience—perhaps none more so than retail. However, the change that tech catalyzes also demands a change of mindset and working practices. Without this cultural shift, businesses may fail to see a full return on investment. To guarantee the best results, we know it is critical to have a robust strategy with staff primed and ready to not only use the devices but leverage them in line with the strategy you've established.
If you’re considering moving to a mobile or hybrid point of service (POS), knowing where to start can be the biggest challenge. To jumpstart the process, consider how store operations, the retail hardware you select, and the policies you have in place will impact and affect your move to mobile.
Whether a business chooses to be fully mobile or hybrid, there are inevitable operational challenges and opportunities associated with mobile retail. Durability and security are probably the top two, both in terms of potential lost or damaged equipment and the new security vulnerabilities that come from having data on devices that can simply “walk out of the door”?
The good news is that businesses using mobile retail POS and other handhelds have access to a more auditable level of detail that allows staff, management, and executive-level employees to understand how devices are used (e.g., when it was used last, by whom, and where). If implemented on an iPhone, with thumbprint scanner or Face ID, your mobile POS could even identify sales associates and appropriate personnel using biometric data, meaning that systems are locked down in the case of loss or theft. This also means that network activity can remain stable and predictable, so in the unlikely event of a hack or a breach, the entry point can be rapidly identified and isolated. Moving to mobile in no way calls upon a retailer to compromise their security and privacy practices; on the contrary, it can help them double-down on their existing safeguards.
In a retail environment in which associates must quickly switch tasks, transitioning from assisting one customer to the next, and otherwise shifting gears at a moment’s notice, the mobile devices supporting them must be capable of the same. Whether your staff utilize ‘personal’ devices or move between phones and tablets assigned to different tasks or zones within the store, getting up and running is fast and easy. Application interfaces that remain consistent from device to device, whether on a traditional register, iOS to Android, allow for seamless adoption and employee acclimatization is pain-free. Even a new device can inherit all the ‘personality’ of an older one at the scan of a QR code, making it easily adaptable to a given associate’s preferences, or a particular task’s requirements.
Of course, what those associates are doing and what your customers demand will also impact your mobile POS decisions. By using a handheld to take cash simply by scanning a barcode on a cash drawer, to create orders that ship or are delivered to a store, to support pop-ups and promotional events on a cohesive system, or to print receipts without the overhead of mobile printers—this is more than just a mobile cash register. It’s a flexible way to run any store.
When applications that demand low latency, real-time access to data, consistently high performance and potentially offline capabilities come into play, such as point of service, a conventional cloud model is not always the most appropriate choice, nor the only option available.
Today's growth on the internet is focused on networking improvements such as bandwidth, security, energy efficiency, and manageability. Unfortunately, the techniques used to address these all hurt latency. The impacts of latency particularly for POS systems is significant; if a POS moves fully to a cloud model, every item lookup, or pricing validation, must be performed centrally, potentially lengthening the transaction time resulting in poor customer experience. You need the best of both worlds.
Many retailers wish to take advantage of cloud technology and are investigating alternative deployment methods to deliver many of the benefits, but retaining the operational controls of past solutions. The new use of technology at the edge of the cloud has evolved. This model is called a Three-Tier Cloud architecture, and it features flexible deployment options delivered on the Edge of the Cloud. Such a model advocates the use of cloud in the data center, delivers scalability, consolidation, and centralization, but also sees the need for edge computing in the form of cloudlets.
Though the move to mobile is clearly an attractive prospect, retailers still need to think through how it fits their unique strategy and store mode or models. How will it affect staffing? Where will it change the service offering? Where could problems arise on the shop floor? What other shifts in-store dynamics might result in downstream effects?
As individuals, we’ve become experts when it comes to learning and absorbing mobile technologies into our everyday lives. For a business, tech-driven transformation requires planning. Once a clear direction—both for mindset and operational change—is adopted, there will be no looking back for mobile retail and the range of different retail approaches it will enable.