Mobility technology has enabled brick-and-mortar retailers to process transactions from anywhere in the store for more than a decade, leading many to predict the death of traditional POS.
That prediction has been incorrect so far, traditional POS systems are still very much popular. Nonetheless, as technologies continue to evolve, what is truly redefined by mobility is the in-store experience for shoppers and retailers alike.
Mobility is expected to be a critical competitive edge that all retailers should strive for over the next several years. Research indicates that more than 50% of shoppers think sales associates should be equipped with mobile devices and be more informed than shoppers are. A study by Cisco published in February has some interesting findings of trends in mobility:
- Global traffic increased 81% throughout the year
- Mobile data activity was almost 18 times the size of the entire worldwide Internet in 2000
- Smartphones contributed to 406 million connection additions
- Connectivity speeds more than doubled, rising from 526 kilobits per second to 1,387 Kbps
- By the end of 2014, the number of mobile devices surpassed the world’s population
Welcome to a Mobile 2.0 world
In a Mobile 2.0 world, mobile devices can look up customer details, manage inventory, create reports, suggest purchases, etc. They can even perform all of those tasks simultaneously if need be.
Today’s retail management systems must be inherently mobile and ultimately designed to support a cross-platform retail infrastructure. Reactive, consumer-grade tools addressing just a few niche needs are no longer sufficient for most retailers. The industry is now driving to implement Mobile 2.0 technologies across their organisation, leveraging smartphones, tablets, sensors and other assets.
Adapting to these new possibilities is part of a greater, organic developmental phase that reflects the adjustment of the retail industry to today’s technological advances. The more effective your adjustment as a retailer, the greater your positioning for leverage and competitive advantage in the near future.
A great example of what retailers and shoppers can do in a Mobile 2.0 world was outlined in a retail scenario detailed by The Guardian:
- While walking in a subway station, Consumer A uses her smartphone to compare prices for a specific brand-name treadmill.
- Behind the scenes, a merchandising intelligence system identifies the type of machine she’s looking for.
- Upon walking past a sporting goods store, a location sensor picks up her smartphone signal, relaying it to the aforementioned retail management software.
- After relaying information pertaining to her specific workout equipment preferences, a RFID tag embedded within the exact kind of treadmill she is researching is located.
- The central intelligence system then notifies Consumer A that the machine she has been looking for is located within the store, which convinces her to go inside.
- While the previous transaction occurs, Salesperson B is notified of Consumer A’s reason for entering the store (i.e. to learn more about the treadmill she’s searched for and possibly buy it).
- The retail software informs Salesperson B of how Consumer A searched for the machine, compared prices and considered reviews.
- Upon walking into the sporting good outlet’s “Exercise Machines” section, Consumer A is greeted by Salesperson B, who then provides her with his expert insight regarding the treadmill she’s interested in.
- Consumer A decides to purchase the treadmill.
- As opposed to directing her to the front of the store, Salesperson B allows her to complete the transaction from the tablet he has just used to assist her with details about the treadmill.
- An electronic receipt is sent to Consumer A’s email address, along with shipment tracking information.
This scenario is just one example of how retailers can leverage Mobile 2.0 to their advantage. Note the ways the different mobile devices used (RFID, location based sensors, a smartphone and a tablet) were integrated to contribute to the completion of the transaction.
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