Keep Customers Close with Mobile Point of Sale Solutions

2/4/2014
Mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) solutions are rapidly gaining ground among many retailers, including those in the apparel industry — and for good reason.  When properly implemented, mPOS and its corresponding software offer retailers multiple ways to enhance customer engagement, leading to increased sales and improved conversion rates.

Several years ago, when Apple pioneered mPOS in its stores, the company revolutionized the retail customer experience. Being personally approached by an associate, having merchandise hand-delivered and checking out anywhere in the store instead of standing in line at a counter were unprecedented, and Apple Stores became a case study for retailers seeking to improve customer service.

While flexibility of customer checkout and line busting are key benefits of mPOS solutions, adding versatile technology via apps enables retail associates to better engage customers by showing additional color options or accessories for a product, highlighting inventory or online offerings, or sharing coupons on the spot.

Consider the recommendations below to ensure that your mPOS solution delivers maximum value by offering more than just flexible checkout — and that it facilitates productive associate-customer interaction, markedly improves your customers' experience, increases conversion and builds business. 

A thoughtful plan
Because mPOS is in such high demand from consumers, some retailers may jump aboard quickly to stay competitive before fully analyzing implementation costs and logistics, requisite training and broader capabilities.

In terms of mPOS, retailers must determine how they want staff to best utilize these mobile solutions, not only determining the content and timing of staff training, but also considering details such as:
  • Where will receipts be printed?
  • Where will wrapping stations/bags be stored?
  • Will customers paying with cash be directed to a checkout station?
  • Can returns/exchanges be handled via the handheld devices?
  • For out of stock items, can associates showcase additional inventory at a warehouse, in other stores or on the store's website? Can orders be taken and shipped directly to the customer?
  • Will associates capture additional customer information for building a database? If so, what must they ask and how and where will data be recorded?
Although it may seem obvious, a thoughtful plan with effective training is essential to maximizing a successful mPOS rollout and implementation. One top apparel retailer, for instance, recently deployed an mPOS system, but instead of associates using the technology throughout the store, the handheld devices simply sat atop a checkout counter, where customers had to stand in line to purchase items. The result was an awkward experience for the associates and customers — clearly not well planned and lacking multiple opportunities for greater engagement. In this case, mPOS brought no additional advantages other than a traditional cash register to either party.

mPOS is capable of improving the customer experience, but only if associates are familiar with how to leverage the technology to its fullest potential. This requires more than just technical skill, but also a different mindset and greater personal interaction than simply processing transactions behind a checkout counter. Store managers should provide comprehensive training to help associates blaze these new trails.  

The customer is king, so customer engagement is key
With mPOS in apparel stores, it's essential that associates approach customers, offer assistance, pull additional merchandise as appropriate, offer complementary items if suitable, assist at the fitting rooms and be available for immediate checkout on the spot. This hands-on approach not only helps the customer feel valued but also eliminates lost sales when shoppers leave the store without a purchase due to long checkout lines.

With the proper software, mPOS devices can access inventory or online merchandise, and associates can function as personal shoppers by helping customers quickly find another size or color of an item to showcase on a tablet or handheld device, and by having items shipped to the store or to the customer's home.

Furthermore, loyalty and coupon programs are easily integrated with mPOS, and deliver valuable, instant opportunities to improve and personalize the customer experience. Loyalty programs enable retailers to capture customers' personal details, buying history and preferences, so that the store can customize unique offers.  Amazon does this particularly well by logging every purchase a customer makes and then pushing similar or related items, often with special deals attached.

Another benefit of a mobile-enabled loyalty program is convenience. Emails serve as customers' unique identification, thereby freeing shoppers from having to carry another loyalty card. Equipped with email addresses, merchants can send coupons and special offers while customers are in the store for immediate redemption.

Whole Foods is a leader in one-on-one marketing — partnering with local produce providers, for example, and then offering push coupons for that produce to the phones of customers who are in the store.

And with the adoption of mobile wallets, which enable shoppers to pay with their phones using contactless Near Field Communication (NFC), merchants have another avenue not only to expedite checkout but also to deliver special offers directly to a phone.

Transaction receipts also can be emailed to customers, including additional promotions to encourage a return visit to the store.

Regarded for its stellar customer service, Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack have implemented mPOS superbly, with consistent one-on-one interaction with shoppers, checkout anywhere, conveniently located wrap stations and email capture to send receipts and future promotions.

Best practices for optimal return
mPOS continues to gain traction and promises to be the way of the future in retail. In addition to evaluating various solutions, merchants should consider foremost the entire customer experience. Appropriate software capabilities are a must, whether developed internally, purchased from a vendor or created using an app developer. Software providers that specialize in this area can provide valuable counsel to retailers to maximize the ROI of mPOS.

With the convenience of checkout anywhere in the store, some retailers may believe that mPOS will sell itself. However, a comprehensive deployment plan and training — before the devices are in-store — can pay big dividends.  As customer expectations rise and the allure of online shopping remains strong, it is incumbent on bricks-and-mortar stores to foster the best possible customer experience.


Jennifer Brown is strategic relationship and program manager for Infinite Peripherals, Inc.
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