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33pc of retailers now operate a mobile channel: study

Retailers are increasingly focusing on new point-of-sale technology to meet the demand for immediate gratification and mobile is playing a key role, according to a new survey from Boston Retail Partners.

Retailers are continuing to expand into mobile retailing with more than 33 percent operating a mobile channel compared to 12 percent last year. Of the retailers surveyed, 7 percent have already implemented a mobile POS system while another 52 percent plan to do so in less than two years, 19 percent plan to do so in more than two years and 22 percent have no plans for a mobile POS.

“Mobile is driving retailers to change the way they do business,” said Ken Morris, principal at Boston Retail Partners, Boston.

“There are really three channels retailers play in – bricks and mortar, Web and mobile,” he said. “Mobile is really making them rethink the other two channels.”

Technology innovators
In some cases, retailers are supplementing their existing POS with mobile devices and in some cases they are completely replacing traditional POS terminals with mobile devices. For example, the Sephora store in the meatpacking district in New York is an all-mobile POS environment.

The survey also found that 8 percent already let shoppers users their smartphones for checkout, 38 plan to do so within two years, 4 percent in more than two years and 50 percent not at all.

For retailers, there are two sides of the mobile equation that they need to be thinking about – the in-store use of mobile technology at the point of sale and how consumers are using mobile to shop and engage with their brand.

The survey found that 20 percent of merchants already let shoppers share their shopping experience with a friend via a mobile phone and say it is working well, 16 percent have implemented this service but say it needs improvement and 40 percent plan to do so in less than two years. Eight percent offer mobile coupons and special offers and say it works well, 12 percent have implemented this service but say it needs improvement and 28 percent plan to implement in less than two years.

Also, more than 25 percent respondents labeled their organization as an early adopter of new technology such as mobile to serve the customer.

“Retailers have quickly gone from fast followers to thinking of themselves as innovators because of their use of mobile technology and their rapid embrace of the technology,” Mr. Morris said.

The Apple Store is helping to drive much of the transformation, with other retailers looking to mimic the way Apple uses technology to enable the retail experience.

“The experience that occurs when you go to an Apple store, that is completely changing the face of POS,” Mr. Morris said.

“The experience is so slick it has caused everyone to rethink that they are doing,” he said.

“We think that POS will end up being cloud based.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York