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Ann Taylor: Brand aesthetic is core of a mobile strategy

The panelists at the NRF 101st Annual Convention & Expo

NEW YORK – According to an executive from Ann Taylor, brand aesthetic must always come before technology in mobile.

At the NRF 101st Annual Convention & Expo, executives from Ann Taylor, Sears Holding Corp. and the National Retail Federation discussed the security problems that retailers face by using mobile point-of-sale systems. The panel was moderated by Evan Schuman, editor of, New York.

“Technology is only ten percent of the problem with mobile point-of-sale systems,” said Michael Sajor, chief technology officer at Ann Taylor, New York

“Instead, it needs to start with what you are trying to achieve and the brand aesthetic that goes with it,” he said.

Mobile fraud
The “Emerging technologies: Driving business for retailers while minimizing risks from fraudsters” session looked at mobile sales from the point of loss protection point-of-view of retailers.

With consumers able to perform self check-outs and comparison shop while in-stores, the line can get blurred for retailers wanting to make shopping convenient for consumers while reducing theft and fraud.

“For Ann Taylor, part of our brand aesthetic is that the relationship continues after the purchase, which obviously has large security and loss implications,” Mr. Sajor said.

“You have to think through all the moving parts and how does it affect the technology to the loss-prevention part,” he said.

Bill Titus, vice president of loss prevention of Sears Holdings Corp., Hoffman Estates, IL, also spoke on the panel about the role of loss prevention departments with mobile point-of-sale systems.

“The one critical thing is that loss prevention must be at the table at the very beginning of discussions,” Mr. Titus said.

“I think the issue is creating strong partnerships by adding value for different groups and making sure that they are invited into the process instead of being a secondary thought,” he said.

One major threat that mobile point-of-sale systems offer to retailers is being open to theft for users looking to get a hold of a retailer’s data.

“When you look at all the technologies out there, you have to remember that people are looking for ways to crack the system,” said Joseph LaRocca, senior asset protection advisor at National Retail Federation, Washington.

“There are always lots of very intelligent, ill-minded people going after data,” he said.

Additionally, Wi-Fi can be a hurdle for companies deploying mobile point-of-sale systems with double transactions and lost purchases that are not processed because they cannot connect.

New shopping model
According to Sears’ Mr. Titus, retailers need to buckle down and get on board with mobile because it is not going anywhere.

“There are an estimated 82 million people with smartphones in the U.S. and they are pushing us toward different ways to shop,” Mr. Titus said.

“We are not going to have a choice and will have to incorporate mobile point-of-sale systems into retail stores,” she said.

Basically, retailers need to start thinking more like consumers about how they spend money and how they buy things.

“Today consumers are thinking with their wallets and retailers are looking for ways to cut costs and increase efficiency,” said the NRF’s Mr. LaRocca.

“It is not a one size-fits-all recipe for retailers, and now we are seeing more mobile solutions that will be in place this year,” he said.

However, retailers need to understand that mobile is not a one-hit strategy and requires a company to constantly be pushing the envelope.

“I am uncomfortable with the idea that mobile is a destination because it should be more of a journey,” Ann Taylor’s Mr. Sajor.

“For Ann Taylor, if you couple mobility and show a clothing top to a client on a tablet, you are able to leverage the multichannel to seal the transaction,” he said.

“If a company uses devices to show productivity, that is the use case for mobile and you have opened a new revenue stream.”