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Mobile POS is a must-have for retailers: report

Retailers use mobile devices for in-store POS

Retailers are increasingly shifting their point-of-sale to mobile devices in response to the growth in smartphone adoption and the need to create seamless shopping experiences across all channels, according to a new report from Boston Retail Partners.

The 14th Annual POS Benchmarking survey for Boston Retail Partners underscores how the customer now defines the point-of-sale, with shoppers having more information and capabilities in the palm of their hands thanks to smartphones and tablets. Mobile POS is the future for bricks-and-mortar retailers because it enables associates to engage directly with customers, while the next step will be enabling customers with their own POS.

“Mobile POS is absolutely a “must-have” – the customer requires it,” said Ken Morris, principal at Boston Retail Partners, Boston. “We are already seeing retailers responding to this.

“When we asked our survey respondents about their current POS hardware device utilization versus their plans for the end of 2014 we saw a large decline in the use of traditional hardware,” he said. “Retailers are shifting their point-of-sale to tablets or mobile devices, including customer-owned mobile devices.

“Another trend is the increase in adoption of a centralized technology platform – two-thirds of the retailers have already implemented or are planning to implement this technology. This technology allows the seamless shopping experience across all channels that customers want and sets the stage for POS.”

Customer POS
While retailers are still exploring the opportunities that mobile offers, they recognize that more customers expect to be able to interact within the retail environment with their mobile device. As a result, store associates often have less information than their customers.

Retailers have already given customers most of the traditional functionality that exists in POS and with mobile shopping cart and payment abilities, retailers can put POS in their customers’ hands to create an omnichannel shopping experience where a sales associate can be empowered to  interact with customers in new ways.

“The big news is the emergence of the customer as the point-of-sale or, as we call it, the customer point-of-sale or cPOS,” Mr. Morris said. “The future of POS is literally in the customers’ hands as customer-owned mobile devices gain traction and retailers see  the benefit of having the customer shoulder the cost of the checkout device instead of the retailer.”

Social shopping
Some of the  other opportunities that retailers are exploring in mobile include offering customers the ability to use social networking through their mobile phone to share their shopping experience with friends. This is an area that Boston Retail Partners expects to grow significantly over the next few years based on strong consumer interest in social media.

Bricks-and-mortar retailers need to figure out how to embrace social shopping since the social aspect is still a big reason customers go to stores. According to the survey, 41 percent of retailers offer this ability and 33 percent have plans to do so.

In terms of other customer-facing mobile strategies, 14 percent currently have a retail app that is working well, 26 percent have one that needs improvement, 34 percent are planning to implement one in less than two years and 14 percent plan to do so further down the road.

When it comes to mobile coupons, specials and promotions, only 9 percent of retailers have currently implemented a program that is working well while 26 percent say their program needs more work. Interestingly, 46 percent plan to implement a program in less than two years.

Mobile wallets and geo-locating are two areas that retailers are not showing a lot of interest in implementing. According to the survey, only 6 percent of retailers have implemented a mobile wallet and it is working well, 29 percent have one that needs work and 44 percent have no plans to implement one.

The numbers are similar for geo-locating, with only 3 percent having a program implemented that is working well, 24 percent having one that needs work and 45 percent having no plans to put such a program in place.

Mobile strategy drivers
Driving store traffic is a very important goal of retailers’ mobile strategies, with 56 percent naming this the most important strategy driver. Additionally, 52 percent named increased customer conversion the most important strategy driver, 44 percent pointed to enhancing the brand, 36 percent named customer service and 27 percent said providing customers with another sales channel.

In terms of hardware, 37 percent of retailers are using Apple devices, 20 percent BlackBerry, 17 percent Motorola, 13 percent Google, 7 percent Samsung, 3 percent customer-owned and 3 percent Microsoft.

When it comes to mobile device software, 56 percent use proprietary/homegrown software, 19 percent Global Bay, 12 percent Motorola and 13 percent other software.

“The most surprising finding is really the shift in how retailers are thinking about social retailing,” Mr. Morris said. “There has been an increase in retailer adoption of smartphone applications to enhance the customer’s shopping experience.

“According to a recent Harvard Business Review study, consumers use their smartphones 19 percent of the time for socializing,” he said. “This feedback and interaction with friends is important to consumers and retailers who provide this ability to customers while they shop, are able to further develop customer intimacy and establish loyal customer relationships.”

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