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Mobile POS moves to the masses this holiday season

Mobile point-of-sale is being rolled out more broadly by retailers such as Coach this holiday season as marketers brace for showrooming and create compelling in-store experiences.

Last week, Coach rolled out a new concept store for its New York flagship that reflects the company’s move into omnichannel retail. Mobile POS is already available at many Coach stores and outlets in the United States, but the New York store features two ‘unobstrusive’ cash registers throughout the store, mobile POS devices and also plans to arm retail associates with iPad minis in the near future.

“One of the success stories has been Nordstrom that emphasizes the shopping experience — they are the obvious case study for Coach,” said Sam Maule, manager at Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group, Charlotte, NC.

“The interesting point with Coach is they are primarily an online retailer,” he said. “The majority of their foot traffic and sales is not in the physical store.

“The mobile POS is worth exploring as their stores tend to be smaller in physical space and mobile POS allows for more use of existing space for retail display and personalized interaction with the sales team.”

Coach provided background information for this article.

More mobile investments?
Coach cites an increase in mobile and digital sales and traffic as part of its reason in leveraging more technology in the in-store experience.

Given the retailer’s emphasis on high-quality goods, the retailer likely does not want to lose its in-store appeal that lets shoppers see products in person.

“You could easily conclude that there is value in the product and consumers are interested in the product, but they aren’t necessarily buying so much into the in-store experience that Coach is providing, so [they are] doing some things that are trying to revitalize that and perhaps provide unique experiences for consumers and provide a higher touch environment,” said Rick Oglesby, senior analyst at Aite Group, Boston.

Building mobile priorities
In addition to heavier investments needed to support multiple stores, larger retailers also have different intentions with mobile POS.

Mobile POS is more of a supplement to pre-existing point-of-sale systems rather than replacing them completely.

For instance, big box retailers tend to deploy mobile POS for line-busting, while more high-touch and specialty retailers are focused on clientelling via mobile.

Additionally, a report from Yankee Group earlier this year found that of the merchants surveyed with 500 or more employees, 61 percent had either deployed mobile POS technology or plan to do so by the second half of 2014 (see story).

Specialty retailers such as Coach tend to be more interested in mobile POS, according to Nikki Baird, Denver-based managing partner at RSR Research.

“A lot of specialty retailers in particular have been looking at enabling a more Apple-like store experience, where every employee can help and every employee can check out on the spot,” Ms. Baird said. “And I think we’ll see more of that next year.”

Home Depot and Office Depot are two examples of big retailers that have deployed mobile POS at a greater scale this year.

In fact, a Javelin Strategy and Research executive at the Mobile Shopping Fall Summit said that Home Depot is on track to rake in 100,000 weekly mobile POS transactions by the first quarter of 2014 (see story).

Up until recently, the majority of these mobile efforts have been aimed at streamlining the checkout process.

However, that could change as more retailers beef up their in-store experiences with compelling mobile offerings.

“The business case for line-busting can be pretty clean-cut, especially with the prices of consumer-grade devices,” Ms. Baird said.

“But the real challenge for retailers is bringing more of the digital experience into the store and arming store associates with as much information as consumers walking into stores with smartphones of their own, so checkout – taking payment – is sort of the last thing that retailers are worrying about,” she said. “Unlike the last time retailers explored mobile POS, the objective isn’t line-busting – it’s customer engagement.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York