Retailers the future is mobile, are you ready?

I was lucky enough to have been involved in a company that developed and sold one of the early Windows based POS systems in the early ’90’s. Back then retailers either had simple dumb Electronic Cash Registers or the really adventurous had moved on to DOS based systems (including PC’s) with the old green screen character based interface at Point of Sale.  There was some pretty serious discussion about why retailers would want to move to Windows when the old DOS systems were still working.  Retailers really like to “sweat” their assets (POS) for the longest possible time before changing.  But in the end there were compelling reasons for them to switch and most did, with Windows becoming the prevalent systems for most retail POS.  Mostly DOS became obsolete and unsupportable and finding PC’s that still ran it or programmers that could still build or support DOS systems became increasingly difficult.

Well guess what?  The time for change has come again to Retail POS and again there are compelling reasons to make the change (probably even more compelling than ever before).  Again retailers are holding onto existing systems and debating about whether or not to change. As you will see in a post below the USA based Retail Information Systems Magazine (RIS News) compares it to the Y2K Moment that drove a number of retailers to upgrade their systems to be Y2K “compliant” – usually Windows based.

No-one can argue that there is some serious structural change happening in retail at the moment.  You just need to look at retail segments like Music, Books and Newsagents to realise traditional retail stores are under serious threat.  Even our traditional Department Stores with a focus on fashion are starting to produce some very ordinary results.  It can’t all be blamed on the soft economy or overseas online retailers getting a tax break.

The way people shop has changed.  Customers are now better connected and better informed than ever before and armed with Internet capable mobile devices when they shop.  They have better, more powerful technology in their pocket than most retailers have in their stores (or at Head Office for that matter).  To be effective retailers now need POS systems that are cross-channel aware (online, mobile and instore), that allow customers to connect and communicate using their social networks and that are mobile allowing the sales assistant to enhance the customer experience with the customer instore.  These POS systems are very different from the traditional Windows POS systems most retailers are using today.  Forbes called mobile POS the “Biggest change to hit retail in 50 years“.


For 2013 the key is going to be mobility.  Retail In-Hand. That is Mobile consumer apps connecting with customers and allowing them to browse and research product, show friends, ask questions and yes even compare prices! They will do it anyway – so why not make it easier by providing instore WiFi?  It also means Mobile POS in store – giving store associates the tools and information they need to better serve their customers on the sales floor where the purchase decision is being made and that includes taking payment on the floor without going back to some static till point or counter.   Bricks and Mortar retailers have the advantage over online retailers of a face to face relationship with their customer.  They must however realise that their customers have changed and won’t hesitate to walk out of the store to order online if their needs aren’t being met in the store.

Retailers are you ready for a mobile 2013?

Traditional POS at a Tipping Point?

A couple of studies undertaken by US publication RIS News recently got me thinking seriously about the future of retail Point of Sale systems installed at the majority of retailers today.  Is retail Point of Sale (POS) technology at a tipping point now? Could retailers potentially be facing a requirement for a major upgrade of their customer facing systems over the next 12 months?  Should they be thinking about it now?

iPad POSI feel that the answer to all of those questions is a definite “Yes”!  If so then what are these new customer facing systems going to look like?  For the answers the stats in the RIS Studies are quite illuminating.

Firstly in an RIS News study by Joe Skopura on “The Y2K Moment for POS” found here there are some great insights into the future of POS systems in the US.  No-one would argue that retailing has changed significantly and structurally over the last couple of years.  The model for physical stores is under siege “Stores are over built, downward margin pressure is a contagion, fixed costs are rising, online and mobile shopping is booming, and showrooming is catching fire”.

To be effective, POS must now be cross-channel ready and enabled where the customer wants you, when they want you, armed with the information they want – out on the shop floor with the customer.  As the hub of the customer experience the retail store can offer a powerful face to face advantage over online as long as the sales associates are empowered with the technology and information to meet the needs of the educated and now mobile equipped shoppers.

In the study 61% of retail respondents said that their POS is more that 5 years old (the number will be similar in Australia) and 48.8% noted that they would need to change in the next 12 months.  With the “Addition of Mobile POS” being the main driver to upgrade (60%) along with “Enabling Multi Channel selling in store” (60%) and “Enabling new Payment options” (52.5%).

Why POS and Why now?  Simple POS is the essential store operations platform and the pivotal enabler for additional services to improve the customer shopping experience.  To combat further erosion of market share and margins to online – retailers need to act now!  The fact that retailers are looking at mobile POS as a key driver and new (read mobile) payment options shows that retailers are looking to replace expensive fixed POS terminals and static counters with cheaper mobile devices that allow sales associates to get out from behind the counter onto the shop floor to serve the customer better at the point of decision rather than letting customers walk out the door to buy online later.