Mobile checkouts will be game-changer for retailers


August 1, 2012

Last week’s announcement that JCPenney will replace its cash registers with mobile checkout devices by 2013 is further proof that the growing medium will change the shopping experience for the better.

By ditching traditional checkouts and replacing them with mobile checkout devices, retailers can not only create a more seamless experience for customers, but make the overall shopping process a whole lot simpler.

“Point-of-sale infrastructure and software licensing cost retailers a huge amount annually,” said Wilson Kerr, vice president of business development and sales at Unbound Commerce, Boston.

“As mobile device technology improves and costs drop, smart retailers can take advantage by arming their sales people with connected mobile cash registers in the form of smartphones or tablets,” he said.

Big steps
Replacing a point-of-sale system is a big decision.

However, mobile opens up some powerful options for retailers.

“Not only can these devices check-out the customer, but they can also be used to look up product details, to direct consumers to a part of the store, to redeem coupons, to display personalize special offers and can be easily integrated into loyalty programs for point redemption,” Mr. Kerr said.

“They can also help eliminate the threat of showrooming, since online inventory availability can be accessed instantly and products shipped to customers at home,” he said.

According to Mr. Kerr, mobile will continue to forge its way into the retail experience as consumer smartphone adoption and connectivity speeds increase.

Smart retailers will jump in with both feet since the cost for trying some innovative new ways to add mobile to the in-store customer experience is relatively low.

Additionally, marketers will be experimenting with these powerful new ways to connect with consumers for both tracked sales lift and to gain powerful knowledge about how consumers are interacting with their merchandise both online and in store.

“The best first step is to have an integrated mobile commerce experience so the entire in-store experience can be linked to ecommerce infrastructure that is already in place,” Mr. Kerr said.

“We are working on building out these solutions for our retail clients and adding powerful mobile touch point tools so they can track in-store consumer interactions,” he said.

Following suit
Removing the standard idea of a fixed checkout is something that Apple has done successfully for years.

For it to work effectively, retailers need adequate staff on the floor, all clearly identified and easy to locate for users.

If done correctly, large retailers can free up at least one hundred square feet of floor space for additional merchandise.

“Mobile points-of-sale can work well for specialized small basket merchants,” said Drew Sievers, CEO of mFoundry. “Clothing and technology retailers can have check-out staff roam the floor providing faster service as well as customer support during the sales process.

“This blurs the lines between sales support and check-out staff, requiring a high level of sales and product knowledge to be effective,” he said. “I think retailers have an opportunity to increase share of customer wallet through mobile loyalty programs, and increase new sales through mobile promotions and offers.

“Mobile payments, as a concept, are secondary at this stage for retailers. I think there is more bang for the buck through mobile loyalty and marketing than there is from mobile payments.”