While recently eCommerce has taken the spotlight for advances in mCommerce, personalisation, rich content, and social, the bricks and mortar retail store is likely to be the next channel to undergo significant change on a mass scale. This article looks at three current developments in the field of in-store retail technology: mobile POS (Point Of Sale), in-store beacons/wi-fi and augmented reality.
1. Mobile POS
Mobile POS, or mPOS, is certainly not new and has been already been implemented by several UK high street retailers – most notably Apple. In terms of early adopters it is most favoured by brands that consider technology to be part of their brand DNA. But this is going to change as mobile POS becomes more widespread for in-store retail across different verticals – primarily by driving improvements in in-store customer service and experience. So it is worth identifying some of the key benefits this retail technology can deliver, along with some of the challenges of implementation.
- Staff armed with mobile devices can serve customers and take payments anywhere in a store, which helps to reduce queues forming at a traditional sales counter (“line-busting”).
- Staff can provide much-improved customer service by using a mobile device to show customers real-time product information, demonstrate the full stock range that may not all be available in-store (“endless aisles”), check inventory levels, and take customer orders for home delivery, or collection from store at a later date.
- Card acceptance technology is much cheaper to purchase and implement on mobile devices compared to full till-based systems.
- The complexity of software selection and systems integration can result in significant costs and lengthy implementation projects.
- Implementing mobile payment systems is made difficult by competing systems on the market (NFC vs. QR barcode).
- Shift from traditional counter sales means establishing new business processes and re-training staff.
- To reap some of the benefits listed above, such as real-time product information, inventory checking and endless aisles, retailers need to ensure their mobile POS systems are fully integrated with their existing POS, inventory, and eCommerce systems.
- If taking payments via mobile POS devices merchants are responsible for the security of any customer card and payment data. This means that security, PCI & encryption measures must be taken into consideration just as they are for standard POS terminals, with the added risk of wi-fi transmission.
2. In-store beacons or Wi-Fi
In-store beacons and wi-fi are two retail technology solutions that can be used as a tool for recognising and tracking customers as they walk in to and around a store. This is fast gaining popularity as such tracking of customer shopping behaviour has to date been largely limited to the eCommerce channel. Beacons use Bluetooth technology and require the customer to install the retailer’s app, while in-store wi-fi is accessible to any wi-fi enabled smartphone, and can prompt customers to login to identify themselves as they enter store via a notification. The adoption of both technologies can be incentivised through exclusive promotions or loyalty schemes.
- The ability to collect customer data on in-store visits and behaviour
- Recognise customers to send personalised promotions/messages via a smartphone app or web browser.
- Store staff can have access a customer’s purchase and browsing history to offer personalised clienteling and product recommendations, with opportunities for cross-sell/up-sell.
- Wi-Fi enables customer to self-serve while in-store using smartphones to access product details, reviews, and potentially order for home delivery or later store collection.
- Shoppers can feel harpooned with additional messaging/spam, and if not integrated well with other channels this in-store digitisation can become an additional touch point customers have to navigate.
- The use of beacons requires that customer download a retailer’s app, and requires the installation of many in-store Bluetooth transmitters.
- Wi-Fi has limited in-store location capabilities compared to beacons.
- Customer participation in beacon/wi-fi in-store programs can be time consuming, which makes this technology better suited to high-loyalty, premium/luxury brands, or more complex purchasing environments where customers spend more time in store.
3. Augmented Reality
Put simply, augmented reality (AR) is the process of superimposing digital images onto real-world surroundings giving a sense of an illusion, or virtual reality. Recent developments have made this technology accessible using smartphones, and customers can download an app and use their smartphone’s camera to point at an object – often this is print media but it can also be a real three dimensional object – to view the digital AR experience on their smart phone screen. AR has the power to bring an image, product label or even shop window to life so that customers can see brands and their stock in a new way and engage with them on a completely new level. This means that as an in-store retail technology AR is gaining popularity for marketing and merchandising purposes, and is a great onmi-channel vehicle for seamlessly bringing together in-store and mobile channels.
It’s much easier to understand AR by seeing it in action, so here are a few examples:
- AR can provide interactive in-store experiences that create brand awareness, engagement and loyalty.
- Great tool for in-store marketing and merchandising
- Can seamlessly link store and mobile channels.
- Currently limited target audience.
- Requires audience education & time investment.
- Still emerging technology that may not take off.
- AR is not a replacement for the real-life aspect of visiting a store, just one possible enhancement.
- As yet AR is difficult to personalise