Five years from now, the least likely place a transaction will be completed is at the cash wrap. In the past, customers and retailers have experienced a single channel touch point via the brick-and-mortar store. Today, this single channel touch point has evolved into a complex and multi-channel experience — where customers interact via multiple, independent touch points that function through retailers in technical silos, including e-commerce, catalog, and brick-and-mortar. Building off the multi-channel approach, retailers are scrambling to deploy a high-function, high-touch cross-channel approach where customers view multiple touch points across one brand, and retailers have one single view of the customer as they still operate out of technical silos. But the future, and what some are calling the "nirvana" of retail, will be the age of the omni-channel. Omni-channel entails customers enjoying a seamless brand experience independent of channel, as opposed to channels within brands, and retailers use strategic ways that leverage their single view of the customer.
A survey by Lightspeed Research in April 2011 reports that 59% of today's customers are the omni-channel customers of the future. Lightspeed broke that 59% down into three categories, including: value-focused followers, data-hungry tech enthusiasts and tech-savvy social shoppers. Retailers must ask themselves two questions in order to empower this 59% of customers as well as enhance the customer experience and enable store associates. The first is: How will new and emerging mobile technologies affect customers? The second: How will the retailer be able to support these initiatives?
Mobile point of sale (POS) is a key enabler of omni-channel functionality. Mobile POS allows the customer to conveniently research options, search for deals and check out without going to a central POS. It also empowers retail associates to assist the customer while he or she is considering a purchase. These aspects of mobile POS demonstrate the retailer's commitment to customer satisfaction.
Mobile POS must be seamlessly integrated for a positive customer experience. This is also important to remain competitive in the market. Retailers that ignore or wait for the mobile POS movement will be left behind as customer demand and market trend drives competitors to move ahead with deployments. Keeping the customer in mind with every decision made as retailers move forward with mobile POS and omni-channel is important. Customer expectations are higher than ever and the current economy demands that retailers listen to the customer.
Smooth mobile applications, customer awareness, efficient and trained staff, and a myriad of other considerations are essential to successful omni-channel and mobile POS deployment. The most important factors to success in mobile POS and the future of omni-channel are: a proper seamless integration for a consistent positive customer experience, and moving ahead and deploying your program.
John Kenney has over 20 years of retail and retail IT experience. Kenney has experience directing POS and returns capability for a Fortune 50 retailer, directing POS and store system outsourcing and offshoring initiatives, and managing global IT delivery teams.