StorefrontBacktalk: Mobile POS Beta Site Fear Keeps Checkout Right By Exit

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Oct 07, 2011
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Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from StorefrontBacktalk, a site tracking retail technology, e-commerce and mobile commerce.

When NCR on Sept. 26 introduced its Apple-based mobile in-store checkout module called CPMobile, it went so far as to quote Hobby Superstore manager Emily Mitchell discussing "eliminating lines and congestion at point-of-sale stations" and saying that she saw "a huge benefit in being able to have these mobile units and employees set up in different areas of the store to make the checkout process quicker and easier."

Although Ms. Mitchell still agrees with those goals and dreams, she ended up instructing employees to not use the two NCR Apple checkout units anywhere other than at an existing POS area right by the exit.

As mobile payments inch along with advancing efforts from Google, ISIS and Paypal, and with Apple debating its plans, retailers are trying to balance two concepts: the ideals of mobile-payment strategies with the mundane, practical logistics issues. And nowhere did those two concepts collide more clearly than in the one-location, $3.5 million specialty store in Plantation, FL.

Some of Ms. Mitchell’s questions: Does she now have to spend more money—or divert precious personnel during busy hours—to have someone stationed at the door checking receipts? Doesn’t that send the wrong customer-friendly message? Will they now need a paper receipt, too, even if they want a digital copy?

More questions: How could someone at the door verify that the receipt is legitimate? For that matter, if the associate at the door is shown a digital receipt, how is he/she to know if it’s a valid receipt—as opposed to a doctored image—unless the associate scans the receipt’s barcode and runs a check to see if that item was indeed purchased in the prior 10 minutes?

Ms. Mitchell also said some customers saw the associate using the iPod Touch to try and scan the customer’s credit card and became worried that someone (hopefully, a store employee) was using his/her personal device to scan their payment cards.

Although the two of the mobile units have been tested since June, the staff has largely been getting used to the devices. "The real test is going to come in Christmas-time."

As for going back to the original plan of truly store-wide distribution, Ms. Mitchell said, "At this point, that’s our hope for next year." For retail mobile payment with large chains, those words are going to sound very familiar.

Discussion Questions: What will be the main benefits and hurdles in the rollout of mobile POS? What may be some long-term challenges to widespread adoption of mobile POS?

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11 Comments on "StorefrontBacktalk: Mobile POS Beta Site Fear Keeps Checkout Right By Exit"


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Ryan Mathews
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

The benefits to retailers and customers are obvious — convenience, speed of exit, etc.

The long-term challenge?

Human nature. Folks steal and this makes it easier.

Raymond D. Jones
Guest
Raymond D. Jones
9 years 7 months ago

We have seen the adoption of self checkout and other technology assisted transactions at retail. Are there challenges? Certainly. The technology still requires some intervention and supervision and it often takes time and advances to overcome.

However, allowing shoppers to “skip the line” is a powerful concept that will leverage technology to succeed over time. Ultimately, retailers must follow the “banking model” and allow shoppers to conduct transactions in the manner they prefer.

Max Goldberg
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

As with any new technology it takes time for the users, both buyers and sellers, to get comfortable with it. Retailers will adapt to the new technology if the devices can speed up checkout, are accurate, and are used by customers. Consumers will also need time to adapt. Will the devices be accurate, cause less hassle, and is my information secure?

Mobile POS, using mobile phones to pay for transactions and smart cards are all on the horizon. How much will retailers be willing to spend for convenience and security? How much will consumers demand?

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

The details are always the stumbling block. Implementation of the devices may create new store configurations or deployment of personnel. As needs to be done when adopting new technology, it is critical to thoroughly examine the business processes first, determine how you want them to work, and then determine how and what technology will work.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

You know, a hobby superstore is one of the last places I would have tried out mobile POS. Check-out stands have other purposes besides taking money. Things get bagged, EAS tags removed and put away, hangers removed and put away (where appropriate)….

I think for big ticket order taking — all the sense in the world. For smaller items, not so much.

As for having the person at the door checking the receipt…I think that’s extraneous to this conversation, frankly.

Ronnie Perchik
Guest
Ronnie Perchik
9 years 7 months ago

As a few people have said already, introducing a new technology to any business will always have it’s kinks to work out. In this case, the customer experience is improved by faster and more convenient checkout, which is a significant draw to any store.

The issue of “stealing” and trust between a customer and store owner is time-old, and mobile POS technology doesn’t do away with this concern. These seem like small issues that can be solved by learning about what works and what doesn’t, and the result won’t need to be doing away with mobile POS.

There are a myriad examples of retailers, big and small, employing on-the-floor technology to enhance store activities, whether they be customer-related, or internal. Some will work; some won’t. But it’s essential to move towards adopting new technologies, as long as they implemented in the right way.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

This is the future. So let’s adapt to it and move to make it more customer and retailer compatible. I don’t think theft is any more of a major concern than it is today. People are going to steal. We know it. They steal at traditional checkouts. This will be no different except someone might be standing at the exit as the theft alarm goes off.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
9 years 7 months ago

Mobile POS is a huge LP headache. As times get tougher, savvy, unscrupulous ‘customers’ will find a way to exploit this system. The manager in the article has valid concerns about directing labor assets to this program. Are extra hours involved? Hey, I thought this was supposed to save me money! Big box retailing is always challenged by the actual geography of the store and I don’t see any way in controlling the shrink issue. Keep your cashier’s at the exit and ask them to up sell. Use the existing layout to drive revenues instead of investing in ‘the system of the month’.

James Tenser
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

Mobile POS is a red herring in the present mystery of mobile commerce. The hobby superstore example cited illustrates why it will not be compatible with most retail environments any time soon.

However, the mobile wallet has tremendous potential at the conventional checkout – for the presentation and redemption of coupons, identification of frequent shoppers, and actual payments. The advent of NFC technology will impact these activities like a jolt of rocket fuel. Banks, card-issuers, telcos, and Google all anticipate this and are jockeying for position and power.

We are witnessing nothing less than the reinvention of money. Retailers will eventually alter their core practices to align with the changes – including a “new normal” for the POS.

Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
9 years 7 months ago

A hobby store is not where I would have invested in early adoption technology. However, it does provide great early learning for other low item cost retail environments. Where it will grow quickly is in high unit value environments — Apple started it and now it will quickly grow in luxury environments, particularly those with high velocities. We are implementing the technology in our next location and we see huge potential in adding transaction ability “on the fly” wherever the customer wants to transact.

The LP considerations are valid but are simply an operational detail to be planned and executed, like any other process. Retailers must determine the applicability of the technology based on their unique customer and their expectations and needs.

Verlin Youd
Guest
9 years 7 months ago
The concept, and implementations of mobile POS have been around for years. It is interesting that it has become the norm in environments like European restaurants and taxis in Singapore, yet has struggled to gain a foothold in more standard North American store environments. Seems like the benefits and struggles have remained fairly consistent. Benefits include the flexibility to check out customers when and where they want to be served, frees up valuable store space for additional merchandise, and creates expanded checkout capacity in peak periods. Hurdles can be segment specific and situational, including how to handle cash/change, how to handle bags and bagging, and some interesting loss prevention issues. Apple has proven the viability of mobile POS in the US when basket size is limited and payment is usually credit or debit. They have even overcome concerns about emailed receipts vs physical paper. However, in larger basket size environments or where cash is still common tender, there are factors beyond the technical or even physical characteristics of mobile POS that need to be solved… Read more »
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