Mobile EPOS has come along way and I actually spoke to a supplier yesterday about how their core business used to be selling labels to supermarkets, pre-barcode era. Everything they sold was based on that big clunky price label gun that zapped every can or packet with a price (remember those!!). “Things were easy back then, everyone wanted the same..!” and you could see the pleasant memories in his eyes as he said it.
This made me realise how much we have moved on the past few decades and how much the retail experience has changed along with our own demands for the experience we want when we shop, be it for food, clothes or a coffee. Ask any supermarket what the biggest challenges are to them and they will always mention stock, but they also mention the checkout experience. In the past we had to queue! and to a degree we still do! People used to shop less frequently for food and so the tills had big trolleys all queueing up to be costed and we lived with it. Now there are new automated tills that attempt to remove queues (and people I would imagine) but essentially they are aimed at servicing customers who shop more frequently but in smaller lots. We don’t want to queue for 20 minutes when we’re only spending 5 getting our daily bits and bobs do we!! As a side note to this I found it laughable on my recent trip to Ikea where the first communication I had with the company was the automated till telling me a camera was watching me in case I stole something!! “Great” I thought “First they are getting me to check my own goods out, saving costs in the process for themselves and now they threaten me with this” A1 for customer service!!
But people still complain and the system is still essentially the same. You load up all your goods into a trolley, you unload all your goods, you load them back up again, load them into your car and then unload them once again at home, no wonder it’s so stressful!!
So lets turn to good old friends Apple. Anyone who has bought from them recently will have experienced a whole lot better experience. You engage with a person, you stick with this person from advice to sale (And they tend to know their stuff too), you get to know them a little bit along the way and the payment process is just so nice. It’s all done from a mobile handset that the sales person carries with him at all times and this is Mobile EPOS at its most basic.
The thing is people don’t want to go into a store and use automated checkouts, it removes the staff, and in a world where people are the only difference in many businesses this could also pose a problem, once the bean counters finally realise all business value can’t be written down on a spreadsheet. Check out the “Double Bagger” studies that Walmart did where they found that the checkout staff actually spent more time with customers than anyone else, in fact seriously more time; so these people are important. Apple have shown us what can be done in a very basic manner but this model could be used to so much more effect.
Cafe’s/restaurants where not only orders can be taken at the table but payments, receipts and perhaps images of food could be offered. Likewise people on the beach or by swimming pools would find this service very useful too. Why can’t retail use this technology as an opportunity to remove the checkout completely and to simply have trained staff that can help people through their shopping experience instead. This is being called hospitality at the moment but I think it could be so much more and this is the crux of what Mobile EPOS is and should be. Using mobile tech to get your staff and business far closer to your customers, focussing on expertise and advice and making the checkout experience so easy it passes with no pain!
On the flip side how many more drinks orders do you think a business could get if they gave staff an RFID EPOS device and then let them wander round a festival with a drinks rucksack on? The adhoc sales would be great but now imagine if the device could be used to promote timely offers, scan barcode voucher codes and to print out VIP tickets for the next act on the main stage? The possibilities are endless.
Mobile EPOS can be used as a way to ease the checkout problem retails has or it can be used to open up a world of possibilities. In the next articles we’ll explore a little bit more…
The Rugged and Mobile blog.