Cashing in on MobileBy Samuel Greengard | Posted 2012-05-01 Email Print
Information technology is driving massive changes in retailing. Successful businesses are embracing everything from back-end analytics and social media to mobile POS systems.
Cashing in on Mobile
For most of history, retailing has been a fairly straightforward proposition. Companies pushed products out to brick-and-mortar stores or through online storefronts and replenished inventory as needed. In recent years, bar-coding, supply chain management systems, analytics and a spate of other tools have helped speed internal processes and optimize performance. As a result, many retailers are now incredibly efficient at managing ERP and supply chain tasks.
But back-end systems are only part of the picture. Today, social media and mobile commerce are radically redefining the retailing landscape. These tools are empowering consumers by allowing them to step into a store and, quite often, know more about a product or service than a sales associate.
“The reality is that today’s consumer has anywhere, anytime access to product information,” Kilcourse explains. “As a result, the path to purchase has become far more complex.”
Moosejaw is one retailer that understands this concept. The company, which plans on opening five new stores in 2012, is investing heavily in mobile POS technology. “The goal, says Comerford, “is to bring greater interaction into stores and create a seamless multichannel experience for customers.”
In the past, the retailer relied on traditional checkout lanes with fixed terminals. It is now removing some fixed terminals and arming associates with an Apple iPod Touch equipped with a two-dimensional barcode scanner and credit card reader. Customers can receive the receipt by email. “It represents a completely different way to do business,” he says.
The system allows associates to spend time with customers on the floor and access inventory and Web information in real time. A CrossView Mobile POS solution tied into IBM WebSphere integrates call centers, POS and online commerce data on a single platform with a single view of products, pricing, inventory, marketing, promotions and customers.
“The sales associate can handle the transaction at the point of customer interaction,” Comerford notes. “It’s an extremely efficient system that greatly streamlines the sales process.”
No less important: The technology is allowing Moosejaw to reconfigure stores. “The space where checkout lanes previously existed is used to display additional merchandise, including private-label products,” Comerford says. The company has also moved the location of changing rooms and added windows with drapes so that customers can get instant feedback from a friend.
At its Birmingham, Mich., store, the extra space is now used for a hangout area, complete with a Ping-Pong table, flat-screen TV and comfortable chairs. “We have created stores that are much more engaging,” he says. “The associates love the wireless POS system, and customers are providing extremely positive feedback about it.”
The challenge for retailers is not only tying together existing IT systems to provide a live view of inventory, product information and pricing, it’s also connecting to social media feeds. “Social media has become the consumer’s advocate,” Kilcourse says.
In fact, RSR Research found that “overachieving and underachieving retailers view social media very differently,” he adds. “Best-practice companies understand that there’s a need to listen to conversations and monitor activity.”
In some cases, according to Kilcourse, it’s possible to pick up early signals about demand, market trends and performance—especially with the use of analytics. “Retailers must view social media as more than a way to shovel promotions at customers,” he adv ises.