Point of Sale Technology is evolving daily. Are mobile checkouts (iPhones, tablets, etc.) going to be the next adapt or die solution in retail POS, just as we thought Self-Checkouts were next for grocery chains? I am posing this question because quite frankly, I have no idea. All we can do is look at the history of point of sale and try not to make the same mistakes twice.
So first and foremost, I will begin with a little history on Self-Checkouts (SCO’s). SCO’s entered the point of sale market in 1987, but grocers didn’t gain enough trust in this technology to begin rolling them out into their stores until 2000, almost 13 years later (I would imagine the manufacturers were sweating buckets almost all 4,745 days this technology was not making them money—too much disconnect between creation and implementation if you ask me…)! Today, it is rare to walk into a grocery store without a Self-Checkout. However, interesting as it may sound, a new customer-focused approach to checkout has caused these market leaders to consider phasing out of this technology. I think it is rather comical that it took longer to adopt this technology than its reign lasted (as most probably does). Many cite the reason being too little customer interaction, not to mention all the intentional (and accidental) theft. I guess this begs the question, did the industry not think of these possibilities before installing these systems, or, was it ignored because no one wanted to fall behind in the race to the top of technology? I would be interested to know what, if any, benefits Self-Checkout brought to point of sale? To me, it just seems like a lot of disgruntled customers (except me!), less show floor space, and added store theft.
So what about mobility? Mobile solutions are REALLY cool, not to mention a big topic of discussion (sometimes the only topic) surrounding point of sale. Is this how it is going to be, nothing but discussion, for the next 10 years until retailers gain trust in these solutions (if so, wake me up when it is over…)? I know retailers are worried about security and durability with mobile solutions, but will these worries subside through the years, or will they just be thrown under the rug (just as theft may have been for self-checkouts)? Maybe mobile solutions will become increasingly more durable and secure, but again, I suggest waiting for the able-minded point of sale experts like IBM, NCR, and Motorola to roll something out (…I promise you will not have to wait long!) I am aware that Lowes just purchased 42,000 iPhones for line busting purchases, but, how many other retailers out there have adopted this same strategy? I would be interested to know. Right now, I would guess it is more hype than action.
For those of you retailers who HAVE adapted to a complete or partial mobile POS solution, are you selling more products? Are you retaining more customers? Is the checkout process easier: for your employees, customers, anyone? My only hope is that we remember what the past has taught us and move technology forward in the right direction at the right time.
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