Ups and downs in mobile POS

New mobile point-of-sale technology has been adopted to varying success throughout the retail industry.

Hand-held POS systems are just the tip of the iceberg. Some national retailers are using smartphone apps to process transactions, with mixed results.

As technology marches on, it presents more opportunities to add convenience and expediency to the retail customer experience. Mobile point-of-sale solutions, including consumer-facing smart phone apps and tablet-based checkout systems, have become more prominent in large-scale retail as merchants seek to combat long lines and customer dissatisfaction.

Despite the potential benefits of the evolving technology, independent garden centers may be reluctant to adopt mobile POS solutions. Some major chain retailers have been more willing to experiment with the latest offerings, with varying degrees of success. Select Home Depot stores have been using mobile payment systems driven by Paypal to streamline the checkout process for years. According to RetailDive, this functionality has had a marked impact on Home Depot customer satisfaction during busy seasons, with the chain reporting a 6.1 increase in same-store sales and another 6.1 increase in revenues in the first quarter of 2015.

Home Depot has also been using specially-designed smart phones for store associates, allowing them to look up products for customers, check inventory and, when lines are long, process transactions away from traditional registers and stationary POS terminals.

Results aren’t guaranteed when it comes to mobile POS technology, however. Earlier this year, Walmart rolled out an experimental mobile checkout system at 350 of its stores, which involved outfitting associates with mobile point-of-sale devices, calling the initiative “Check Out With Me.” These devices were intended to work in conjunction with the “Mobile Scan and Go” program, a costumer-facing mobile app which allowed guests to scan and bag their purchases themselves, paying for them through their phone.

In May, the national retail chain decided to put the Mobile Scan and Go program on the shelf. According to the Chicago Tribune, the decision was attributed the customers being confused by the new process. Although the app-based mobile checkout system wasn’t received particularly well in Walmart stores, the company saw a successful rollout of the system at Sam’s Club locations across the U.S. Whereas Sam’s Club stores typically carry fewer, prepackaged products, the sheer volume of inventory at Walmart stores may have complicated the situation.

Mobile checkout technology will continue to evolve and retailers will continue to implement it in new ways, so uniformity and standardization may be a ways off. However, trial adoptions by companies like Walmart can provide valuable insights for independent retailers hoping to evaluate the feasibility of mobile POS. Whether you’re interested in the technology or not — it’s worth paying attention to.

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June 2018
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