Fast and Flexible: Why Mobile Point Of Sale Is Key To Versatility and Success.

Steve Slough,
Managing Director - Tag Retail Systems

StoreConnect Mobile Point Of Sale Application Shown On Device And In Fixed Position

Tag Retail Systems

If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that people and organisations can adapt to overcome huge challenges. The ‘new normal’ is ironically the result of an exceptional social transformation where people rapidly and flexibly overcame a serious challenge.

The new normal has already inspired change across the business spectrum, from health and safety policies to working-from-home and hybrid employment practices. In retail, the trend towards self-checkouts and varied contactless payment options has been accelerated. Now, 82% of decision makers plan to invest more in these technologies at the expense of employee operated checkouts. This is in response to a customer demographic where nearly two thirds of shoppers (64%) prefer contactless payment options and the ability to check out anywhere in store.

This second revelation by a Zebra Technologies survey in October 2022 provides a tantalising look at where change is driving us, as well as where we are. Customers want more speed and flexibility to shop on their own terms. Let’s take a step back to review the trend.

The end of the ‘old normal’

Twenty five years ago, the point of sale was fairly predictable for most retailers. Customers walked around a shop, picked what they wanted and queued patiently at one of a number of identical checkouts. An employee scanned their goods, took their payment and checked them out.

Today, the situation is more diverse, a customer can generally checkout as above, they can self-checkout or they can scan their own goods as they shop and pay quickly at the POS. That’s three options, without even delving into the worlds of delivery and click-and-collect. Retailers are flexing more than ever before to provide a shopping experience on the customer’s terms.

Mobile POS - Taking the change further

Going forward, customers want more speed and flexibility in their shopping experience. Giving it to them could change the face of retail even more than the last quarter century of development has, securing the industry from inter-sector competition and attracting new customers. Let’s look at an example of a common customer persona to make the point.

Professional Paula’s Problem

Professional Paula works hard from 9-5 and sometimes beyond, juggling family, work and the rest of life. She doesn’t often have time to make lunch at home, so she grabs it on the way to work.

Her town’s supermarket has the widest selection of sandwiches, snacks and drinks at the best prices. Unfortunately, Paula doesn’t have time between the school run and work to find her way into the big store, pick out a sandwich, navigate to the checkout and queue to pay. Besides which, the drive is her moment of pre-work quiet time. She doesn’t want to spend it jostling between trollies and random purchase checks.

She just nips into her local shop and gets a damp and suspect-looking salad sandwich. Occasionally, when she’s feeling flush, she drops by the local deli or premium sandwich shop to enjoy a decent selection, but she resents paying so much for the privilege.

Professional Paula’s mobile POS solution

Now let’s imagine the store in Paula’s town has implemented mobile Points of Sale, allowing any employee to become a moving checkout with minimal setup.

One day, when Paula can’t stand another soggy corner-shop sandwich and isn’t flush enough for the premium option, she decides to go into her local large supermarket.

She is anxious about the time and fuss before work, but she finds two people stood beside the sandwich fridges with big ‘Buy your lunch direct from me’ badges on their chests. She grabs her food as usual but, instead of making her way to the busy tills and queuing between Weekly Shop Warren and Complaining Chris, she hands her lunch to the employee next to the fridge.

Queues are short and quick moving. After all, everyone only has three or four items. In about a minute, Paula is done, with a receipt from the assistant’s mobile printer. She has saved a walk to the checkouts and navigation of the hustle and bustle that’s always there at 8.30. Looking at her watch, she realises she isn’t even a third of the way through the 15 minutes she allowed for going to the supermarket.

She remembers the assistant mentioning that they would be there every day from now on. After a few seconds of balancing budget, preference and time in her head, Paula decides that there will be no more soggy sarnies for her. She can manage the shop on her commute, and it isn’t too stressful, either. She’s going to be selecting from her local supermarket’s sandwiches and saving from now on.

There are millions of Professional Paulas spending around £5 per day on lunches across the UK. Supermarkets are unequivocally the best choice for selection and value for these people. Critically though, the long walks and bustling queues are not ideal for the timing and low stress threshold of a working morning.

The aforementioned survey by Zebra also revealed that 76% of customers choose their shops based on the ability to get in and out quickly. That’s more than do it based on home delivery. Mobile points of sale could adapt to this, allowing an employee or two to get these regular, predictable low spenders catered for quickly. This would Solve Paula’s problem while also clearing out the checkout queues for Warren, Chris and everyone else.

One face of a flexible future for retail

Paula’s case is just one example of how the flexibility and speed of integrated mobile technology can make retailers more competitive, customer-centric and adaptable to changing customer volumes and demands.

Christmas is another current and competitive case. Over the last couple of months prior to writing, customer volumes skyrocketed, but floor space and expensive hardware for POS doesn’t. Retailers can call in as much overtime as they want, but queues still grow as the bottleneck at the checkouts seems to shrink. With mobile Points of Sale, the amount of floor space is no longer a problem and cost is vastly reduced. Everyone on the floor could theoretically become a point of sale, anywhere.

Check out wherever you want

As well as ending fixed POS queues, mPOSs could also be the end of checkout bottlenecks at the front of the store. It could be possible at Christmas to place and extra POS on the toy aisle, another on seasonal goods and a third near winter clothing. This has functional and competitive implications. A customer is less likely to wait for an online toy to be delivered when they can drop by the toy aisle and grab it in a few minutes.

For customers, Christmas shopping stops being a balance between big trips to bricks-and-mortar retailers and a flurry of one-off orders. Now, large stores can make a more successful pitch to them to take those one-off purchases back from Amazon and the like without threatening queues and hustle and bustle.

The technology can also empower designated seasonal helper employees to go from being an extra hand with shopping to the whole retail experience. Present buyers can be guided around the store, quickly and effectively filling up their Christmas list. Then they can check out with their guide when they’re finished.

Flexibility throughout the store, throughout the year

From week to week, mobile POSs such as those from Tag Retail Systems could enable new options on the shop floor. Third-party popup kiosks become much more of a possibility for a wider selection of retailers at a lower price. In-store employee ventures, such as charity drives and new sales ideas become much easier to realise and track with their own mobile POS.

Superstar reserve

Experts always recommend keeping something in reserve when one pitches. In addition to everything we’ve described above, the mobile points of sale we offer cost significantly less than traditional points of sale and even more modern offerings. While client situations vary, we generally target a 40-50% capital expenditure saving compared to current equivalent spend.

Lastly, it should be noted that our systems enable an unprecedented variety of communications, compliance and stock control functions, as well. We can integrate existing systems and create bespoke new solutions adapted to your workflows. This means that our mobile POS systems don’t just enable fast and flexible sales; they modernise the whole workflow and centralise it for easier management.