It’s no revelation that we’ve seen a significant change and evolution in the retail technology landscape over the past few years. It’s probably also no surprise that more of the same is in store—pun intended—in 2017. Let’s take a closer look at some of the items on this year’s retail tech hotlist.
Even SMB retailers that have been reluctant to migrate from traditional point of sale (POS) systems to cloud-based POS will be looking to make the move before the year is out as more and more enterprise solutions designed for smaller players hit the market. Research firm Gartner expects a “majority” of SMB businesses, including retailers, to board the cloud train by year-end or to be at least considering the change.
MSPs need to be able to sell SMB retailers the benefits of cloud-based POS solutions and services, as well as taking these benefits into consideration when teaching clients how to maximize the advantages of a migration to a cloud POS platform once the transition has occurred. This means talking up not only anytime/anywhere access to POS and other data (and hence, more control over the operation), but also increased mobility—such as the ability to harness the functionality of mobile POS without fully implementing a mobile POS system. With this functionality, the software and any information can be accessed from any smartphone, tablet, or rugged handheld device.
It’s also key to emphasize to clients that cloud-based POS lets retailers centralize data across all locations. This allows information about any single store to be accessed from any computer, device, or specific unit in the chain.
Decreased downtime during updates is another cloud POS benefit that merits emphasis. Cloud-based POS eliminates the need to update store information on each POS terminal, back-office computer, and mobile device—a process that could lead to inconsistencies and mistakes and, in turn, more interruptions in sales and overall workflow.
Even the smallest retailers are recognizing that they must have a unified view of POS, inventory and any other data if they are to properly embrace the increasingly popular omni-channel model, where customers are treated to an identical experience across multiple shopping platforms (in-store, online, mobile, etc.) and enjoy the flexibility to start shopping in one channel and finish it in another.
As omni-channel retailing becomes the norm, retailers will turn to their trusted advisor (that’s you) for solutions that yield them a unified view of data from all of their systems. These solutions need not be cloud-based. However, many are, and they’re highly desirable because the cloud platform makes it easy to view data in a unified fashion. The upshot: Growing emphasis on omni-channel does create another perfect entrée to selling cloud-based POS and services.
To today’s consumers, a personalized shopping experience is as important as shopping flexibility.
MSPs can point out to retailers that one of the easiest ways to deliver here entails implementing solutions that yield a single view of consumers’ purchasing habits across channels (like those discussed in #2 above). This insight into customers’ purchasing behaviors and preferences can be used to create custom-targeted offers, as well as for suggestive selling purposes.
In keeping with the personalization trend, you might also promote mobile devices like tablets, through which store associates can access individual customers’ information for the purpose of making personalized purchasing recommendations and practising more effective suggestive selling. Pull out the stats if retailers argue that investing in “personalization technology” isn’t worth their while: Seventy-eight percent of respondents to an Infosys survey said they are more likely to remain loyal to retailers that present them with “targeted, personalized offers,” and according to a RightNow Customer Impact report, 86% of consumers will pay 25% more for merchandise in return for a “better customer experience”—one that includes personalization.
Retailers in all markets and of all sizes will move or have are already moved into mobile payments through the gateway that best works for them. For some, that gateway is a mobile POS system; for others, it’s accepting payments via third-party mobile wallet services like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Android Pay, or Google Wallet. Certain larger players in the SMB group may opt to develop proprietary mobile payment apps. In some cases, retailers will adopt more than one mobile payment model, for example, introducing a mobile app and mobile POS terminals.
MSPs can profit from the retail mobile payments push by selling mobile POS hardware, as well as by offering assistance with app development. Present any reluctant prospect with some convincing statistics: according to TechCrunch, 70% of mobile phone owners in the US will make a mobile payment this year. BI Intelligence, the research arm of Business Insider, reported that mobile payments are expected to hit $60 billion in 2017 and $503 billion by 2020.
Analysts predict significant acceleration in the implementation of contactless (near field communications, or NFC) payment technology over the next 12 months or so. One catalyst here: retailers recognize that the convenience of “tap-and-go” and mobile wallet payments has become increasingly appealing to consumers, and that they may be at a competitive disadvantage if they fail to adopt contactless payment solutions. This is worth mentioning if you’re attempting to persuade retailers to pursue contactless technology adoption.
So, too, does the fact that most hardware that complies with the Europay/Mastercard/Visa (EMV) payment technology standard is configured for NFC payment acceptance. Hence, a double benefit for retailers.
SMB merchants’ interest in other retail technologies is bound to be piqued this year. But the above five technologies should continue to rank highest on MSPs’ radar for the short term.
Julie Ritzer Ross has been covering technology and its application in multiple vertical markets for more than 25 years. Her work has appeared in a variety of vertically focused publications including Transaction Trends, Hospitality Technology, Consumer Goods Technology, Integrated Solutions, Integrated Solutions for Retailers, Government Technology, RIS News and Vertical Systems Reseller (formerly Retail Systems Reseller).