How can high street shops protect themselves from the threat of online retail? One way retailers are fighting back is by using online retail’s own weapons against it, adopting the tools and technology that make internet shopping so attractive.
Innovative electronic point of sale technology (EPOS) is empowering high street retailers to gather data, personalise customer experiences and make shopping flexible and easy, blurring the lines between bricks-and-mortar stores and internet shopping and using the payment moment in the customer journey to build relationships and increase profits.
We take a look at some of the innovations in EPOS making this multichannel mash-up a reality.
Mobile EPOS technology
The rapid advance of smartphone technology over recent years means that for an independent retailer to have access to a powerful EPOS system, all they need is a phone or a tablet. Payment providers like iZettle and Square allow sellers to accept credit and debit card payments using their phone, offering services like pocket card reader attachments and bookkeeping tools.
This kind of technology can be an extremely low-cost EPOS solution for a small business, but one that still offers the kind of connectivity customers are coming to expect. This technology can also be used in a variety of out-of-store retail locations such as stalls, concessions or pop-up shops, making it super flexible.
Mobile EPOS is also being used by larger retailers to make checkout and customer interaction more fluid. Retailers such as Nordstrom are giving staff touchscreen tablets that allow them to take payments anywhere on the shop floor, at the same time as accessing inventory and making orders for out-of-stock items.
Pay with your face?
There are numerous variations on using smartphone technology to pay for goods and services at the till. In a new technology that was trialled by Mastercard in 2015 and is set to hit the UK soon, customers can authorise a payment by simply looking at their Smartphone, which recognises their face. The idea behind ‘selfie pay’ is to combat identity fraud (face theft is, as yet, unknown) and make it quick and simple to make payments.
Building customer relationships at the payment moment
One advantage that online retail has previously had over bricks-and-mortar store interactions is that ecommerce sites can gather information on a customer that is hard to get in a high street store. Not only what someone buys, but what items they’ve viewed, how many times they’ve visited, what they’ve searched for and much more can give a retailer a detailed picture of a customer, and online platforms and communications allow them to keep in touch with customers more easily after a sale has been made.
But the latest EPOS technology is bringing this kind of data to the high street, with systems that include Customer Relationship Management (CRM) functionality to record customer preferences and behaviour and capture contact details for targeted marketing.
Systems like cloud-based iPad platform Shopkeep or leading EPOS provider Lightspeed offer CRM functionality that allows retailers to easily gather and enter customer information and analyse data.
Choosing a cloud-based EPOS system can be a major cost saving for an independent retailer, giving access to powerful computing power and software without the need for expensive in-store hardware. In the past, a POS system was a major investment for a retailer, and since the days of the mechanical till, if the technology went out of date a retailer would often be forced to stick with it, unable to afford the cost of updating to a new system.
Cloud-based systems sidestep this obsoletion issue, because updates to cloud software are easy, cheap and instant for users. In-store hardware is often minimal, usually just the accessories needed to take payments. Platforms like Shopkeep offer free system upgrades to customers and allow businesses to access POS systems, analytics and reporting as well as cost-effective POS hardware for stores.
The concept of customers being able to shop online while they’re in a high street store is rapidly gaining traction. The thinking goes that customers are increasingly expecting to be able to shop how and when they like, without differentiating between sales channels. They might browse a physical store and then order from a smartphone app, or from a laptop or tablet when they get home. Rather than losing sales to rival online retailers, some businesses are encouraging this omnichannel approach, empowering customers to combine high street and online shopping.
Endless aisle terminals of various kinds allow customers to order items that are out of stock or not available, immediately expanding a store’s range into their deep inventory and retaining a sale that might otherwise have been lost.
Demandware are providing this technology for Crocs, a footwear brand that markets itself on its huge range of colours and styles. Store customers can easily order combinations from a much larger range than it would be possible to display in the store itself.
So where next for EPOS technology? The next few years are likely to see the emergence of retail showrooms, where customers can interact with products and order from a much larger available stock through in-store terminals or smartphones, and EPOS systems that go far beyond the point of sale, interacting with customers as they enter and navigate stores. EPOS systems are set to bring the best of online functionality to the high street, and soon.
Epos: iZettle, www.izettle.com/
Mastercard Epos: Mastercard, www.newsroom.mastercard.com/
Lightspeed: Lightspeed, https://www.lightspeedhq.co.uk/
Shopkeep Epos: Shopkeep, www.shopkeep.com
Crocs: Crocs / Moki, www.moki.com