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Is mobile failing at point-of-sale?

July 2, 2013


The overwhelming presence of antiquated point-of-sale systems and infrastructure is currently preventing mobile from realizing its full potential in-store.

Technology is changing constantly and more marketers are jumping on the mobile payments bandwagon. However, without correct hardware and education, point-of-sale adoption might still be an ongoing challenge for many.

“While workarounds and layered solutions are possible, at a certain point, retailers have to commit to revisioning their in-store experience from a mobile-integrated perspective,” said Chris Mason, co-founder/CEO of Branding Brand, Pittsburgh.

“Retailers will be judged more and more on their ability to provide a mobile-ready experience,” he said.

Key insights
Extended product ordering, self-checkout, in-aisle checkout, ereceipts, and virtual POS experiences are some of the key entry-points for evolving the in-store experience.

Nowadays, many marketers are creating more options for tech-savvy customers.

A recent report from IHL Group found that 33 percent of retailers have no plans to adopt mobile point-of-sale systems soon, suggesting that plans to deploy smartphones and tablets in-store have slowed compared to a year ago.

When it comes to POS systems, deployment is key.

The key operational issues involved with adopting mobile POS include device and merchandise security, how to handle cash, payments, bags, customer service levels and reworking traffic flow.

Although many are struggling, others such as Starbucks and Apple are making great strides at integrating mobile into their in-store experience.

“Embracing Passbook and using convenient mechanisms to interact with the brand are great ways to effectively drive loyalty,” Mr. Mason said.

“Although retailers will drive limited experiments, widespread adoption will be slow,” he said. “Traditionally, old systems are heavy, costly, and work in long migrational cycles.

“Now that POS can be virtualized and has to be mobile-ready, the same rigor that exists for successful ecommerce teams has to be introduced in stores. Retailers must embrace fast innovation cycles and adapt at a quicker rate.”

Where it’s heading
According to Usher Lieberman, director of corporate communications at The Find, San Francisco, most consumer surveys, along with conversations with retailers point to mobile being a significant source of traffic, but not a great direct driver of conversions.

“Unless the customer has an established account with the store, or the store offers PayPal, Amazon Payments, or another easy checkout mechanism, the sale will not typically be driven through the mobile device,” Mr. Lieberman said.

The executive believes that companies such as Amazon and PayPal are understanding how POS works and using it to make the overall shopping experience more beneficial for customers.

“There are others as well, but the key is that you have try and minimize how much time consumers spend fumbling through an environment that is hostile towards fat-fingers,” Mr. Lieberman said.

“Mobile and tablet share will increase this year and for the foreseeable future,” he said. “We think tablets will come to dominate ecommerce within five years.

“As part of this shift, checkout will get better, and as it does, checkout will move increasingly onto the devices.”

Final Take
Rimma Kats is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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Rimma Kats is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach her at

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