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Sephora taps iPod touches to enable mobile checkouts

January 10, 2012

Sephora arms sales associates with iPod touches for mobile checkout

Sephora has implemented software from Agilysys and RedIron to turn iPod touches into mobile point-of-sale devices across a number of its stores.

The mobile POS system was installed at the recently opened flagship Sephora store in the meatpacking district of New York City in September of 2011 and rolled out to additional stores in the following months. In the NYC store, the iPod touches are the only POS in use, replacing traditional checkout stations, while in all of the stores they supplement the existing POS.

“When customers come in and are ready to pay, they don’t need to stand in line. The sales associate who has been helping them all along can process their purchase and wrap up package,” said Aaron Hagler, vice president of solution delivery for the retail solutions group at Agilysys Inc., Cleveland, OH.

“The sales associate is helping them select product, doing their makeup and working very closely with the customer anyway,” he said. ” This makes a much nicer shopping experience for the customer.”

Supplemental POS
The solution provides comprehensive mobile customer service by enabling store associates to conduct transactions, handle returns and exchanges, send digital receipts, do a price check, . The iPod touch scans and takes credit card information.

The program was piloted during the second quarter of last year, introduced at the meatpacking district store in September and rolled out to additional stores in the following months.

In the meatpacking district store, there is no traditional POS only the iPod touches.

In the other stores, there are a handful of devices that supplement what is already in the store. In these stores, Sephora is using the iPod touches in areas of the store where makeovers are done so items can be rung up while a customer is receiving a makeover without the need to stand in line to checkout.

The mobile solution not only enables Sephora to enhance customer service but it also enables it to improve store efficiency. For example, when the stores get busy, store associates can also use the devices to help speed along transactions.

The mobile POS has also been integrated with Sephora’s customer loyalty program.

“It really allows that one-on-one customer service and closer interaction with the sales associate,” said Dorothy Watson, account executive at Agilysys. “The customer doesn’t have to stand in line.

“The experience is more about shopping, finding the right product with some assistance and getting out of the store quickly,” she said.

Store flow
Many retailers, including Lowe’s and Guess, have begun experimenting with mobile POS. However, Sephora is the only retailer besides Apple that completely replaced traditional POS with a mobile system, in the case of the meatpacking district store.

“It certainly is a technology that can handle peak periods, whether during a holiday or special events,” Mr. Hagler said.

Agilysys was the project manager while RedIron’s 2Mobile software provided the Web services framework for the integration of the traditional POS business functions with Next Position by Agilysys mobile software.

“Sephora has gotten tremendous positive feedback – customers love the solution. It is convenient and really speeds up transactions,” Mr. Hagler said.

“You can throw any technology into a store, but its success is in how the retailer embraces it,” he said. “Sephora really thought through the store flow and how to train associates to make this work.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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