Author: Definitive Technology Group
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To find out how America's biggest retail stores have been faring in the marketplace lately, all you have to do is turn on the news. Over the holiday season, employees at 45 K-Mart stores across the country found out that their stores would be closing, and Sears began liquidation sales to close out 18 more locations, in addition to the 350 it has already shut down this year. Nationwide, J.C. Penney shut down more than 100 stores, Macy's axed 68 locations, and Payless Shoe Source emerged from Chapter 11 restructuring having shut down nearly 900 of its 4400 total locations.
With e-commerce having emerged as an increasingly popular avenue for retail sales, the one commonality between the retail giants that have suffered huge losses and closures in 2017 is that they failed to offer products where their customers wanted to shop. They failed to invest in business process improvement and cost reduction strategies that would have improved the shopping experience for customers and helped them stay in business.
Mobile computer carts are already commonplace in the warehousing and healthcare environments, but they can also be used to improve processes in the retail sector, leading to more efficient processes, cost savings, improved customer experience and satisfaction and increased profits. Here are a few ways that mobile POS carts can be used to make things better in the retail sector.
Pop-up retail centers are an increasingly popular means of getting products closer to where consumers are to generate fast profits with minimal overhead. A pop-up shop runs like a temporary distribution center - the idea is to open it at a strategic location, stock it quickly with products that are targeted to a nearby customer base, empty the stock as quickly as possible, and close the center. Customers are driven to engagement by the knowledge that the shop won't be open for long, and the perceived scarcity of the product creates an added incentive for the purchase.
Mobile POS carts allow retailers to easily facilitate transactions at pop-up retail centers without the hassle of long extension cords connecting their POS workstation to a power outlet. The cart can be configured with a computer with wireless internet, a POS terminal, and even a receipt printer. Retailers that use mobile-based payment for pop-up stores are missing out on older demographics that prefer paper to e-mail receipts and may not use a mobile phone themselves. Although mobile phones can be used to facilitate credit payment, debit payments on mobile are still uncommon and unpopular with older demographics.
Mobile POS carts also boost engagement in sidewalk sales, allowing customers to shop and finalize purchases without entering the store. The sale still acts as a driver of engagement and interest in the rest of the store's inventory, but customers have the option to buy something on the spot without the hassle of going inside and waiting in line. Garden centers and nurseries can also benefit from facilitating transactions with mobile POS carts.
Keeping the shelves stocked is essentially an overhead cost for any retail business - items need to get from the receiving area to the shelves before they can be sold, and this needs to be done as efficiently as possible. The process typically includes unpacking pallets of product, scanning them into inventory, organizing and sorting them, disposing of the packaging, and then bringing them onto the retail floor where they are placed on shelves.
Mobile POS carts can be used in any retail environment to decrease dock to stock time by bringing the instruments of computing, scanning and labeling to where the work is, rather than having workers walk between the stock room, and a stationary workstation in the office to accomplish the same tasks. Products that come into the store need to be accurately documented and labeled, and we know that complicated processes lead to more mistakes than simple ones. Unfortunately, inaccuracies in receiving and labeling invariably lead to downstream problems - inaccurate inventory counts, mislabeled or misplaced items, and a bunch of wasted time and extra work.
If workers in receiving spend just a few minutes of each hour walking to and from a stationary workstation while handling stocks, you could save thousands of dollars per year by streamlining your receiving, labeling and shelving processes with a mobile POS cart.
Mobile POS carts can also help save time getting ready for your next sale. Printing labels for marked-down merchandise, getting those stickers to the shelves, and accurately marking down clearance inventory is an inefficient process that can be improved by bringing the computer, printer and label scanner onto the retail floor - where the actual work is being done. Saving walking steps for your workers saves time and adds to your bottom line.
People hate to wait - it's not a secret. We all have busy lives and nobody wants to stand in line at the store, wasting twenty minutes on a process that should be completed in seconds. If there's a line-up of folks waiting to give you their money, you owe it to them to ensure that your service is both satisfactory and super fast. You also owe it to yourself though - just look at some of these numbers on how long line-ups affect customer satisfaction:
Retail is a seasonal business for many industries - think about the garden center that does most of its business in the spring or a Halloween costume outlet that can only stay open for a month in October. Even major retail brands are far busier during the Christmas season than at any other time, and the long line-ups and resulting poor service have driven customers to online shopping or to their more efficient competitors.
Retail stores that invest in mobile POS carts have a viable option that they can deploy to crush long check-out lines, but the actual effect is much greater. Customers need to feel like their time is respected and valued, and when a long line-up of would-be buyers sees that an additional check-out option is being made available, they're more likely to stick around and complete the transaction.
Retail businesses all over the country have taken a beating this year, but that doesn't mean that retail is a dead business model. The reality is that the large companies failed to adapt to changes in the space, and all of those store closures have left room for the little guy - someone who wants to increase process efficiency, save on costs, and deliver customers an experience they can actually enjoy. Big companies face big challenges when it comes to adapting to new technologies, but that doesn't mean that you can't use technology to improve your business processes, grow your profits and win in retail.