A couple weeks ago, I discussed change management. I addressed the question, how do you perceive your managerial style? Are you an innovator, adaptor, traditionalist, or a maintainer? Or, do you find yourself changing your viewpoint depending on the decision at hand? I would say most people fall in the latter category. While I will be the first to try a new exercise, when it comes to being a clothing trendsetter I tend to be a little more hesitant (especially if it involves mirroring a Lady Gaga style). Consistently being the innovator works for some companies (Apple), but most businesses need to be strategic and think about what makes sense for their environment.
As I mentioned in my tablet blog, leave it up to the experts to decide if mobility is going to work in the point of sale industry. Both IBM and NCR have been market leaders in retail point of sale. Conveniently, I found a White Paper by NCR entitled: Are you ready for the future of retail point of sale? I like this article because it does not try to combat mobile POS. Ignoring this innovation would be ignorant. It would have been similar to saying fast food drive-thru will not improve the efficiency of hospitality chains. Like a drive-thru, mobile point of sale has an appropriate environment. For example, it makes sense for the Apple Store to implement mobile solutions throughout their store as people are purchasing low-volume, expensive items. Yet, it would not make sense for Wal-Mart or a Grocery Chain to completely transform. The volume of purchased goods passing through these stores is unmanageable for mobile solutions. For that reason, NCR also cites a number of rationales for why a traditional POS will always be necessary. While I have discussed some of these, I would like to reiterate my points along with the other factors they deliberate in the article.
First, speed and efficiency are giant factors. The point of sale platform is more than the terminal; it is the counter to place items on or an area to fold clothes, or a station to bag or gift wrap them. NCR brings up an excellent point, how could you do that in the middle of a store? Secondly, mobility has limited functionality. If credit cards were the only form of payments, this would not be an issue. However, cash and checks are not as feasible for mobile solutions. As I observed, the Apple Store has cash drawers hidden throughout the show floor, yet how would this work for large retailers? If clerks are not monitoring cash drawers at all times, theft could become an even larger problem. Again, this goes back to your store set-up. Lastly, traditional POS is also necessary is for its reliability. As for mobile solutions, batteries die, wireless networks are touchy, and devices can “accidentally” fall out of people’s hands or end up in the toilet….
Having reiterated the benefits and setbacks of traditional POS, the future of point of sale is difficult to predict. Whether retailers develop a completely new infrastructure for mobile devices, or if they incorporate mobility into their current point of sale platform needs to be completely dependent on the store environment.
Now you know the facts from a leading point of sale manufacturer. I am sure as retailers; you have done your share of research and have decided if mobility is the right move. Yet, the question remains…will mobile POS take over as the “experts” believed RFID, internet shopping, kiosks, and even the PC Cash Drawer would? All of these innovations were expected to revolutionize their respective industries. While these products and services are available, the industries have not completely changed just because new things were invented. Is this how mobility will affect the point of sale industry, as a product that gives operators another option? We will just have to wait and see!
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