Internet of Things technology implementations in the retail environment may be one of the most exciting and personally resonant for many people. In his intriguing guest blog post below, Cory McElroy, Director, Product Management and Marketing, Retail Solutions Global Business Unit, HP, examines the role of mobile technology in-store and how mobile and traditional fixed POS systems can coexist in harmony. Check out his great insights and tips about strategy, implementation, and technology solutions powered by Intel® processors. ~ David McKinney
The Next Retail Transformation: Mobility and the Internet of Things
Differentiating the in-store experience is crucial for the success of brick-and-mortar retailers. But how do you compete when online shopping offers virtually unlimited choice, in addition to the ability to collect and utilize customer data and purchasing patterns?
Mobile technology is an important part of the answer. Mobile is the glue that can bring the physical and digital worlds together, creating a seamless experience between the various channels. With mobile solutions, associates can have information at their fingertips to better understand and serve each shopper. Blending technology with the human touch, associates can use mobile solutions to increase convenience and flexibility. They can drive sales and satisfaction with the ability to offer complementary items and alternatives. They can recover from out-of-stock incidents, instantly offering shoppers options for acquiring the desired items.
Mobile is becoming even more powerful as the Internet of Things unfolds. As everyday objects get smarter and more connected, the store associate’s mobile platform becomes a source for gathering valuable information about customer behavior and preferences. By combining this information with other enterprise data sources and presenting it to associates in easy, actionable formats, retailers can deliver a customized, one-to-one experience to each shopper every time—all while enabling more efficient operations.
Growing Beyond Random Acts of Mobility: Develop a Strategy
As I work with retail leaders across the globe, I see a varied landscape of mobile use cases. Stores are using mobile solutions to:
- Assist customers using interactive selling tools
- Check price and inventory information
- Locate and place orders for items not in store
- Supplement the fixed POS system with a mobile line-busting and/or mPOS solution
- Check in customers
Any of these use cases can provide a valid starting point for in-store mobility. So where do you begin? Each retailer is unique, and the answer will depend on consideration of your brand promise, store format, target market, and end-users. I recommend bringing together IT and line-of-business leaders to explore the ways mobility can be used within your environment to address operational challenges such as inventory tasks and workforce automation as well as customer-facing use cases that can enhance the in-store experience.
As you move toward implementation, consider a crawl-walk-run strategy. For example:
- Empower store associates. Provide them with product and promotional information as well as inventory and pricing information that enable them to better serve the customer right on the sales floor.
- Mobilize store managers. Provide managers with access to real-time information such as sales data so that they can effectively manage the store while being out on the sales floor interacting with customers and associates.
- Expand the experience. Don’t try to do everything at once. Identify one or two use cases where you can show early gains. Use them to develop internal expertise, and build the business case for additional uses from there.
Mobilizing the Retail Environment
While many retailers are considering mobile technology for their stores, traditional fixed POS systems aren’t going away. In the near future, many retailers will likely operate in a mixed environment of fixed and mobile technologies. So, it’s important to choose platforms that can adapt as your needs change and that align with your users, use cases, workflow, and enterprise IT environment. To build success:
- Maintain compatibility with your existing business operating environment
- Get store associates, managers, and IT professionals involved in evaluating specific devices
- Don’t expect a single mobile device to fulfill every need—instead, identify requirements and select from a family of compatible options
- Examine your infrastructure to see where you may need to modify or expand it
- Assess security and management needs to ensure a trusted shopping experience
Mobile Innovation from HP
HP is innovating on multiple fronts to enable retailers to better serve their customers as well as create operational efficiencies. For example, the latest HP MX10 Retail Solution* is a 3-in-1 solution based on the HP ElitePad* tablet powered by the Intel® Atom™ processor and Windows 8*. This solution provides both fixed and mobile operations.
Pair the HP ElitePad* with the Retail Jacket* or the new Retail Case* to enable mobile operations including assisted selling as well as mobile transactions. The HP Retail Jacket provides built-in functionality of a barcode scanner and a magnetic stripe reader, while the new Retail Case allows you to attach a third-party payment entry device of your choice including EMV payment chip cards, magnetic stripe readers, and near-field communication (NFC) devices. Secure the mobile solution into the HP Retail Expansion Dock* and you now have access to the full suite of retail peripherals that you’d expect to find with a stationary POS system.
Also a great fit for today’s hybrid environments: the HP TX1 Point-of-Sale Solution* based on the HP Pro* Tablet 610* and Intel® Atom™ processors. The TX1 comes with all the hardware you need to get your business up and running quickly. The solution bundle includes the tablet, tablet stand, cash drawer, receipt printer and USB hub so you can work the counter and run the back office from the same device.
Enabling Business Transformation
Mobility delivers both top- and bottom-line benefits. It can help you serve customers better, capture additional sales, reduce expenses, and maximize your investments in both people and technology. It’s key to keeping up with today’s always-connected consumers. And it’s a vital step toward the emerging intelligence of the Internet of Things.