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Mobile Productivity

Small Business Saturday: Transitioning to an mPOS System

The 2015 holiday shopping season is days away from commencing, and small and midsize businesses (SMBs) are preparing their stores to welcome local shoppers. By embracing mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) solutions, SMBs have a flexible, lower-cost service solution that can tender sales, access inventory and deliver the knowledge that sales associates need to expertly close sales.

Introduced on Saturday, November 27, 2010, Small Business Saturday invited Americans to support local businesses as a means of helping SMBs — and communities — thrive. In 2012, the event became an official shopping day within the Black Friday weekend, and in 2014, shoppers spent $14.3 billion, according to the 2014 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey, from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and American Express.

These milestones, coupled with the 135.8 million consumers who plan to shop this Thanksgiving weekend, according to estimates from the National Retail Federation, position this year’s Small Business Saturday to break new records, and retailers must be ready. The easiest way to prepare is to adopt store-level mobility designed to serve customers and drive sales.

Like their larger counterparts, small businesses want end-to-end customer engagement to ensure that consumers make satisfying purchase decisions. This requires sales associates to be as knowledgeable as possible. With the help of an mPOS system, retailers can successfully deliver this heightened level of customer service.

The Mobile Front End

mPOS consists of a tablet or smartphone that often resides at a “home base” at the cash wrap. This device, along with an accompanying mPOS sled or accessory, allows associates to leave the cash wrap and assist shoppers throughout the entire shopping experience — from the minute they enter the store until they make a purchase — without ever leaving their side.

The versatility of the hardware also enables SMBs to feature a stationary POS at the cash wrap; a semistationary configuration with some devices used at checkout and others on the sales floor; a mobile system that enables associates to engage and check out shoppers directly on the sales floor; as well as self-service POS solutions where consumers navigate their shopping and checkout experience unassisted.

Integrated mobile apps fuel mission-critical processes. These include inventory management, which enables associates to view inventory levels and e-commerce channels to create an “endless aisle” effect, ensuring that out-of-stock items can be delivered to a shopper at a later time.

Currently, just under one in four retailers (21 percent) use an mPOS solution, however, 53 percent more will begin adopting the technology within the next 12 to 36 months, according to Retail Info Systems News’ 2015 RIS/IHL Store Systems Study: Making Stores Matter report.

The Game Plan

The clock is ticking down to Small Business Saturday, but there’s still time for SMBs to set up mobile configurations for the crucial holiday shopping season.

First, SMBs are encouraged to get their Wi-Fi networks in order, not only from speed and reliability perspectives, but also from a security standpoint. The success of an mPOS program relies on a secure network that will protect sensitive data, as summarized in the report State of the Industry Research Series 2014: Mobility in Retail, from EKN. This is an increasingly crucial step in competing in the digitally-influenced, omnichannel world, especially as 47 percent of companies surveyed reported that security risks and compliance issues prevent them from leveraging enterprise mobility.

With an eye on short-term start-up costs, SMBs should stay focused on affordable, accessible and versatile terminals and peripherals. mPOS sleds can combine with tablets to deliver value to small businesses through integrated solutions that satisfy their unique mobile needs. SMBs armed with mPOS solutions can not only accept credit card payments, they can also use the same devices to accessing banking services, and to enhance productivity and customer engagement.

Another key consideration is available technology support. The last thing any retailer needs, especially during the critical holiday shopping season, is a POS system crash. If a brand can’t make a sale, not only do they lose revenue, but chances are they will lose customer loyalty and future business, as well. Support, hardware replacement and on-site training are key to success for SMBs this holiday season.

There is a lot to consider in preparation for this weekend’s Small Business Saturday event. SMBs should be rethinking their mPOS strategies and transitioning to affordable options that will protect customer information, engage shoppers in their shopping journey and streamline the shopping process — factors that build long-term relationships that translate into retail revenue.

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Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Deena M. Amato-McCoy is a veteran business journalist specializing in retail and retail technology. She has spent her career as a reporter and editor covering retail technology topics such as digital signage, beacon solutions, EMV, mobile payments and other customer engagement strategies for publications including RIS News, Grocery Headquarters, STORES, Chain Store Age, Apparel and others. Deena has cultivated strong industry relationships throughout her career, and is always keen to uncover key business trends. Follow Deena on Twitter @Deena46

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