Consumerisation: raising the retail bar
Powerful computer systems were once the reserve of large air-conditioned, false-floored palaces. But the rise of the smartphone has turned this on its head, and now the most powerful tools are carried in a persons hands, where retailers must be able to keep up according to retail IT expert, Paul Broome
Powerful computer systems were once the reserve of large air-conditioned, false-floored palaces. But the rise of the smartphone has turned this on its head, and now the most powerful tools are carried in a person’s hands, where retailers must be able to keep up according to retail IT expert, Paul Broome
Due to people’s interaction with modern web browsers, touchscreens and always on, service-based, multichannel cloud offerings, poor user experience in terms of speed, intuitiveness and compatibility mean instant death to poorly designed technologies.
Paul Broome, Torex chief technology officer told Retail Technology that this has huge implications for businesses and the retail industry in particular. “In our personal lives, we use common communications tools that work in an intuitive way. If we pick up an Android or Apple smartphone, chances are it will only take us seconds to work out how to use it,” he said. “But in the retail industry, every PoS [point-of-sale] system is built differently. A shop assistant can use a smartphone in their personal life that senses gravity, knows its location, can connect to the internet, play games and even make a phone call. And yet the technology they have to use at work can be clunky and unintuitive.”
Sweating point-of-sale assets
In an environment characterised by high staff turnover and constant use of temporary workers, and where customer loyalty is at a premium, Broome argues that this does not make sense. “Instore technology should work intuitively,” he continued. “PoS systems hold immense value for retailers – they can offer a real-time view of sales and stock to help managers respond faster to customer demands, for example. They can centralise data collection so head office has easy access to relevant information across all their brands. Pricing and promotions can be automatically synchronised across all PoS terminals, so that customers receive fast and efficient service.
“The industry I work in is in need of a giant makeover,” Broome added. “The web browser is replacing most of the bespoke client front-ends in commercial systems – and links, rollovers and pop ups are cultural mores that the retail industry needs to follow. The browser is agnostic to platform, and should be the channel of choice for all new POS systems. HTML5, with its ability to support touch technology and web sockets for native network speeds means serious ePoS products can be created quickly and expanded using SaaS [software-as-a-service] models.”
Broome also said that the evolution of tablets also means the hardware on which to base these new PoS systems is cheap – and millions of research and development dollars are being spent on expanding their scope and range. “If all PoS systems were based on tablets, the cost would be driven down even further – and the whole industry would benefit from a Henry Ford type of automation,” he suggested. “HTML5’s deep interface into tablets also means they can have orientation and acceleration and sense gravity – who would have thought that a browser could respond to these things?”
Browser-based PoS revolution
“For a shop assistant focused on customer service and generating sales, this is revolutionary,” he said. “It means they can have information for a customer query at their fingertips. They can change the angle of the PoS, its orientation and what is on it in microseconds, based on what is being asked of them.
“For the retailer, it means workers need minimal training, and can upsell and cross sell more effectively, spending more time engaging with customers. The physical mobility of the browser-based tablet and the near ubiquity of 3G networks mean pop-up shops and restaurants can start at the drop of a pay-as-you-go 3G SIM card with a tablet – no more long waits for a phone line/ADSL to be installed. 3G is good enough for running HTML-based PoS systems – combining a landline and 3G means redundancy is now within the reach of all businesses, not just the few top tier. Cloud-based systems and SaaS also offer scalability to cover peaks (and troughs).”
Broome concluded: “The web browser and HTML5, plus portable touch technologies in tablets and phones, means that PoS system manufacturers have an increasingly challenging but fascinating job on their hands. Customers want a more personalised shopping experience – and workers want intuitive systems that help them to deliver that experience and generate customer loyalty and sales. Technologists in the retail industry need to understand that there are now common ways to work, and that more people want to work this way. Raising the bar will be good for everyone.”