Future Retail View: Activating Omni POS in stores
Retail Technology speaks to Craig Summers, Manhattan Associates’ UK and Ireland managing director, to find out how point of sale can offer an omnichannel customer experience in physical stores
As shoppers continue to return to stores, retailers are looking to optimise for the ‘new normal’ in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. But consumers will ask: “Why do I need to queue to buy something?”
That’s according to Craig Summers, UK and Ireland managing director of supply chain and omnichannel commerce technology provider, Manhattan Associates: “The pandemic has driven adoption of scan and go apps, QR codes and ecommerce. So much so that more customers know what’s possible instore.”
He added: “They know about endless aisles where, if something’s not available in the store, they can have it ordered online. There’s also click and collect. So, I wonder why so many store-based retailers give customers no other options than queuing to checkout.”
Creating exceptional shopping experiences
Seeing these capabilities now as less of a competitive differentiator and more as basic hygiene in the physical store environment, Summers contests that fixed point-of-sale (POS) systems are only part of the checkout solution (alongside self-service and mobile options) in a modern instore omnichannel customer experience.
Even discount grocer, Aldi, followed the likes of Amazon, Tesco and Sainsbury’s by opening a number of its checkout-free stores in the UK recently, leaving retailers across sectors exposed to consumers’ growing realisation that there are better, faster and more seamless ways to pay in-store.
As a result, Summers said Manhattan Associates is working with retailers, such as Lamps Plus, to provide modern POS software that can meet such fundamental, omnichannel customer expectations by linking the online experience with their physical sales estates.
“We’ve had our Manhattan Active Omni POS solution for a couple of years,” he explained. “But the pandemic has made it more disruptive, as retailers look to unify the commerce experience across stores and online, and remove the friction of queuing in store.”
Where traditional POS is hardware-based and lacks live inventory data, Summers added: “The key difference with Manhattan Active Omni is that we can integrate inventory data, and our POS software is hardware agnostic, so the till point needn’t ever be fixed.”
When the POS system is interoperable, he said it can provide a flexible single system of record for managing omnichannel customer interactions and transactions in a physical store.
Nurturing retail's best brand advocates
For example, Lamps Plus uses Manhattan’s point of sale, order management, store inventory and fulfilment, warehouse management, labour management and slotting systems.
This enables the lighting retailer’s store associates to offer a seamless buying experience, from the moment a customer decides they want to purchase an item to the moment it is picked up or shipped.
The system can also facilitate the introduction of instore queue-busting, clienteling and support, as well as endless aisle ordering and customer loyalty scheme integration.
As a cloud native application, Summers added that Manhattan POS is always current and continuously adaptive, offering a single, intuitive user interface across any combination of Windows, iOS and Android devices in the store.
Some Active Omni POS features he said can also help store associates become a retailer’s best salespeople and best brand advocates include upselling on an original order during order pickup (even with multiple payment types), unified promotions and global inventory visibility.
Without such integration, store associates often have to learn multiple systems, each with a different interface for instore checkout, clienteling, inventory and fulfilment.
Enabling unified commerce instore
“The principle we adhere to is that, if it’s in stock, you should be able to sell it, wherever it is,” Summers added.
But the ability to manage orders initiated, completed, returned or exchanged from any channel also allows retailers to fulfil 'click & collect' orders from store stock only. This can prevent disappointing store customers at the expense of orders that originate online.
The provider has also included simple appointments, virtual fitting rooms and personalised lookbook management in its POS software. So, more engaged and empowered store associates can even use the POS to share curated lookbooks via text or email.
Summers also highlighted additional features that can enable more personalised customer interactions through access to purchase history, notes and wishlists, alongside promotions management, modification and dynamic alerting.
“Our API [application programming interface] first architecture easily integrates and synchronises with existing solutions, and we’ve also built in offline mode resiliency, for when network availability is compromised,” he added.
Summer concluded: “It’s only with such adaptive and intuitive systems that retailers can truly digitally transform their stores and meet today’s omnichannel customer expectations of a fast, flexible and seamless unified commerce experience.”
[NB: This interview was conducted as part of a Manhattan Associates advertising campaign.]