I spent more time at the mall over the past couple of weeks than the other 5o weeks of the year combined. Long lines were the norm and I kept on thinking about how archaic the cash register is. Some retailers have dozens of employees running around, but only a handful are empowered to actually take payments. Shoppers sometimes need to talk to two or three employees to complete a purchase and the whole experience is both frustrating and inefficient.
Apple does its best to keep shoppers from standing in line and largely succeeds thanks to a solution that’s built around the iPod Touch. We recently pointed to a rumor about Apple getting into the mobile Point of Sale (mPOS) solution business. Apparently, Apple’s not the only one to take its registers mobile. I chatted with Sandeep Bhanote, CEO of Global Bay, a company that helps companies implement enterprise grade mPOS systems.
Here’s a transcript of our conversation. I’m hoping that Global Bay (and its competitors) succeed in transforming the retail checkout landscape to make future shopping seasons a little less miserable.
We recently heard that Apple is selling a mobile point of sale solution. Is Apple really going after big-name retailers with a mobile POS (mPOS)solution?
The mobile POS we saw a photo of at the big-name retailer looks exactly like the iPod Touch POS that I’ve used a few dozen times at Apple retail stores. And there’s a device that looks exactly the same on your site. Who’s behind the hardware and why is everyone using the same solution?
Sandeep Bhanote: From our conversations with Apple and their various teams we are engaged with, it is clear they are not selling their own version of mPOS and have no interest in doing so — for this app or any other. They are focused on their amazing hardware and working with third party companies to leverage the Apple IOS. The hardware that is deployed in the Apple store is the iPod Touch with the Linea Pro from Infinite Peripherals — which is noted widely in the press. Most retailers deploying in-store solutions are using this soultion because it’s the best in the market today — though clearly, we expect others to emerge.
GBM: What are the key advantages of mobile POS solutions? What are some of the benefits your clients have seen? I’m guessing that retailers like selling more stuff and serving more customers. The customer experience of dealing with a single employee at a store and not having to wait in line is great. So if mobile POS is so good for both the consumer and retailer, why aren’t isn’t mPOS in every store?
SB: There are several key benefits and ROI that are both hard – such as ‘revenue increase’ and soft such as brand image. Imagine a busy store with long lines during peak hours. Should a retailer roll-out additional fixed registers (which take up valuable space and costly to maintain) or hand an associate an easy to use, cost-effective mobile device? The math is pretty simple – if you just can prevent just one loss a day in a store, say $40 for a mall-based retailer of 300 stores over a 360 day annual selling period — it adds up to quite a bit of revenue (over $4M) .
In addition, our mPOS customers can do product look up, inventory availability and many other features from anywhere on the store… so when a customer asks if they can get something in their size that they don’t see on the shelf — instead of going across the store to the fixed POS register (which may be in use) across the store, the Store Associate can use the handhelds to look up the requeste on the spot at the customer point of contact and provide assistance to the customer which may result in a ‘saved sale’ as well as really supporting customer satisfaction which really supports the brand.
There are many many values — and the ROI to support this is huge.
GBM: There are some solutions that just about anyone can get their hands on. There’s a guy that sells $5 doughnuts in San Francisco using an iPad and a Square, for example. We’ve also seen solutions from bigger companies like Verifone. What’s different about Global Bay and other enterprise-class mobile POS solutions?
SB: You are correct, there are lots of payment apps available for what we call Peer to Peer payments. This is good for the friends splitting dinner and saying – pay me via your mobile. Verifone does allow you to use a mobile device for more complex transactions -however, they force you to use their payment processing gateway — which is not what most retailers and businesses want. Retailers have a significant investment and run their businesses on large POS systems such as Oracle, SAP, Micros, IBM, Raymark or e-commerce engines such as Demandware, Sterling Commerce or ATG (among many others). These are large and complex systems that retailers run their business on that track sales, provides reporting, manages complex tax information, inventory and integrate to financial reporting systems (among many other functions).
Global Bay’s apprpoach is to extend these systems using our flexible mobile software and leverage their investment by integrating to them with a flexible solution. In addition, there are a myriad of other concerns including credit card compliance standards (PCI) that retailer’s must adhere to — and Global Bay takes that concern out of the equation.
Retailer’s also choose us because we have a long history of mobile and understand the nuances, complexities and offer a solution that will support them today or the devices they have and “future proof” them to support newer mobile
GBM: The iPod Touch is a pretty approachable device, but it’s not the only show in town. What other devices are your clients using or looking to use in their stores?
SB: A few things — retailers are looking to find ways to upsell, cross-sell and generate new sales. Mobile allows retailers not only to do that in the ‘four walls’ but allows for extending their selling radius . Increasingly we are seeing more pop-up stores and selling in new contexts. Mobile POS alllows retailers to setup POS quicker, more cost-efficiently and creates new selling opportunities for retailers. Devices that offer support for iPhones now exist that allow for selling in new locations.
We do belive that retailers will be asking for other devices — already we are deployed on Motorola Windows Mobile devices widely on mPOS which are used in retail worldwide, iPad POS is something we are actively working on with customers today too and and we are increasingly asked about Android. The barrier for Android is that we have not seen an all in one unit that supports the store associate in a sleek way that the Linea Pro does. It will likely emerge and our software platform today can support Android so its on the horizon and we weill be there. Basically, we will help retailers stay ahead of the curve on mobile and let them focus on what the do best- – making and selling products.
GBM: What’s the next step in using mobile devices in retail environments?
SB: Global Bay believes that the next step for mobile in retail is going to be continued penetrtaion of tools for associates to better work with customers — assisted selling and access to customer data such as preferences etc. With the proliferation of devices in stores, its only a matter of time that the data retailers have on us will be at the fingertips of the sales associate. Also retailers will be able to track customers better across e-commerce (web) mobile and in-store activities — right now those are silo-ed data areas. Mobile provides the ability to give access to data from multiple systems.
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