Eight design rules for point-of-sale (POS) technology in the omnichannel era

In today’s highly competitive retail market, the technology used to transact with customers across all channels has never been more crucial.

Although price, quality, and range are important, research into customer experiences in retail has consistently shown that shoppers place high value on the in-store experience, loyalty, and levels of service – with each given equal importance.

Significant improvements in these areas will only be achieved if retailers acknowledge the central role that their point-of-sale (POS) systems must now play. Here are eight rules about omnichannel POS technology, which if followed, will transform a retailer’s operations and provide shoppers with the experience they expect.

1. Consistency is the goal

Transparency and uniformity in prices and offers are critical to winning customer loyalty, so a POS engine needs to ensure consistency. Shoppers should have exactly the same basket total no matter how they shop, with no discrepancies when a wish list or a basket is started online and completed in-store for example.

To achieve all this, the same POS transaction engine must operate behind all of the retailer’s channels; from the website, mobile app, mobile-assisted service devices, kiosks, self-checkout machines and fixed devices on store counters.

2. Customers must be able to scan and pay using any touch-point

The use of tablets and Android devices is turning POS into a mobile ‘Point of Service’, used by staff to upsell and to give customers higher levels of in-store service.

From the customer’s perspective, for reasons of convenience and speed, they are increasingly happy to scan and pay themselves when making simple purchases and often expect retailers to have these channels in place.

Coop retail stores in Denmark recently launched their own mobile scanning and payment system, powered by Omnico, that allows customers to use their smartphones to scan and pay for goods in stores. By doing so, the retailer was able to both simplify and speed up the payment process.

3. Support the journey

It is critical that the basket always follows the shopper no matter which channel they use or switch to, either online or in-person.

It also means that the POS needs to understand where the stock is and how it can reach the shopper at the location of their choice – a single view of stock across the retail organisation.

POS needs to support intelligent fulfilment, enabling processes such as click and collect, ship from store, ship to store, reserve and try, and many more, to ensure the customer gets what they want, when they want it.

4. Ensure resilience

As has been previously said, rule one requires a POS engine to be behind every touch-point, and therefore operating it in the cloud is the obvious solution. But it is not as simple as having a version of the website running on terminals in-store because network failure would mean the store could not trade. Stores remain king in the shopping experience and must have the resilience in place to always allow shoppers to make their purchases.

It is imperative that the POS solution can switch to operate stand-alone in a store environment when networks fail. Today’s technology enables POS systems to build in automatic switchover to locally powered devices, and then recover back to the cloud when network connectivity resumes.

5. Know your customer

Providing a personalised experience with relevant and timely information and promotional offers is critical to success with customers.

An omnichannel POS needs to display the same recommendations in-store as used to tempt customers online or via email, and importantly, ensure the offers they receive are consistent and redeemable regardless of the shopping channel.

6. Many ways to pay

Quick and reliable payment is vital as time is short these days, yet shoppers prefer different payment methods and new solutions are constantly emerging. A POS provider must have an open approach to integration, so they can swiftly adopt new payment technologies and link into specialist providers.

Coop Denmark, for example, launched three new innovative payment technologies in quick succession to accommodate shopper preferences and give them payment choice. A mobile payment app enabled loyal Coop Bank customers to pay quickly, but also supported new payment technologies from SWIPP and Mobile Pay within the same app.

7. The solution must have in-built scalability

Fluctuating demand is always a resource headache for the CIO. The solution is to deploy POS in the cloud, allowing a retailer to scale up and down their computer resources and processing power based on the number of customer transactions.

It means the retailer can cope with heavier trading periods such as school holidays, Christmas and so on, and scale back the technology requirement during quieter times.

Utilising resources in this manner enables a CIO to optimise the cost of ownership.

8. Crossing borders

As tax regimes, payment requirements and languages differ across countries, a modern omnichannel POS needs to be able to support these legal requirements effectively.

Plug-in technology now makes this a simple operation, with the added advantage that transactions can be followed across borders. Business travellers, for example, will increasingly want to shop at an airport and pick up their purchases later at a hotel or at home in a different country. The same is true in destinations such as theme parks and resorts, where guests will often want to purchase gifts or souvenirs, though will not want them taking up space in their luggage.

In summary, if retailers follow these eight rules about POS they can drive the improvements that are fundamental to success in omnichannel retail and gain the ability to quickly and seamlessly adapt to any future changes in technology or consumer behaviour. The alternative is to be left behind with a creaking set of systems that simply cannot cope.

Steve Thomas, CTO at Omnico Group