How removing the cash wrap will transform bricks-and-mortar retail

If you have been in an Apple Store recently, or shop at JC Penney or Urban Outfitters, you will have probably noticed that the experience was slightly different to those at other retail outlets. While in other stores you will have needed to queue up to pay at a cash register sitting on top of a counter, in these stores a member of staff was able to take the payment by using a handheld device. This may have happened to you in smaller, independent stores, too - coffee shops for example. Though the process can vary, the one thing these alternative checkout methods have in common is that there’s no cash register, no standing in line, and the overall experience is much slicker for customer and retailer. 

The rising proportion of payments made digitally rather than with cash means it is becoming more common for retailers to abandon the cash register. But, it’s about more than simply taking a tablet and a mobile payment peripheral, though. What is required are mobile, smart point of sale devices that empower staff to have a host of information at their fingertips - product details, stock levels, offers and the like - as well as taking payments no matter where they are in the store. 

Even better than that - such devices can enable the staff member to easily access information about complementary products, putting them in a position to make an additional sale. This could be an accessory in a clothing store, or a peripheral device or consumables in an electronics store, for instance. It won’t be long before mobile, smart point of sale devices that offer a variety of additional features beyond simply taking payments will be available at scale to retailers. 

While retailers that still deal with a large number of cash purchases will not be able to abandon the cash register just yet, there are plenty of retailers that are in a position to do just this. And by removing the cash register there’s not just a load of space that has been freed up on the shop floor... The advantages of not having to deal with cash anymore include a reduction in the risk of staff hands in the till or insider theft, lower overall costs from the time saved by not having to cash up and process all physical money taken at the end of each day and overall staff safety by not having the risk of readily available cash should the store become a target of outside burglary. 

Using the extra space

So what can retailers do with all this extra space? Well, the logical thing would be to reconfigure the layout so there is more on display, increasing return on investment. Analysts at Forrester have pinpointed changes in the use of retail space as being one of the key trends in retail in 2017. Retailers such as Urban Outfitters have talked about completely redesigning their layouts, changing the flow of customers around the store, depending on specific custom to that store.     

More important than what to do with the space, though, is what retailers do with their staff. While reassigning duties is necessary as there will be no dedicated cashiers any more, it will enable the staff to perform more involved and challenging duties. Free to roam the shop floor, they can engage in more customer interactions, developing stronger bonds and boosting their potential to make a sale. The information about complementary products they can access on their smart point of sale devices will empower them to give customers a much better overall experience. 

Having more staff on the shop floor will also enable them to see better what exactly is going on everywhere in the store. This means that the threat of theft is reduced with less need for dedicated security guards. Indeed, the staff will also be required to carry out other security and support functions too, ensuring that the smart point of sale devices are used correctly. As a result, these devices will be at least as secure, if not more so, than existing contactless and chip-and-PIN POS systems. Optical shields will prevent shoulder-surfing when a customer enters their PIN, various authentication methods will be supported while end-to-end encryption keeps the data safe. 

Of course, the payments will continue to be processed in the same way with the help of an acquiring bank. However, there is also an opportunity for the acquirer to take advantage of this new technology as well, by offering additional value-added services to customers before, during and after the products are bought. Instalment credit for high-value items can be activated when the sale is made, or an insurance policy for the item that has been sold can be easily added on. 

And the potential to enhance the customer experience doesn’t end there. With the customer’s permission, the smart POS device could make intelligent recommendations and offers based on previous purchasing data - for example, if a customer is buying the same item on a regular basis, then the system could automatically create a loyalty-boosting discount on additional purchases. Indeed, the benefits of using mobile point of sale systems will go a long way toward educating customers as to the value of cashless payments, driving the advancement of the cashless society. 

For retailers to continue to thrive they need to offer the best possible experience to customers, ensuring both high store traffic and high conversion rates. Technology will be at the heart of this, enabling staff to fulfil more advanced functions, while store furniture previously thought to be essential can be done away with altogether. Happier customers and greater revenues will result, so everyone wins. 

Daniel Maurice-Vallerey and Mike Ausems, co-CEO and co-founder, Yello
Image source: Shutterstock/Maxx-Studio