The wireless industry is competitive, but not impenetrable.
When it comes to growth opportunity, wireless is where it’s at. And entering the world of cellphone retail is a bold move that will make you formidable.
But with so many players on the field, getting in the game can feel daunting. That’s where we come in.
With the right strategy and roadmap, you’ll find the road to wireless is paved with opportunity. In this guide, we’ll cover the tech you need to be successful, the impacts of 5G, and the best practices around store design and customer experience.
- Why Cellphone Retail is an Opportunity for Revenue
- Your In-House POS Won’t Suffice for Your New Cellphone Store
- Here’s Why You Need (and How to Choose) an Intelligent Retail Solution Designed for Wireless
- From Legacy POS to Intelligent Management: Set the Stage and Get Buy-In for Your Solution
- 8 Questions to Ask When Assessing A New Retail Management Solution
- Fraud Prevention: Protect Your New Wireless Store
- Going Mobile: The Future of Retail
- The Future is 5G
- Going Wireless: Retail Experience & Store Design
We’ve been here before. Cable operators have been eyeing up opportunities to jump into the wireless game.
But is something different this time?
For the last 20 years, the cable industry has been fueled by three revenue streams: cable television, landline phones and high-speed broadband. But emerging technologies have meant fewer households require a landline, with millions shifting from cable TV to streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney+, or AppleTV. Not to mention the coming of 5G technologies, which some say will enable wireless broadband inside homes that sidelines cable companies.
Previous forays into wireless by cable operators have been hit or miss, with speculations that attempts have been mostly for retention tools for broadband and video offerings.
However, with this go-around, we’re already seeing cable operators making successful moves into the wireless market, with big players pitching monthly mobile plans. And, interestingly, they aren’t just doing so to offset slowing traditional cable revenue – operators have found the right offerings that have turned their services from a retention tool to one that turns a major profit.
The verdict? Cable is coming on strong, with growth accelerating faster than predicted. And if you’re considering entering the wireless market and needed a little nudge, consider this your proof: Cable operators stand to gain substantial ground, and revenue, by becoming a fully fledged wireless operator.
With the right strategy and roadmap, you’ll find the road to wireless is paved with opportunity. In this eBook, we’ll cover the opportunity in wireless, the tech needed to be successful, the impacts of 5G, and the best practices around store design and customer experience.
Why Cellphone Retail is an Opportunity for Revenue
Entering the world of cellphone retail is a bold move but doing so will create a formidable and powerful network for cable, wireline, and multi-service operators.
Service offerings have moved beyond a retention tool to one that turns a profit. And perhaps the biggest advantage up their sleeves is that they are posed to disrupt legacy networks with speed, flexibility, and connectivity of their network.
In the last five years, wireline carriers have lost seven points of market share in broadband access, mainly to cable operators. In fact, just two years after launching their respective wireless ventures, Comcast and Charter, cable legends, are seeing a major uptick in profit.
Comcast, first to launch its wireless service, Xfinity Mobile in 2017, grew mobile revenue by 31.2% to $1.167 billion in 2019.
Charter Communications crossed 1 million subscribers to its Spectrum mobile venture in 2019.
DISH, the Denver-based satellite video provider, began 2020 as the fourth major nationwide facilities-based wireless operator, with a commitment to deploy a 5G broadband network that will be capable of serving 70% of the U.S. population by 2023.
The signs are there. The market share gain is accelerating, and the competitive dynamics are shifting. If you were ever thinking about entering the cellphone retail space, now is the time to do so. Just be sure you have the right solution in place. You need something that is more than just a POS – you need an all-in-one retail management solution, one that can handle the complexities of wireless retail.
Your In-House POS Won’t Suffice for Your New Cellphone Store
A POS won’t suffice for your new wireless stores — you need a full-scale retail management solution.
If retail is complicated, wireless retail is on a whole other level.
The point-of-sale (POS) system has long been the beating heart of a retail store, the system of record on which everything else depends. And while most POS systems focus primarily on transactions, wireless stores, especially when you’re managing hundreds of them, needs a complete store management system, one that drives revenue with powerful front- and back-end capabilities. An advanced, next-gen solution leverages the latest advancements in analytics, reporting, inventory management, HR, mobile and e-commerce to support the complex needs of wireless retailers before, during, and after the sale.
So, it’s understandable when retailers hesitate to replace this trusted, well-understood workhorse with something new.
Today’s solutions must help retailers recognize and reward customers. They must accept mobile wallets and comply with strict payment requirements. They must move to where the customers are, whether shoppers are browsing the aisles or visiting a sidewalk event. And they must support omnichannel activities like click and collect or online returns with real-time access to sales and inventory.
Legacy POS applications were never written to do all that, and adding those capabilities is either costly or, more commonly, not possible. Cloud-based POS software’s ability to handle this and more, and at a lower cost, is why the entire industry is shifting to cloud.
According to IHL Group’s webinar Why Updated POS is Critical to Unified Commerce Success, 40% of Tier 2 and Tier 3 retailers’ store systems software spend is on cloud, even more than Tier 1. In fact, IHL found that retail “leaders” — those growing faster than 5% — are:
Consumers have a lot of choices for where they purchase and get support for their mobile devices, and if you’re entering the cellphone market for the first time, it’s critical that your wireless business makes the process easy and seamless at every step.
Here’s Why You Need (and How to Choose) an Intelligent Retail Solution Designed for Wireless
When it comes to wireless retail, your cellphone stores need far more than a basic POS: it needs a tightly integrated store system that positions you to deliver the satisfying end-to-end customer experience consumers are expecting, such as handling inventory, rate plans and pricing, reconciling commissions, and the complexity of sales associate commissions, all while ensuring a consistent brand experience across your stores.
If you’re operating on a legacy POS system, you can’t provide the kinds of complexities that wireless retail customers expect of you: the feature set of a legacy POS system is locked in the day it’s licensed. Upgrades are costly and sometimes painful to implement, so it’s common for retailers to avoid these updates, making their POS unable to evolve with the needs of the market.
As a result, legacy POS systems tend to face these serious gaps in capability:
- No endless-aisle function, so retailers can’t offer inventory beyond what’s in the store and have it dropshipped from vendors;
- Unable to handle BOPIS/ROPIS and its upsell, order size, and traffic-driving benefits;
- Static and limited reporting, with no remote reporting access or a requirement to pay extra for it;
- No real-time inventory, preventing the retailer from promising stock availability and making it hard to fulfil from across the network;
- No email receipts;
- Inconsistency in online and in-store experiences, including price discrepancies;
- No online returns to store; and
- No 360-degree view of the customer, making it difficult to build loyalty by leveraging customer data to personalize the shopping experience, upsell, integrate marketing offers and more. Many legacy POS systems are incompatible with third-party loyalty software.
It’s clear that those whom to adopt an efficient retail management solution are gaining at an economic advantage. To meet the demands of their customers, the winners in 2020 and beyond need to accelerate the transformation from a legacy POS system to a fully integrated retail management solution.
From Legacy POS to Intelligent Management: Set the Stage and Get Buy-In for Your Solution
Experts, like Forrester, suggest that you start the process of transforming your store with foundational technology that drives operational excellence before adding on the flashy, customer-facing solutions like smart-mirrors, chatbots, and VR. Not only do these robust solutions provide real support in the areas where your business may be needing help, they also provide a much easier path to proving ROI.
Investing in new in-store technology can be a complete game-changer. But you need set the stage with the right information to truly get buy-in.
Before you begin surveying the market for the right solution, it’s important to set the stage within your own organization. Here are five steps to help drive the conversation.
1. Commit to the update:
It’s important that the entire organization be open and enthusiastic about a new system, and that comes from the top. Legacy systems are comfortable and familiar, but they cannot support today’s more complex needs and drive growth. Be sure to secure buy-in and advocacy from key company stakeholders. According to the Project Management Institute, more than 90% of respondents in an IBM survey cited executive sponsorship as the dealbreaker in the successful implementation of change.
2. Look for a partner ecosystem:
Wireless retailer business models are multifaceted, offering a complex stack of services such as activation, managing trade-ins and arranging warranty service. This requires seamless integration with many partners. Look for a provider that offers a complete ecosystem of service providers that address all areas of a cellphone activation before, during, and after the sale.
3. Have the cloud vs. host locally debate:
Wireless retailers must move at the speed of their customers. Choosing web-based systems instead of on-premises POS enables you to access realtime data for full visibility into your business at every location, at any time. Access to real-time inventory can be the reason a customer chooses your store over someone else’s.
Cloud is an effective path to seamlessly connect all e-commerce, mobile commerce, and instore POS transactions to order management, inventory, marketing, financials, and customer service, according to BRP Consulting’s Future Store Manifesto, 2016. “The speed and agility of the cloud enable retailers to support dynamic and complex needs of transactions and realtime customer engagement.
4. Secure expert insights:
A wireless store operates differently from other retailers. Having access to experts with direct experience in the wireless industry ensures you access to the best practices needed to eliminate pain points and customize the solution to your specific needs.
5. Ensure tight integration:
Dual entry and swivel-chair management of separate systems for separate functions waste time and introduce errors. A wireless store’s POS solution should include both pre-written integrations and APIs for seamless links with accounting and other internal solutions.
8 Questions to Ask When Assessing A New Retail Management Solution
Now that you’ve set the stage, it’s time to start looking at what solutions can help you reach your goals as you move further into the wireless market. Here are some of the most important criteria that you should be thinking of to select the right system:
1. How will the solution help improve our inventory management processes?
Wireless devices have some of the shortest product lifecycles around, with new models sometimes being replaced in just a few months. That makes the complex task of correctly positioning inventory to meet demand even more difficult.
Because of this, you need a solution capable of tracking inventory in real time and accurately forecasting demand based on sales trends. An advanced system will continually monitor sales activity and produce reports such as min/max pricing levels and recommendations for store-to-store transfers, so you can closely match inventory and pricing to shifts in demand. Suggested ordering based on sales trends for similar models enables you to create the right inventory levels for new products.
This visibility allows you to reduce overages and shortages, increase profitability and maximize return on investment by positioning existing inventory where it will move, rather than placing additional vendor orders.
2. What types of reporting/analytics does the solution offer?
A wireless retailer’s business constantly evolves. As the key component of the retail ecosystem, your retail management solution should be able to deliver relevant data to help you improve processes, merchandising, store operations and efficiency. Look for solutions that collect data in real time and apply advanced analytics to create a complete snapshot of the state of the business at any time, using critical tools including business intelligence.
To do its best work, the system should be customized to your specific needs and processes. That requires a well-structured tool that enables you to construct your own custom dashboards and visualize data in many ways (such as a chart, a map or a grid) — then easily make changes as the business evolves. Web-enabled dashboards that automatically adapt to fit the user’s device are essential to enable your staff to access key data from anywhere, even on the go. Strong reporting capabilities deliver insights in a way that fuels fast, informed decision-making to keep your business moving forward.
3. How does the platform integrate with solutions partners?
To a customer, a visit to a wireless store feels like one transaction: trading in a phone, getting educated on the options, purchasing a new handset, establishing wireless service, buying warranty, and so on. But to a wireless retailer, that “one” transaction actually is many separate steps that require carefully orchestrating a broad array of products and services, often from multiple vendors.
Consumers aren’t the only ones that need to be shielded from the complexity of wireless retail transactions. Associates, too, do their best work when they are freed from having to ensure compliance of each vendor partner’s specific requirements. Switching back and forth between different vendors’ applications and doubleentering customer data damages productivity, introduces errors and detracts from the customer experience. It is critical that your new system enables associates and customers to move seamlessly through the many steps that constitute their end-to-end experience with your business. This requires two key ingredients:
1. a flexible, well-designed user interface; and
2. an ecosystem of closely integrated partners.
A POS developer’s ecosystem should include most, if not all, of the 20 to 30 vendors that play a role in the customer’s wireless store experience. Key categories include:
- Carrier integration
- Bill pay
- Loyalty and marketing
4. Does the solution provide real-time access for our employee’s commission data?
Commissions are highly motivating for sales associates in a wireless store. When you can complete a sale, guide your happy customer to the door and then check the commission you just earned in real time, it’s a great motivator to win the next sale, and the one after that. But every wireless retailer design commission structures differently, even down to the individual store level. So, the solution must be flexible enough to allow custom configuration to each store’s unique processes while still delivering commission reporting clearly and in real time.
5. Are the POS setup and user experience customizable to my unique business?
Commission structures are just the beginning. The wireless retail industry employs a wide range of business models, such as single versus corporate stores and franchise versus carrier-owned. Some represent many carriers and others just one. That means there are lots of ways to run a wireless business, even from store to store under the same parent company. Often, wireless retailers assume that they will need to bend to the design of the POS rather than having the POS bend to them. This is especially the case when they attempt to use POS systems designed for general retail.
Look for a system backed by experienced, skilled implementation and support teams. The implementation team will carefully assess business needs and then build out a customized database and user experience that will facilitate ideal in-store brand experiences that drive growth. Then, the support team keeps your system evolving to support your growing business.
6. How will the solution help store employees better engage with shoppers?
Today’s customers are highly informed, with many amassing deep knowledge of current mobile technology offerings before they ever engage with a retailer. According to the UPS report, 2016 Pulse of the Online Shopper, approximately two-thirds of shoppers have used a smartphone to look up product reviews, read product details and search for products or retailers. That means wireless retailers must meet them with robust selling tools that add value to their shopping experience.
It starts with a strong e-commerce site and powerful marketing tools that make sure your business rises to the top of search results. The results should make it clear that you understand exactly what customers’ needs are, that their desired product is in stock and the transaction will be smooth and easy. The online tools must be matched by effective in-store selling tools including dynamic interactive displays, kiosks, and endless aisle and drop ship, to help bridge the online-to-store shopping experience and allow customers to expand their understanding of product and service options.
Also key are tools that empower store associates to build long-term customer relationships. New product training enables employees to be customer-facing brand experts. Suggested selling tools recommend compatible items to offer based on previous purchases, promotions, and inventory levels. Automated CRM alerts that remind a sales associate to make a one-week follow-up call or an annual upgrade help drive revenue and long-term customer relationships. The PwC 2017 Total Retail Survey found that 78% of consumers place high importance on sales associates with deep knowledge of the product range.
7. Does the solution include mobile capabilities?
The retail world is going mobile. Within three years, 89% of retailers plan to offer mobile solutions to their store associates and 84% plan to have a mobile POS solution, according to the 2017 BRP Special Report: The Mobile World of Retail. Technology is front and center in a wireless retail store, so customers expect sales associates to be leveraging the latest technology to make their experience fast and frictionless.
Empowering associates with mobile tools to access customer information based on their previous purchases and/or preferences is important to engage the customer
BRP stated in its 2018 POS/Customer Engagement Survey.
“To effectively provide guided selling services, the sales associate needs up-to-date and readily available customer and product information.” A wireless store’s retail management system should include a thoughtful mobile user experience, one that allows associates to complete key steps in servicing customers and processing transactions on mobile devices, so they never need to leave the customer’s side. Key features include:
- Synchronization between mobile and desktop devices;
- Easy access to inventory and customer data; and
- The ability to create orders, capture signatures, and process payment.
That level of attention and seamless service helps differentiate your brand, creating the positive experiences that keep customers coming back — and referring others to your business. According to a 2017 loyalty report from Accenture, 57% of consumers spend more on brands or providers to which they are loyal.
8. Does the solution integrate with our accounting systems?
Retailers need access to true profit and loss statements in real-time to help the business run more efficiently. The ability to integrate with accounting and billing systems allows for a true picture of profit and loss, enabling decision-makers to respond quickly to emerging fiscal trends. Well-written APIs are an essential tool to allow full integration between POS and accounting and other important business applications.
Keep your business and customers
Safe Digital security continues to be a concern for businesses and consumers alike, but there are precautions you can implement to minimize the risk factors to keep customer data safe. The defence measures discussed here help you maintain your digital integrity, from being picky about what data you collect to creating smarter passwords.
The safer you can be the more customers will realize your business is one they can trust with their personal data.
Fraud Prevention: Protect Your New Wireless Store
It’s more important than ever, especially as you enter the wireless market, that fraud prevention is top of mind.
The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a global information security standard developed and enforced by the PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC), a global body founded by the five major card brands to protect payment card data from security threats. It applies to all organizations that store, process, and/or transmit cardholder data. PCI DSS covers both the technical components (e.g. how your terminal hardware is setup with your POS) and operational aspects (e.g. where and how receipts are stored) related to cardholder data.
In short, if you’re a merchant who accepts credit card payments, you need to comply with the PCI DSS.
PCI DSS is not only one of the longest payments related acronyms wireless retailers need to deal with; it’s also the one most associated with headaches for business owners and operations and finance managers, because of the complexity of maintaining compliance (and the repercussions of noncompliance).
Payment standards are constantly changing and traditional integrated payment systems are expensive and difficult to secure. Wireless retailers require robust systems that not only meet their PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) obligations, but also help to reduce risks and simplify operational and compliance costs.
Despite the importance of PCI DSS compliance, 80% of retailers fail their interim compliance assessments. As if this number wasn’t startling enough, the costs of noncompliance are outrageously high: failing to comply with PCI DSS can result in financial penalties anywhere from $5,000 to $500,000. This bottom-line breaking amount doesn’t even account for legal fees or the losses associated with damages to your brand reputation. A single violation of PCI DSS may threaten your relationships with customers, processing partners, credit card companies, and banks, and make other consumers and organizations wary of working with you in the future.
Maintaining compliance with PCI DSS is crucial to the success of any business, but there’s an added pressure in the wireless industry to prevent data breaches since consumers expect robust security standards from retailers specializing in high-tech products.
The iQmetrix End-to-End-Encryption solution eliminates access to cardholder data in the merchant environment which reduces scope for PCI compliance and opportunities for fraud. Our custom built end-to-end encryption helps to:
- Prevent security breaches by encrypting data at the point of contact on the payment terminal.
- Reduce your PCI scope by certifying our encryption with advanced security standards
How to make PCI DSS compliance less complicated
The easiest way to simplify PCI compliance is to minimize the points where your network touches payment card data with a scope reduction solution. iQmetrix Payments is proud to announce its revamped scope reduction package — the Shield Protection Package through Payment Connect, available for all wireless merchants in March 2018. Shrinking your cardholder data environment minimizes the expenses and efforts required to comply with PCI DSS.
Once your PCI scope is reduced, there’s very little effort required to maintain compliance. Best of all, reducing your PCI scope means that the most time-consuming technical requirements get delegated to your processing partner, since the most sensitive cardholder data goes through their network and never touches yours. This means you can shrink your SAQ from 70 questions to just 1.
By reducing your PCI scope and leaving the technical requirements to payments security experts, you can ensure your business is compliant with all security standards, protect your customers’ sensitive payment data, and reduce your operating costs. That’s a win-win in our books.
How to earn digital integrity
Conversely, when people associate an organization with digital integrity, their devotion to that brand increases. In the Consumer Thermometer survey,
You likely already have a fraud prevention strategy in place, consider the following best practices to be a checklist of things you need to improve your digital integrity, allowing you to protect your business and keep customer data safe.
Collect data only when necessary
While some businesses prompt customers to divulge an excess of information when making a purchase, you have to remember: you have to store all the data you’re collecting.
The FTC explains that the first step in protecting this data is figuring out how it flows in and through your business: “You can’t keep information secure unless you have a clear picture of what you have and where you have it. One preliminary step is knowing how sensitive data enters your company, moves through it, and exits. Once you have a handle on its journey through your system, it’s easier to keep your guard up at every stop along the way.”
The same FTC Stick With Security series explains that you can mitigate the challenges of managing customer data by re-thinking what information you truly need to collect. They share the example of a recipe website that wants to collect information on a registration page. To determine which data to collect, they narrow down by business needs. The FTC continues:
The company considers asking for the user’s date of birth to tailor the site to recipes that might appeal to people of that demographic, but then decides to let consumers pick age ranges instead. By thinking through its need for the information and collecting a less sensitive kind of data, the company has made a more secure choice that will still allow it to tailor the user experience.
Keep all sensitive files encrypted
Once you’ve collected the data points your business needs, the next course of action is to keep them secure and protected on the backend. Customers are entrusting you with personal information, in many cases, their credit card information. The most efficient method of doing this is through data encryption.
Digital Guardian explains how this works: “Data, or plaintext, is encrypted with an encryption algorithm and an encryption key. The process results in ciphertext, which only can be viewed in its original form if it is decrypted with the correct key.”
Encryption is necessary if you want to maintain your digital integrity and can be implemented by installing encryption software. This program should be able to integrate with mobile or cloud-based storage applications like DropBox, Google Drive or Mega. Some reputable encryption softwares include BitLocker for Microsoft users, FileVault for Apple users and VeraCrypt for both interfaces.
Make sure your website is verified
Even just browsing the Internet can pose a security threat for consumers, as they dodge popup windows and ads that are malicious. You want customers to know that your site is safe and one way to do that is to get verified and then add the corresponding badges to your site — in the footer and on the check-out page.
The online seller resource, 5 Secrets to Selling Products Online, suggests,
Show that your site is secure and verified by trusted third parties like Symantec or McAfee. If you are planning to handle credit card information, your website or blog needs to be on a secure server and PCI compliant.
This change adds to your digital integrity, which can lead to more sales and revenue down the road. In fact,
In other words, the noticeable display of a verified Trustmark can boost engagement and promote sales exponentially
Choose strong, obscure passwords
The login credentials used by you and your staff can mean the difference between an impenetrable network and a hacker’s “playground.” For this reason, it’s critical that you use robust passwords that are unpredictable. While you’ve likely been told this dozens of times, a recent leak found that 86% of passwords were the same as those found in other leaks — meaning people are still using the passwords they shouldn’t, like “123456” or “password1.”
When choosing passwords, think length over “alphanumeric gibberish,” advises Mark Burnett, author of Perfect Passwords, but don’t be too simplistic. Keep the password obscure and long, like a sentence.
Use 2FA whenever possible
An important way to protect your business, and therefore your customer data, is to use 2FA, which stands for TwoFactor Authentication. This technology requires two passcodes to log in.
The first is usually a password and the second requires you to retrieve a second code. Paul Makowski, CTO for a cybersecurity company, PolySwarm, suggests that the best 2FA options are as follows, in order from most to least secure:
- Hardware dongle, see: Advanced Protection from Google
- An app on your phone that doesn’t sync anywhere else (e.g. Google Authenticator)
- An app on your phone that does sync (e.g. Authy)
- Email based SMS based
- Enable 2FA on every platform that you or employees log into, from email providers to e-commerce software. This option is available with most programs, all you have to do is click “enable” in your settings
Keep your business and customers
Safe Digital security continues to be a concern for businesses and consumers alike, but there are precautions you can implement to minimize the risk factors to keep customer data safe. The defence measures discussed here help you maintain your digital integrity, from being picky about what data you collect to creating smarter passwords. The safer you can be the more customers will realize your business is one they can trust with their personal data.
Going Mobile: The Future of Retail
Whatever solution you choose to move forward with, it needs to be able to cater to the demands of today’s consumers, a task that has proven to be tricky but it’s made easier with mobile technologies. So, in order to stay competitive, you need to be thinking about how a Mobile POS can play an integral part of your stores to meet customers’ expectations.
Consumers have unprecedented access to product and pricing information, speed and convenience, and access to discounts and special promotions. Consumers are using multiple touchpoints to engage with brands, and if you want to be successful in your move to cellphone retail, you need to be considering a retail management solution that offers mobile POS (mPOS) capabilities.
A static POS workstation can cause long wait-lines for your shoppers and removes the possibility of aroundthe-store browse-click-and-buy transactions. When retailers ignore the latest in mobile point-of-sale technology, they’re closing the door on next-level customer engagement and the future of wireless retail service.
A mobile-first approach is a customer-first approach. Here’s how mobile POS can help your store:
Empowering your sales associates
According to Forrester, it is estimated that 86% of all U.S retail sales are still being completed in a brick-andmortar store but customer expectations of these stores are changing rapidly. Forrester is estimating that 53% of all purchase decisions are becoming digitally influenced. Your hard-working employees are on the front lines of shopper satisfaction. Yet, even with their unmatched sales expertise, on a busy day, they’re at the mercy of static workstations, and can’t always process a transaction as instantly as they would like. This means which customers have to wait their turn to pay for their upgrade, new device, or the latest accessory.
A mPOS takes the transaction out from behind the desk so associates can meet with the customers wherever they are in-store. This ensures:
- Immediate recall of a customer’s profile
- Personalized service
- Lessened stress on employee
- Line-busting for a faster, more efficient transaction experience
Clients of RQmobile, iQmetrix’s mPOS solution, make an average of $10 more per transaction due to accessory sales.
By taking the transaction to the customer, you’ll complete sales faster, reduce walkouts, and increase revenue, especially on those impulse purchases.
Streamlining the back-of-house
Running the show from behind the curtain, a mobile point-of-sale enables back of house staff to move freely through the store and track inventory and better processes without having to be locked to a desktop. mPOS ensure these employees can keep transparent, efficient retail running smoothly under the hood. This means:
- Better managed inventory
- Quick reconciliation
- Easy access to customer data
Not only that, an mPOS decreases expenses and store setup costs up to 50% by switching from desktop setups to tablet devices. A mobile setup has the added benefit of requirement fewer payment terminals, as they can be easily shard across your mobile POS workstations as you need them.
Enhancing your customers’ in-store experience
Whether they’re shopping in-store, online, or on their mobile devices (i.e. omnichannel), consumers are looking to have these needs met. That’s no longer a “nice to have”. Mobile is the expectation.
Picture this: you’re a shopper who has been looking forward to an upgrade to their mobile device. The latest model of their chosen phone has just been released. Buzzing with anticipation, they enter your store.
But other shoppers have the same idea and the lineup at your desktop workstation is ridiculously long. Frustrated, your customers leave, and your sales associates (and bottom line) miss out.
With a mobile POS, you help improve your store experience by meeting customers on the sales floor and removing the physical barrier that a large workstation presents. Help answer inventory questions, process transactions, all without sending customers to another lineup and disrupting their path to purchase.
Mobile devices are trusted advisors. Customers can instantly access information about products, pricing, inventory and more – both about the store they’re standing in and about competitors’ offerings as well. When your store layout is centered around your customer instead of a workstation, you exceed those expectations and provide a better overall customer experience.
So, if today’s consumers expect this from today’s retailers, then retailers must leverage the same mobile technology (that has empowered consumers) to connect with consumers.
With the right technology in place, mobile is not only easy to integrate and implement, it helps drive operational excellence, giving retailers a solid foundation to work off of. With that foundational technology in place, retailers can use new tech capabilities of mobile to improve the digital customer experience — like taking the in-store experience to the customer.
The Future is 5G
Last, but not least, when moving into wireless, you need to be considering the future. And what is just around the corner for all retailers alike is the very near, and very real, digital transformation of 5G.
As the next generation in wireless technology, 5G promises to boost data speeds by up to 100 times, making them competitive with the fastest wired broadband networks. And in order for retailers to stay competitive, rather than selling products, they’ll need to deliver services and experiences.
5G promises to support this transformation at several layers — in addition to enhancing supply chain and back-office operations. Think of 4G and LTE as the dirt road and 5G as the freeway and in addition to faster speeds, lower latency, and increased connectivity, 5G will enable new possibilities — some of which aren’t even known to us yet.
With the future in our focus, it’s time to start thinking about how one more ‘G’ will affect wireless retail.
- Increased revenue potential
- Enhanced customer experience
- Improved operational efficiencies
1. Increased revenue potential
New devices mean new sales: Just as 2G phones couldn’t connect to 3G or 4G networks, 4G and LTE devices won’t be able to connect to 5G networks. This means an increase in sales all around; new devices to access the improved network and compatible accessories for those devices.
More profitable rate plans: Increased network benefits will allow carriers and wireless retailers to charge more for the rate plans or even add new rate plan options. 5G will be an expensive endeavor, so it will be important to recover those costs.
Different media and entertainment services: With the ability to stream or download media and entertainment at break-neck speeds, we will see more opportunities to offer services or content to customers. Current subscription services may become obsolete as new, more profitable services emerge.
New IoT opportunities: More products for customers will be hitting the market: more Internet of Things (IoT) accessories for people’s work, homes, or vehicles will emerge, and even products for autonomous cars will open up. Customers will be expecting more smart products such as drones, wearables, baby tech, medical sensors, etc. This increased technological expectation will provide retailers with much higher profit margins than a typical cell phone case or screen protector
2. Enhanced customer experience
5G will continue to force evolution of the technology retailers use to interact with customers. Everything from websites to mobile apps to in-store tech devices will arise. There will be a more personalized experience with items introduced on an even larger scale with solutions like digital signage, AI, VR, interactive apps in-store, and more. It’s possible that retailers will even end up delivering out-of-stock items through fulfillment solutions with connected drones.
Strengthening the customer connection:
Near-instant connections for customer service, whether it’s initiated by humans or AI, will require 5G-type speed. New opportunities for these types of connections will continue to evolve. Rather than text or calls, there may be a move to video chats where connectivity will be extremely important to be able to create a great customer experience. It also opens up opportunities to enhance the physical, in-store experience, as we’ll discuss in the Store Design section, below. And in the not-so-distant future, retailers may be supporting customers via holograms. It’s not a sci-fi movie, it’s the reality of what is possible for the future of retail.
Connect to customers in a different way:
5G will likely make Wi-Fi in stores obsolete as even now, it’s common that customers will disable Wi-Fi because it’s slower than their data plan. So, for retailers who use Wi-Fi to track or monitor customer data, decreased usage will impact data collection and, in turn, the ability to provide a personalized customer experience.
3. Improved operational efficiencies
Increased connectivity for businesses:
Retailers that rely on multiple devices and sensors to communicate and aggregate data will see performance enhancements. This will allow more devices to be connected and with lower latency. Surveillance video or tracking technologies will also be faster and better utilized for pattern recognition of shoppers. It’s a win-win!
More data aggregated in a more consumable way:
5G will mean sharing even more data to the cloud but with better and faster processes (and less data entry!). This takes out personal perspectives that can skew data. But AI will need to sit on top of the data to make it more digestible and curate the information as there will be too much of it to be meaningful without trusty machine learning to home in on the actionable insights.
Enabling even more AI:
Perhaps autonomous vehicles will deliver store shipments or deliver items to customers more quickly. But it’s likely that the more immediate implementation of this new technology will be the overlay of AI in-store to see sales data over areas in a specific store, in distribution warehouses, or manufacturing plants. This will gather how-to information and identify areas of improvement.
5G will be a part of the retail sphere faster than you’d think and it’s the perfect time to ready your business to take full advantage of all of its benefits.
However, despite all of this, retailers need to remember that a human connection will still be important and arguably the pivotal part of doing business in-store. Don’t lose sight of the 50-yard line between human interaction and technological enablement. Balancing the two will mean your in-store and online experience will be a head above the rest.
Going Wireless: Retail Experience & Store Design
The entire retail industry has already experienced a tectonic shift due to e-commerce, mobile apps and social networking. Brick-and-mortar retailers, cognizant of the increased competition from virtual retail, must undergo a similar transformation, but of a different nature. More and more customers come to stores, check out a product, and then place the order.
Unfortunately, the order is often placed via smartphone, with a different online retailer than the store the customer visited, at a lower price (see Amazon Price Check App). How can wireless retailers compete with that? What else can a retailer offer to a customer, that is different from a massive warehouse or an e-commerce site?
The answer is in redefining the purpose and philosophy of a store.
The days when the physical store was the sole transactional point-of-sale are behind us. Today, the focus is on customer experience: creating excitement and inspiration, invoking social engagement, offering a relaxing experience through the use of design elements in the space, and providing interactive tools, personal communication devices and friendly staff. These spaces not only build a loyal customer base, but loyal and motivated employees as well.
For most stores, moving from a transaction mind-set —“how do we sell more stuff?” —to a value-creation mind-set will require a complete overhaul.
Ron Johnson, J.C. Penney CEO and former senior VP of retail at Apple.
Here are four basic qualities of a successful public space. These relate to bigger public spaces, but retailers should learn from them since they relate to a basic human behavior.
1. More data aggregated in a more consumable way:
Retailers often say there are three rules for a good store: location, location, and location. That captures the quality and the importance of it. Indeed, location has always been crucial in the retail industry (it still is). But nowadays, retailers must ask themselves: Does the place act as a physical extension of our virtual presence (i.e. a web site, mobile app, social media), where a user can continue down to a great in-person experience? In essence, the virtual location can drive traffic to the physical one. Maybe a customer was intrigued by the experience in the place and now is at a point where he/she is deciding where to buy: Should I buy from an online retailer at a lower price? Or should I pay a bit more from a neighborhood retailer offering more than just the product, such as an experience, advice, and a relationship? The goal is to make the place a destination, not just a utilitarian space. If that goal is reached, a less than perfect physical location is still acceptable. People won’t mind a minor inconvenience, as long as the benefits outweigh the costs.
2. Comfort and image
A place needs to be clean and well designed in terms of form and function. It should provide a comfortable stay for a defined demographic. In a recent psychological study from Columbia University, Relaxation Increases Monetary Valuations, it was found that when relaxed, people tend to valuate things higher than usual. A recent Wall Street Journal article analyzes how offering a relaxing experience can directly benefit retailers.
Another indicator of this trend comes from McDonald’s, a symbol of “get in and out fast,” is putting billions of dollars into redesigning its restaurants (in U.S. and Europe). The new design includes comfortable chairs, sofas, fireplaces, and free Wi-Fi. The fast-food icon hopes that by offering an extended, pleasant, and comfortable stay, customers will come back often — spending more. Recent examples from the wireless retail industry that reflect the same philosophy are O2 stores in the U.K. that offer a comfortable area for browsing the newest apps and for business clients, private workstations with free Wi-Fi.
In many shapes and forms, depending on the location within the store, a stool, chair, armchair or sofa would work. Provide a sip of coffee, a snack — anything that signals, “Come in and relax. No reason to be uncomfortable.
This is a big one from the retailer point of view. Successful places offer a quantity, variety, and quality of activities. Of course, activities must be related to the purpose of the place. What does that mean for a wireless retailer? If your store is empty most of the time, customers are there to make a quick transaction, to get advice or request service or device repairs. Even during their stay, do you provide additional activities that relate to your business, something to reinforce your branding, your industry or your products? Do you offer a sense of community?
Having something to do gives people a reason to come to a place – and return. When there is nothing to do, a space will be empty and that generally means that something is wrong.
Project for Public Spaces
Activities in the space must address customer needs. Customers need to be entertained; they need to be inspired; they need to be educated; they need to stay informed. If they are offered all four (within the context of the retail space) they will not turn to other sources (news, social media, online reviews) or worse, leave the store. Retailers should establish and nurture that relationship with the customer, as it will not only last for the duration of their stay, but much longer — out of store, online and in all subsequent visits.
Disney stores recently went through a redesign to combine entertainment, education and additional information. Even Disney, famous for creating successful public places like theme parks, resorts and various other attractions, failed with this point in their older stores. Disney describes its new stores as “The best 20 minutes of your child’s day,” featuring a variety of activities for kids: interactive theater (picture above), magic mirrors, car building stations and more. Even if you are not shopping, Disney still wants your kids to come in and play, each and every day.
This is the hardest quality to achieve and is a sum (or product) of the previous three. If people feel good about a place — it’s easy to get to, comfortable, clean, safe, and offers appropriate activities – they will enjoy the place, bring their friends and family, and come back on regular basis. Think about a successful cafe, sports venue, local park or a big theme park. Or a city. Or a store. Or your store?
Today, the above paragraph better describes the time people spend on social networks than in physical spaces. The Holy Grail of the new retail experience will be to bring online social networks to physical spaces and merge the two in a single, seamless experience. That blend would benefit both retailers and customers.
Brick-and-mortar retail can win over online shoppers and turn the burden of real estate into a huge competitive advantage by creating social, family experience. Online (shopping) is solitary, so brick-and-mortar stores have an opportunity now to carve out a clear and differentiated shopping experience.
Brian Backus, Kidlandia
These are more techniques than a magic recipe for creating a successful place. Still, a “magic recipe” is required — it comes from the brand and character of the store, and it needs to be clearly defined beforehand.
The key design principles for successful places are:
Theme and structure:
In a retail space, how would the big idea (the brand) manifest itself in the entrance area, in the shopping area, or in the checkout area? The retailer has to answer these questions, based on its brand and character.
In terms of layout, smaller stories or components are organized so that customer circulation is logical and uninterrupted. Recognizable patterns are often used to make the place designs as intuitive as possible. It could mean a circular path for people flow, clear grouping of elements, signage or products, proximity to related items and related tools, etc. All of these elements help the visitor feel more comfortable, safe, and efficient within the space.
Every successful space has a carefully planned chronological path that allows for the best experience. Even the simplest experiences contain a few sub steps: awareness or attraction to the experience, the main experience itself, and post-experience events.
On a larger scale, a theme park attraction can have similar elements: the facade and the queue (where the theme is introduced and serves as awareness/attraction factor); the pre-show (which introduces the story or stories; the main show (rides, theatrical or live action performances that are mostly linear pulse experiences); and eventually the post-show (“exit through the gift shop” allows for further free flow activities under the impression of the main show).In the retail environment, a very similar flow can be applied, regardless of store size.
The most memorable parts of the customer experience are the peak of the experience and the end of the experience. With that in mind, planning the sequential experience when designing layout can help to not only deliver the best shopping experience, but to optimize resources as well.
The visual communication principle describes the need for legible visual elements and clearly defined media that provide in-depth, timely information in manageable way. Visual communication helps with people’s flow, enables clarity of actions, and prevents confusing or overwhelming the user.
Nowadays, the virtual extension of the space is more important than ever. A website, an app, the social network or the in-store digital media must be treated as a clear extension of the space. It should offer, not just the same amount of information, but also complementary experiences that, because of the nature of the space, cannot be included in the space itself. All of these elements should be intuitive and user-friendly. Any confusion or frustration is a barrier to creating a comfortable and safe environment where a visitor can be fully immersed in the primary activities: shopping and buying.
It is essential that — from both a functional and a branding perspective — these elements are incorporated into the overall store design elements. They belong to same family and are compatible and cohesive in function.
Participation is a direct result of visual communication. If our clearly defined place has a clearly defined audience, it will provide means of participation that will engage the audience in a number of ways:
- Providing a comfortable environment where a visitor can have some “alone time.” Or time with their friends. Or, if they like, time with staff.
- Offering a variety of contextual activities within the space, using different media and levels of interaction. In the case of wireless retail, for example, the customer shouldn’t be presented only with product info (for mobile phones), but also other information: exciting news from the world of mobile communication and technology, community news related to the retailer itself, mobile apps available to connect him with the local sports team, etc. Extend your reach beyond the products on the shelves.
- Having friendly and knowledgeable staff available to advise, educate, and build a relationship with the customer — not to push sales for a commission. In-store tools can help establish that relationship —honesty and transparency of information are keys to building trust with customers.
Whether it’s five minutes passing by or a full-scale immersion, places designed along these lines will help provide a great experience and a reason to come back.
In an analogy to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid, the next generation of wireless stores must have a reliable retail management platform as a foundation from which to grow (physiological needs; need for safety) and interactive retail and omnichannel technology in the middle (need for belonging, confidence and relationships), so that you can be free to focus on reaching your full potential (self-actualization; transformation).
We refer to this as the Retail Hierarchy of Needs.
The landscape is highly competitive and established. To succeed requires more than a desire to be the first cable company to cross over to wireless. The move requires a strategy, a roadmap, and the right tools that will help climb that hierarchy and blaze your own path to industry leadership. It is essential to power yourself with the right solution that can help you uncomplicate wireless retail, power thousands of locations, run your business efficiently, and create great experiences at every touchpoint for the customer.