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The importance of mobile-first POS in the modern retail store

Mobile point of sale technology is certainly not new. It’s been around for well over a decade. But the importance of mobile POS to the modern store has never been greater. Tethering associates to a cash wrap makes it very difficult for them to support all the new customer-facing and operational demands of modern retailing.

And retailers are beginning to pay attention. In recent weeks alone, I have talked to a dozen retailers that are all hungry for mobile POS solutions that will help their store associates keep pace with these heightened demands.

Barriers to traditional mobile POS adoption

The question we must ask: Is mobile POS ready for modern retailing requirements? Because despite being around for years, mobile POS has – for the most part – failed to gain ubiquitous adoption with retailers.

I would argue the reasons leading to low adoption of traditional mobile POS include:

  • The transaction types and options available on the small screens are typically limited.
  • Omnichannel capabilities are often scarce or nonexistent.
  • Associate experiences are not designed (and certainly not optimized) for the small screen.
  • Most solutions struggle to overcome Wi-Fi disruptions in every corner of the store.
  • They offer no easy options for selling outside the four walls of the store.

One glance at that list is all it takes to understand why adoption of traditional mobile POS solutions has been so slow. Today’s retail stores demand much more from POS, whether it’s fixed or mobile.

If associates are to thrive, they must have tools that enable them to help answer every customer question and enable every omnichannel option. And for associates to have any hope of keeping customers engaged (and away from competitors lurking in the palm of those customers’ hands), associates need modern mobile tools in the palm of their hands.

I think the answer to our question is clear: Traditional mobile POS solutions have been found wanting.

So, the lingering question is, are modern mobile POS solutions ready for widespread adoption? Yes, but only if they meet modern retailers’ extensive list of requirements.

What should we expect of modern mobile POS? A checklist for retailers, by retailers

Based on feedback from retailers, these are the capabilities they need to justify an investment in mobile POS:

  1. It’s no surprise that retailers require robust functionality. One of retailers’ top complaints about traditional mobile POS solutions is that many of them limit the functionality available on small screens. Sales associates today need access to the complete transaction set, enriched with enterprise data.
  2. With robust functionality, however, must also come simplicity. With store associate turnover always high, retailers can no longer afford long training times. New associates need to be productive quickly, and the best way to do that is with user experiences that are as simple to understand as any of the hundreds of other apps that most associates leverage in their daily lives. Adoption time needs to be measured in minutes, not days.
  3. Next on retailers’ list is reliable connectivity. “Mobile” connectivity can no longer be synonymous with “occasional” connectivity. Associates must be able to wander into the far reaches of the store to help customers without fear of Wi-Fi outages and of transactions dropping. We can’t yet expect 100% network reliability or Wi-Fi coverage, of course. That means retailers require mobile devices that can seamlessly manage the online/offline conditions typical of most store environments – so that associates and customers may never even realize the solution is offline.
  4. No checklist of modern mobile POS requirements would be complete without robust omnichannel capabilities. Retailers expect mobile-equipped associates to be able to access and update online orders, fulfill orders, access real-time inventory availability across the chain, sell items from other locations and even process returns on their mobile devices. Anything less reduces their ability to create customer interactions that convert, significantly diminishes the ROI on the mobile POS investment and is simply unacceptable.
  5. Retailers also expect mobile POS solutions to be agile. Meaning they want it to be easy to ring transactions outside the store. More and more retailers are embracing pop-up shops where customers gather. From street fairs to 10K races to concerts, local stores know best where their customers like to be. Retail executives expect their stores to be able to hit the streets without requiring IT intervention or complex setup.
  6. Finally, retailers demand that their mobile POS solutions be secure. For obvious reasons, security on mobile devices is of the utmost importance. Retailers require mobile POS solutions that adhere to the industry’s strictest security guidelines and compliance standards.

Question asked, question answered

Yes, modern mobile-first POS solutions can empower the store in ways that previous generations of mobile-only technology were simply not capable of. Modern UX design, enhanced resiliency and redundancy options, deep functionality, real-time access to enterprise data and more all lead to associates who are ready and able to answer every question, fulfill every option and convert every opportunity.

The trick, as it always is with technology investments, is to vet your options carefully. No two mobile POS solutions are alike, and their connectivity, flexibility and capabilities can vary greatly.

As you create your mobile POS short list, I suggest you look at Aptos ONE POS. It’s our mobile-first POS solution that checks all the boxes on this list. But don’t take my word for it – hear what some of our customers, including Cole Haan, The North Face and New Balance are saying about their Aptos ONE experience. You can also access more Aptos ONE resources to aid your decision here.