28/04/2015

By Tim Barton, Director Strategic Accounts, iVend


Bricks-and-mortar retail can seem like a game of two halves, weighted against smaller businesses. Rents, workforce, operational resources – everything comes at a price.

Naturally, the budget is lower for growing retailers, yet they’re trying to attract many of the same customers that major corporations are targeting with multi-million pound campaigns.

In fact, this divide has created a misconception among many SMEs that the technologies available to enhance consumer interactions is for the benefit of large retailers only. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Yes, there will always be incredibly sophisticated solutions that are only affordable to the biggest global players, but there are plenty of tools on the market for businesses of all sizes.

Mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) systems are a prime example of just this. Independent retailers running a single store can introduce tablets or smartphones into their customer interactions, to improve the service they are able to offer.

How? Well, for starters, many retail businesses fear ‘showrooming’ – the act of consumers going into a store to look at a product close-up, before buying it cheaper online. Even if they didn’t set out to showroom, a lack of information at the shelf edge often drives shoppers to use their own mobile phones, at which point they discover a more competitive deal.

Equipping store associates with a mobile device that is linked to further product details can discourage those behaviour patterns, and educate consumers that store encounters are just as informative as online shopping.

This practice – termed clienteling – enables small businesses to regain control of digital interactions, and use technology to improve customer experiences. More than that, clienteling has the power to drive profits in the store environment, for example:

Extend product availability beyond the shelves

Bricks-and-mortar may attract a few general browsers, but general speaking shoppers visit a store in search of specific items. We’re all familiar with that sinking feeling upon finding that said item isn’t in stock when we arrive at the shelf edge.

However, retailers can integrate back-end information such as inventory to their mobile point-of-sale – enabling them to look up whether the item is in the stock room without having to search out the back. SMEs with a multiple store footprint can also cross-reference against availability in other outlets, reserving it or offering to send it to the customer’s home for added convenience.

Enhance sales associate knowledge

There’s only so many things one customer service representative can remember, however today’s consumers expect retail staff to be experts on every product in the store.

Mobile POS empowers these sales associates to answer even the trickiest question, by linking to extensive product information – the type of information shoppers may reach for their smartphones to access online, if informed help is not available in the aisles.

Personalise store shopping

Turning to a mobile solution releases retailers from the constraints of a fixed till, allowing workforce to serve the customers from anywhere in the store.

Moreover, it creates the potential to tailor each encounter according the each customer’s preferences. Entering their details into a clienteling solution will bring up key information about their value and recent purchases. Based on this, the retailer can give them a special discount to reward their loyalty.

Upsell in a targeted manner

While consumers don’t like retailers to be too ‘salesy’ in their customer service, well targeted recommendations are often welcomed.

This could involve using an mPOS solution to access the wider product catalogue, highlighting items that will complement a product a consumer is about to purchase. Additionally, if the retailer has access to the customer’s background data, they could suggest items based on their purchasing history.

For businesses of any size, personalising recommendations are far more likely to generate conversions, and not just during that encounter. Creating an informative, tailored customer experience will encourage the customer to return time and time again, for a level of service that many large corporations simply cannot offer.