Indications are strong that holiday 2014 will be a merry season for retailers and food service establishments. The National Retail Federation projects the season’s sales will total $616.9 billion, a 4.1% increase over 2013. If the association’s predictions are correct, this would be the first time since 2011 that sales increased more than 4 percent over the previous year.
Retailers will need effective and reliable retail point-of-sale (POS) systems to handle the holiday crowds in their stores and turn those projections into actual sales. Many retailers will opt for a POS strategy that combines their existing stationary registers with fast-emerging mobile POS technologies. These retailers will add the line-busting and assisted selling advantages of flexible tablet retail POS solutions to the stability, promotional/branding, and full-range customer service capabilities of fixed retail POS systems.
The case for mobile POS solutions is particularly strong during the holiday season. This is typically the time of year when stores are most crowded, creating a more pressing need for deploying associates with tablets to help thin out long checkout lines on an as-needed basis. It’s also the season for hiring temporary help, and the highly intuitive user interfaces available for most mobile POS solutions will shorten training times, giving retailers greater flexibility in deploying both temporary and permanent store associates where they are needed most.
Retail POS systems that include a mobile component can also be used for in-aisle assisted selling. Associates can use the tablets to show shoppers holiday catalogs, highlight promotions, or interact with seasonal displays – and then use them to immediately complete the transaction. Mobile POS solutions also encourage customers to choose an e-mail receipt option, providing retailers with an opportunity to expand their e-mail database and set the stage for future digital marketing campaigns.
Retailers should view all their POS devices, both mobile and fixed, as points for data gathering as well as conducting transactions. The season presents the opportunity to collect e-mail addresses and other valuable information from shoppers who may not visit a brick-and-mortar store at any other time of the year. Take advantage of these holiday crowds to run promotions that offer gift cards or other prizes in exchange for customer information.
Stationary retail POS systems, particularly those designed with customer-facing screens that can carry seasonal messaging, also offer expanded opportunities for branding and promotional signage. These registers can also provide a full range of customer service options, such as printed receipts and gift wrapping areas.
Retail POS system security needs to be a year-round priority for retailers, but it’s of particular concern when the crowds of shoppers are at their thickest. Higher customer counts represent an opportunity not just for the retailer, but also for cyber-thieves seeking customer information and payment data.
New payment technologies, such as those tied to the NFC element in shoppers’ mobile devices or using chip-enabled cards, can actually provide higher levels of payment security than traditional credit and debit cards, via expanded use of encryption and dynamic data technologies. Retailers will soon need to prepare their retail POS systems for the enhanced security requirements that are part of the international EMV payment card standards. In all cases, retailers should create multiple layers of data security to deter fraudsters and mitigate security risks. Nothing spoils a holiday faster, for both a retailer and its customers, than making headlines as the location for high-tech theft.