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Battery Life Important for mPOS Success at Holiday Time


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Mobile POS systems are becoming increasingly important to many retailers.

With the Christmas season just about officially starting, retailers are readying the last few tools needed to make point of sale transactions as efficient as possible. One area in need of improvement is the battery life of mobile POS devices.

Often used for “linebusting,” mPOS is a great way to ensure customers have a smooth, expedited checkout experience. It’s also a terrific means of engagement with customers on the sales floor. Many retailers have transformed the customer experience by integrating mPOS into the checkout.

But the batteries used in the tablet devices are notorious for having short lives.

Retailers with extended sale hours, for example, would need to have mobile battery packs on hand to keep devices functioning, even if it they were fully charged when doors opened. Few things are more frustrating than missing out on sales because there is no way to authorize transactions.

Larger retailers and those handling greater numbers of transactions – holiday rush, anyone? — are seeking longer battery life to reduce the need to recharge. That way, store staff can transact sales continuously for an entire shift, reducing overall recharging requirements as well as the number of devices retailers need to keep on hand.

Overall, battery life in consumer electronics is constantly being upgraded. Today, for example, laptop battery life is roughly two and a half times longer than it was in 2012. So it’s logical to assume that mPOS battery life will ultimately improve as well.

To that end, manufacturers are debuting new products that have batteries that can be swapped out easily for rapid replacement, along with docking stations that can be used to simultaneously charge not only mPOS devices but also the accompanying mobile or tablet devices.

Other improvements are on the horizon as well: Often, mass market devices are not durable enough to withstand the hazards of the sales floor. Spills and drops leave many merchants with broken devices, and software or connectivity malfunctions are sources of further frustration. Many retail merchants are therefore migrating from popular commercial hardware to more purpose-built retail solutions. Ruggedized solutions (from Panasonic, for example) are becoming popular also.

Implementing tools that can reduce line time and improve the customers’ interaction with sales associates is, of course, a move in a positive direction. Retailers need to be aware of potential pitfalls brought on by poor battery life and be ready to quickly circumvent any problems that arise.

Ironically, new technology that fails can irritate customers more than the previous “old system.” So, until improved battery life is commonly available on mPOS devices, make sure your equipment is fully charged, and you have spare battery packs or devices on hand.

Analytics Tools Help Retailers Know the Customer


The majority of retailers worldwide plan to increase their use of data and analytics this year.

The majority of retailers worldwide plan to increase their use of data and analytics this year.

Analytics are important for retailers to understand who their customers are, what they are buying and when they are spending. Even with the multitude of analytics tools available, too many retailers are not using them to their full potential.

Employing analytics and analyzing the data they yield can be profitable. According to IBM, 62% of retailers report that the use of big data and analytics tools is creating a competitive advantage for their businesses.

With mobile POS, digital wallets and rapid transformation of technology used throughout retail, the amount of data created is tremendous. But data alone without analytics is worthless. The information must be gathered, analyzed and then stored so it can be compared against in the future. Today it’s easier than ever to have a system that can gather and then digest data.

All that data can help retailers provide more personalized offers and other communications. And the data can be gathered from multiple locations in real time, so reports can be produced in minutes rather than days or even weeks. Changes can be made in rapid response to problems, inventory issues or customer traffic patterns. Long gone are the days of waiting for an end-of-month report to change course.

However, there are a few important things to remember to make the most of actionable data with your vendors, according to research from Askuity:

  • When data is managed and distributed by a single power user within the company, brands are less likely to bring data insights into buyer meetings. Instead, provide self-service access to POS data for all team members, and you’ll develop a culture of sharing information.
  • 28% of companies say that they are not actively using the POS data being made available to them by their retailers. That’s a waste of time and talent. Share the information so you can sell a targeted product to prospects you know will be interested. The data you’ve collected is a tool to share with your business partners so you can both improve sales.
  • 77% of brands believe they can be doing more with the data to improve their businesses. But ever the companies that are already doing a better than average job can’t let it rest: Brands who consider themselves leaders in the space are even more confident, with 80% believing they can improve. Point of sale analytics is becoming a necessity for every brand hoping to create and sustain success at retail. It provides a means for continuous improvement that will serve the companies that employ them well.



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Give Virtual Reality in Retail a Look



Virtual reality lets you teach customers about your products without having to physically be in the store. They can “try on” clothes, for example.

Virtual reality in retail is here. The technology is more affordable than ever, and it offers retailers a unique opportunity to provide customers with immersive experiences. Two of the more popular devices, Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard, are available at attractive price points — $99 and $20, respectively — and seem well positioned to rapidly become a regular part of shoppers tech gear.

Using a smartphone and virtual reality apps, viewing devices allow users to step into the world of VR. For example, viewers could explore outer space or sing onstage with favorite artists once tapped into the appropriate app.

The marketing applications are exciting. Brands in markets as different as hospitality and automotive, for example, can take advantage of immersive customer experiences. For instance, customers could explore the showroom floor of an appliance store, trying out various products and exploring different models. Likewise, a car shopper could not only visit a showroom and select a model, but take a virtual test drive as well.

A couple of years ago, British fashion retailer TopShop used VR technology to stir up excitement, engage customers and market its brand. Using a 360 panoramic video stream, TopShop offered a unique front-row view of their exclusive fashion runway show during London Fashion Week. The experience was part of a contest in which the winners experienced the show virtually, in a pop-up space at TopShop’s flagship London store.

From taking a test drive to viewing the cat walk to checking out a refrigerator, virtual reality in retail is one more tool retailers can use to entertain and engage customers. Some brands, have used it not only to amuse but to educate about the product. For a great example, check out Patron tequila‘s VR video. More than entertaining, the viewer learns the story of the product — from the agave field to the topped off bottle.

Omnichannel marketing is focused on providing immersive, personalized experiences. Virtual reality offers technology that does exactly that. It significantly increases the interaction between the brand and the shopper. Further, VR engages the shopper in such a way that motivates the shopper to share the experience, either face-to-face or on social networks. As a result, new customers are exposed to the product — and you have integrated your brand into a powerful marketing experience.

3 Tips To Cash In On Halloween

With Halloween coming up next week, it’s a good time to discuss fun and engaging ways to bring customers into your store, particularly millennials. Here are three ways to provide customer experiences that do just that, using modern “tricks” of technology.

  1. Use your social media presence to host a trivia contest. Contests draw attention. You might ask questions about the origins of Halloween, or talk about Day
    Although retailers are expecting a large surge of shoppers over the next few months as the holiday season gets underway, many businesses are now taking advantage of Halloween and using the spooky theme to increase their sales.

    Although retailers are expecting a large surge of shoppers over the next few months as the holiday season gets underway, many businesses are now taking advantage of Halloween and using the spooky theme to increase their sales.

    of the Dead or even delve into something like horror movie trivia. Offer participants or winners coupons for your goods or services;  research has found that millennials, in particular, are drawn to those types of posts. And contests are a good idea not just for Halloween but for anytime.

  2. Deck the halls with Halloween decorations. For a brick-and-mortars, this is an opportunity to throw  a party for your customers. Consider making it a “private” affair for your best customers. Exclusive events boost loyalty. Many retailers find their customers like to be with other customers. This is particularly true for small niche businesses.Promoting it on social networks popular with your customers will help ensure a good turnout. Remember to focus the event and provide direction for customers: Will be a costume party? Will there be prizes and giveaways? You want attendees to be part of the retail experience and be able to shop while they are there. Expand your cashiering capabilities by increasing (or adding) mobile POS.
  3. Think completely outside of the box. How can your business tie into Halloween profitably? Not just recognizing the holiday, but offering products and services that make sense within the context of the celebration. Halloween can be tons of fun for small children, but it can also be very stressful for the adult responsible for the dressing them up. Think how your business can accommodate parents very busy schedules. Can you offer in-home services the weekend before Halloween? Even businesses that aren’t food, craft or pumpkin-based can get in on the action. For example, a dry cleaner might offer free or discounted pick-up or drop-off services on the 31st. Other parents may be concerned with the safety of trick-or-treating itself. Get together with neighboring retailers and offer store-to-store trick or treating. Restaurants, delis, and convenience stores can offer coupons for anyone coming in costume.
By creating customer experiences, your retail brand becomes increasingly “authentic” to customers. The engagement encourages your clientele to return, and, hopefully, become loyal evangelists for you. A that’s how retail “tricks” can be real treats.

Making the Most of Your Social Media Presence



Understanding how social media influences consumers’ attitudes, motivations and behaviors is more important than ever.

Referrals are the lifeblood of retail. Having a satisfied customer base that will sing your praises is worth more than an ad campaign by the most sought-after advertising firm on Madison Avenue. People are more than five times as likely to buy based on a recommendation from a social peer than they are when they’ve merely been exposed to traditional forms of marketing, according to research from consumer giant Sony.

Today, referrals are made easier due to the proliferation of social media.

Understanding how social media influences consumers’ attitudes, motivations and behaviors is more important than ever. Social platforms are uniquely able to broadcast satisfaction from New York to Nepal. Retailers who embrace social media — and use it to interact with customers as well as engage so-called “influencers” – are finding it’s a valuable marketing tool.

More than any other age group, millennials use social media to research their potential purchases. In The Monogram Group‘s August 2014 survey of 21-to-32-year-old internet users in the United States, 52% cited social sites among places where they gathered information about “new products or brands that interest you.” That ranked higher than paid advertising (41%).

Many conversations take place on various social platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, etc., prior to any purchase is actually made. It’s impossible to overestimate the importance of social media in business: It’s critical for getting their brands noticed as well as creating “buzz.”

Segments have key influencers — people that are tastemakers. What they say online sells — so find them and forge a relationship. Getting on their radar will greatly amplify your marketing message ad enhance your image with customers. Forging a relationship with an influencer, or getting mentioned in their blogs, could build your company’s reputation. To find influencers, engage with your customers: Which blogs do they read? Also, search on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for keywords relevant to your segment to learn which of those accounts have the most followers. Social-listening software can also be used to flag certain topics of interest.

Seventy-six percent of retailers are spending more on social media marketing this year than they did a year ago, according to Forrester Research Inc.’s report “The State of Retailing Online 2016: Marketing and Merchandising.” Increasingly, retailers are taking a cue from millennials and rather than selling them products, they are aiming to add value to their consumers’ lives by solving problems. And one of the most focused ways to do that is through a targeted, engaging presence on social media.

Thinking About Mobile POS? Your Competitors Are.


The mobile POS business is expected to grow from $2 billion in 2015 to $38 billion in 2024, with analysts projecting a 36 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between now and 2019.

Retailers see mobility as a way to improve customer service in store, largely by reducing customer waiting time.

The devices also usher in a closer customer/clerk relationship, because associates can easily answer customer’s questions at the touch of the screen. They can look up inventory, shipping dates and even general product information, all of which leads to improved interactions between customers and their trusted retail advisors.

Even stores that are well known for customer satisfaction such as Nordstrom’s, are constantly innovating to stay on top. The high-end department store arms sales associates with tablets that can check customers out rather than force them to wait at a cash wrap.

But the ability to save customers time on a register line is irrelevant if you can’t get them to the line in the first place. Customers get irritated in stores when they can’t get a price or availability question answered quickly and knowledgeably.

If a store employee doesn’t have the tools to provide a quick answer, customers often simply leave and buy from a competitor.

However, when they are outfitted with mobile devices tied back to the POS and inventory management system, retail associates can immediately help customers, remaining with them throughout the purchasing cycle, and providing information needed to “seal the deal.”

As retailers enter the 2016 holiday season, it becomes increasingly important to encourage salespeople into sales consultants with mobile POS. No longer is it enough to stand behind a register and wait for the customer to come to you.

Today’s retailer must be proactive and engaging. Customer service must be a differentiator.

Mobile POS can provide associates the critical information needed to help customers to make a purchase, close the sale, and even provide up-sell opportunities to drive higher revenue.

3 Tips to Improve Your Loyalty Program


What every woman wishes retailers knew

If your loyalty program is lacking luster, it’s likely time for an overhaul or at least a close inspection.

So, you have a loyalty program, but:

  • It’s not attracting new members
  • Its members are not as active as you’d like
  • No one knows about it

Your program is dying on the vine, and it’s top management’s fault. If it’s not top of mind for managers, it won’t be for anyone else, certainly not customers.

Successful loyalty programs are big. Sure, they have plenty of members, but they are vibrant and enticing to customers. Here are three ways to improve your program:

Devote Time To It

Cultivating customer loyalty is a strategy. Retaining existing customers is less expensive than finding new ones, so it’s worth investing the time and effort into making them feel special.

Define specific goals for the program: Do you want to increase memberships? Boost members’ sales? Only then can you forge a roadmap to make those goals a reality.

Improve Your Customer Service

No one wants to be loyal to a place that doesn’t treat them well.

If your customer service isn’t top notch, ask yourself, “Why would anyone return?” Terrific service lays the groundwork for customer loyalty.

73% of consumers say friendly customer service reps can make them fall in love with a brand, according to RightNow.

Furthermore, providing a superior experience not only helps to retain that customer but also to grow your base, because consumers with positive experiences tend to recommend the brand to others.

Go Big

Let’s face it: The value proposition must be extremely compelling.

Many of your competitors have loyalty programs. And if they don’t, they might just be offering something you can’t: Lower pricing, free shipping, certain brands, etc.

Grab Stats notes that the average U.S. household belongs to more than 18 programs, but is active in only 8.4. Therefore, your loyalty program must stand out and offer something irresistible.

Sephora members, for example, earn points with each purchase that they can redeem for rewards. The program is tiered depending on the dollar value of customers’ annual purchases. Spending more is an incentive to get free products as well as entry into exclusive events.

What differentiates a great loyalty program from others is that customers are eager – excited, even – to join a program that meets their needs.

The day someone asks an associate to join your program without being coaxed is the day you know you’ve hit on a winning formula.

But customers’ tastes change. So enjoy the winning formula while you can – and keep innovating.




POS App Gets It Right


Customers want easy ways to shop for routine items – those products they use daily, that are staples of their homes or workplaces.

For these types of purchases, ease of doing business is extremely important. No one wants to stand in line for a bottle of shampoo after a long day of work and an evening of household chores ahead.

Being respectful of customers’ time is a big part of creating great shopping experiences for customers.

While an exciting store design and atmosphere can lure customers, execution excellence – clerks who are quick to respond, cashiers who are fast and accurate, associates who will efficiently check stock —  provides the foundation for any responsive business.

A familiar neighborhood  retail recently launched a point-of-sale mobile solution aimed at creating a more convenient customer experience.

CVS Health’s core competency is in personal staples: everything from toothpaste to stationary to prescription meds. But its new app illustrates how selling any product, whether it’s luxury or commodity, can put customer needs front and center.

CVS Health

CVS Pay is a new, end-to-end mobile payment solution that integrates payment, prescription pickup, and its ExtraCare loyalty program, and is part of the CVS Pharmacy mobile app.

Here’s how it works:

  • CVS customers can combine multiple steps into one scan.
  • Customers can refill, manage multiple prescriptions and get alerts when prescriptions are ready, all within the app.
  • They then pick up and pay using a single barcode.
  • Their ExtraCare card can be linked as well, so at checkout all ExtraCare deals will be processed.

“We’ve been excited by the level of customer adoption of these digital solutions, and we will continue our quick pace of innovation and deployment to make our customers’ health care experience even easier,” said Brian Tilzer, SVP and chief digital officer, CVS Health in a press release.

When an app eases a shopping pain point, it will be a success.

Too often, retail apps feel like an “add on” — something more for the consumer to do, without an evident value proposition for the consumer. CVS Pay is integrated into the customers’ shopping experience, which makes it a natural fit rather than an appendage.




Millennials and the Importance of Authenticity


Millennials are coming on strong. Retailers expect Millennials – who were born between 1976 and 1994 — to spend more than $200 billion annually starting in 2017. Further, they are projected to spend more than $10 trillion during their lifetimes, according to Advertising Age.

Millennials currently account for $1.3 trillion in consumer spending, and with 80 million potential millennial customers, retailers will be rewarded if they can attract this segment.

AdAge estimates these young adults spend 25 hours online weekly. They are gathering information — retaining what is appealing, discarding what is not. To avoid having your content in land in the virtual recycle bin, it must be authentic.

Authentic means more than just being unique or having originated from your store. Rather, authentic means that the content “rings true” to the consumer. It is written in a manner that is familiar to the millennial, and that gives it credibility. Content that is not authentic sounds phony or forced and turns off this age group.

What that means is that most traditional advertising sounds fake to Millennials. According to Forbes research, a mere 1% of millennials surveyed said that a compelling advertisement would make them trust a brand more. One percent. Clearly, advertising budgets for this group need to be rethought.

However, remember all that time spent consuming content on the Web? Much of that is spent doing research on future purchases. Forbes said 33% of millennials rely mostly on blogs before they make a purchase, compared to fewer than 3% for TV news, magazines and books.

If you are looking to invest in TV commercials, you’re looking to attract baby boomers, not millennials.

In addition, millennials check sources of material for their authenticity as well. If they trust the content creator, they’ll trust the information.

All of that is great information to keep in mind when creating any marketing collateral for your company — and that includes social sites. It’s imperative to have a presence on the networks that make sense for your business, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

And millennials expect nearly instant responses to their comments: Getting back to a complaint on Facebook two days later is not acceptable. In addition, those responses must be personal and respectful.

Whole Foods offers a great example (click to enlarge):


Seriously, if Whole Foods can reveal itself as truly caring about a customer’s trash bag selection, you can surely create authentic content about your product as well.

Hispanic Shoppers Embrace Omnichannel


Hispanic shoppers are more likely to have smartphones than the population as a whole, and they rely on their phones and computers to make purchase decisions.

It’s not just Millennials that appreciate the ease and convenience of online shopping. Hispanic shoppers are more likely to have smartphones than the population as a whole, and they rely on their phones and computers to make purchase decisions. They embrace the omnichannel experience.

In particular, Hispanic shoppers plan to increase their online purchases of grocery products from large retailers at a significantly faster pace than non-Hispanics, according to a recently released IRI Hispanic Shopper Study. At Amazon, for example, the grocery uptick is expected to be more than 40%.

That’s in large part because the Hispanic population has taken to the convenience of online grocery shopping. And even when they don’t place their orders through a website, 38% look online for deals and coupons before making a shopping trip, and 33% look to blogs or social media for beauty product recommendations.

The Hispanic segment is hugely important to retailers: U.S. Hispanic spending is expected to reach $1.7 trillion by 2020, according to the Latin Post. And a large part of that is going to go to groceries. The segment generally has larger families than the other parts of the population, so it tends to spend more on regular, routine trips to the store, as well as “quick runs to the corner.” And, according to Retailleader.com, Hispanics often bring their children along when they shop, so the youngsters influence purchase decisions, further increasing the value of their shopping carts.

With such a large market opportunity, retailers should implement a plan of action to attracting Hispanic customers online, whether to complete the transaction using e-commerce or to entice them into a brick and mortar. Social media is particularly effective with this group: According to a Pew Hispanic Center Research study, 68 percent of Hispanic Internet users are active on Facebook, Twitter, and other social network sites, compared to 58 percent of all U.S. Internet users. The audience is there – but how to engage it?

The EC Hispanic Media report U.S. Hispanics and Facebook: The Generation of Growth found that one of the best strategies to motivate Hispanic customers was to offer discounts and promotions. Not all interaction needs to be coupon based, however. By asking for ideas, comments, and opinions, retailers can connect effectively with the second-largest consumer market in the United States.



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