From The Editor | January 17, 2011

Mobility Buzz At NRF

Retail WFM 2011 Post-Show Wrap-Up

By Erin Harris, associate editor

The tone at the National Retail Federation's 100th Annual Convention and Expo was one of optimism. This year's attendance rate enjoyed a reported 20% increase over last year's, and we enjoyed walking the show floor and meeting with many solutions and service providers to see what's available for retailers. Indeed, the buzz of the show was around mobile solutions. Several vendors, including Epicor, Kronos, Oracle, Motorola, NCR, and countless others touted their mobile solutions, as retailers' business environments and technology investments are heavily impacted by mobility. Because Generation Y has been raised on all-things-mobile, these consumers expect your business to meet them where they already are — their mobile device.

Regardless of their age or gender, today's consumers are texting, talking, communicating, buying, searching, watching videos, and taking photographs all on their mobile devices. At the show, vendors and retailers alike stated that the new channel of mobile will cause retailers to up their game by offering customers real-time product availability in their stores. Technology vendors stressed that usability is the key to making the customer experience a memorable one. Mobile impacts in-store shopping because the device checks in the customer as she enters the store, scans products, receives offers, pays, and produces digital receipts. Each company we met with stated its mobile solution can support more customers, transactions, and products, and maintain a wider range of business partner relationships. We witnessed a healthy dose of competition among mobile solutions providers. But, are all retailers buying into the mobile movement? The short answer is no. Motorola executives explained that there is sincere skepticism among some retailers, as they believe their business model does not gel with mobile solutions. If those retailers attended the show, they'd see that the mobile channel is alive and well. And, it continues to grow.

Mobile Replacing POS?
One of the sessions at SuperSaturday 2011, a fundraiser for RetailROI, the Retail Orphan Initiative, focused on timely retail trends, including whether mobile will replace POS. Gartner analyst Kevin Sterneckert states mobile will supplement POS — not replace it. Sterneckert explained the replacement doesn't make sense in grocery. Yet, there are a few examples of retailers using mobile to replace the POS. Over at the Oracle booth, attendees were given a taste of how in-store mobility shoppers can now walk into many Disney Stores, choose their favorite Disney character toys or apparel, and complete a purchase with a credit card without bothering to stop at the checkout counter. That ease of shopping, along with other features in redesigned Disney Stores, has helped to boost store traffic, sales, and profit margins by 20%.

We'd love to hear your mobile success stories. Email me at if your mobile solution has increased revenue, customer satisfaction, or both.