Magazine Article | October 1, 2001

The Wireless Ways Of POS

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

Wireless devices are redefining the way retailers think of the point of sale (POS). Enabling store associates with wireless devices adds service to the sale.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, October 2001

Wireless is rapidly inundating our society. You can't pass a person on the street without listening to their pockets ringing or watching them navigate the Web in a cafe. But it's not just consumers who are taking advantage of wireless technology. Retailers too are discovering the flexibility and mobility they can gain from cutting the wires out from underneath their POS (point of sale) devices. Have you considered where you could apply wireless technology in your retail operation? Perhaps you should before your competitors do.

Make The 'S' In POS Stand For Service
"The primary advantage of wireless POS is to allow store associates to get out from behind their desks or registers and be involved with the customers directly," said Scott Medford, national retail sales manager at Intermec Technologies. "If you are able to interact with the customer where the buying decision is made - in the aisle - then the sale becomes an afterthought to the service."

One place wireless POS devices have been successful is in the home improvement vertical market. A store associate can use a wireless device to assist the customer by providing information about a tiling project, for example. Suggestive selling prompts on the device can also ensure the customer buys all of the necessary tools before leaving the store.

Having a wireless connection directly into the main systems also provides a mobile window into areas of the company such as inventory. If a customer cannot find the correct size, mobile employees can provide that information without painful phone calls to other store locations. This ensures you won't lose a sale due to an uninformed employee.

Cut The Wire On Payment Processing
With the increased use of credit and debit cards, payment processing is as much a part of the POS as a bar code scanner. The applications for wireless payment devices are endless, from small retailers who don't want the additional cost of a land line payment system to large retailers who use wireless connections for sidewalk sales. Especially those retailers who have mobile sales people or delivery can benefit from the payment terminals. In the case of outdoor venues, wireless payment processing allows retailers the flexibility to accept more forms of payment at the point of interaction and offers customers more options.

One niche market for these devices is for gun sales. "One of the loopholes for purchasing a gun is at a gun show where background checks are not as easy to obtain," said Michelle Graff, manager, delivery marketing at VeriFone, Inc. "With a wireless payment device, gun show vendors can take a payment and run a background check through the same wireless connection."

Stores have the option to make the wireless device their primary payment processing terminal or use it as an additional option when land lines aren't accessible, such as outside. To establish a wireless payment connection, the retailer would work with their current credit card processing company and set up an account with a wireless service provider. "When choosing a wireless service provider, retailers are better off choosing one that offers pure data transmission, not one that shares the line with voice," Graff said. "Typically you will have wider scale coverage this way and will avoid over-usage problems."

While wireless terminals cost about two times more than traditional land line devices, Graff said the cost is balanced by speed and long-term cost. "A second phone line can run $30 to $40 a month and the transaction can take anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds," Graff said. "A wireless transaction takes 3 to 7 seconds because it doesn't have to dial each time. It is an always-on connection with the wireless provider." An option with wireless payment terminals is to have various handheld units that all connect through the same base unit. This allows for multiple clerks to work wirelessly, while still having consolidated reporting and settlement at the end of the day.

The future of wireless will again alter the POS dynamic by putting the technology into the hands of the customer. "If you look at the different types of wireless devices, the applications are starting to converge," Graff said. Down the line, retailers will be accepting payment from their customers' PDAs (personal digital assistants) and cellular phones. Like a secure electronic wallet, customers will store their credit information in their PDAs and beam payment to a store's wireless network. A two-way connection could also be established which will capture that payment transaction, allowing the customer to sync the device with banking software or expense reports.

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