Here is something to tickle your retail supply chain – we are under 50 days until Christmas. Avoiding the debate over the mass commercialization of the holidays, the reality is that consumers will, or already have, started their shopping engines. With so many retailers dependent on good holiday sales, for example Lego moves 50% of their sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the ability to properly capture orders is vital.
The POS (point of sale) systems, whether in brick and mortar or on line, are the vital touch point between the consumer and the commerce supply chain. Like with the majority of technologies, this has been impacted by the digital wave. POS systems are not longer limited to the larger systems synonymous with the corner store – remember the ones where numbers would pop up once the large typewriter like buttons were pressed. These systems have evolved into a new range of sleek mobile devices, and those large legacy systems are now smarter. POS systems are also getting into greater areas and increasing their reach – supply chains need to craft strategies about how to take advantage of the new data as well as the new places POS systems will pop up.
- The POS systems in the air. Those us that have been flying long enough remember the days when we were served a meal and drinks as part of our overall plane ticket. Today if you want a scotch on the rocks and a can of Pringles, you need to pay for these items. Airlines have put mobile POS devices in the hands of their staff to take your payment. Rather than just using these as order taking machines, airlines like Delta Airlines have made these mobile devices a much more valuable part of their supply chain. Beyond just taking payments, the mobile devices are enabled to communicate about customer and maintenance issues. So if the passenger in seat 7a voices a legitimate complaint, Delta employees can use the POS system to give that passenger 10,000 miles. If a seat is found to be broken or an overhead can’t open, the flight attendants can use the system to communicate the problem and location to the destination airport and schedule the appropriate maintenance.
- Infusing retail into other entertainment channels. We have all used to having to walk through the store when we leave a museum, zoo, aquarium or other attraction. But what about the movies? Get ready for your phone to become part of a POS system for the movie theater. I am not speaking of the POS when you are ordering your over-sized tub of popcorn, but post movie viewing. For example – you go see the Transformer movie, once the movie is over as you are leaving the theater there are QR codes on promotional posters at the exit and even pop up kiosks where you can scan your phone to find where to get the latest Transformer toy. There could potentially be a 3D printer right there allowing you to get your item made in place. If you scan the product at the movie theater you may be given a discount – incentive consumer to make transaction at that point. Your portable POS systems – aka your smart phone – will have an app that allows for this to happen and could also communicate with the closest Target, WalMart or other retail channel that carries the item. Or even tie back to Amazon and have the eCommerce giant dispatch your item immediately.
Of course there remains a continued evolution in mobile POS, companies like Square and Apple are allowing anyone with a tablet and connectivity to run mobile POS systems. Retailers can start looking at these mobile POS systems as great data sources – where do most of the transactions happen on the store floor? Are there still locations for impulse purchase displays? Can you tie these mobile terminals into the inventory systems? A prospective buyer is looking for a specific piece of cookware at William Sonoma. The item is there but the consumer wants it in sky blue. Using the mobile terminal the associate helping that consumer can instantly scan the inventory at different stores, identify where an item can be secured and ship directly to the store or to the consumer. The mobile device should also be able to pull up the consumer’s profile: are they a loyal shopper? If so the associate should have the ability to waive shipping costs or expedite the product.
Supply chains need to think of their POS systems as Point of Service, not sales. In a world of Matrix Commerce, these are the intersection points between the consumer and the commerce supply chain where the digital reality has great impact. How companies take advantage of this will determine who leads and who is a laggard.