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When evaluating the potential of mobile point-of-sale technology, IT managers should first decide how a solution would dovetail with their organization’s broader mobile strategy.
“The companies that are doing mPOS right are the ones that think about their business processes,” says Michelle Tinsley, director of transactional retail for Intel’s Retail Solutions Division. “They come loaded with data about how the shopping experience happens in their facilities today and how they want to shift it in the future. The mobile device becomes a way to facilitate that new vision.”
Pilot programs provide a useful way to gather such insights, she says. “Companies learn in a pilot what behaviors and use cases are most relevant for their particular businesses.”
Next, consider total cost of ownership or TCO. “Too often organizations focus on specific devices and their price points,” Tinsley adds. “It’s important to think about the entire implementation, including any software coding that may be necessary and what mobile device management and mobile application management you’ll need. A lot of organizations don’t have an army of IT people to manage mPOS, so the solution they choose needs to just work.”
Evaluating the reliability of each solution is also essential. All POS applications must be engineered with redundancy to avoid even short periods of downtime. “You can’t sell anything if the system is down,” says Ed Weiser, principal consultant for retail solutions at Motorola.
IT managers also will want to consider how mPOS will integrate with back-office systems, such as accounting, enterprise resources planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) applications.
Finally, company executives must look beyond technical considerations. For example, resources must be in place to serve customers who pay with cash, and mobile associates need the ability to remove physical security tags from merchandize as well as wrap or bag purchases. One option is a series of small checkout stations scattered throughout stores to handle these tasks and to house mobile printers for creating paper receipts.
Fortunately, companies that gravitate to mPOS don’t have to address these considerations by themselves. “A number of systems integrators and third-party experts are skilled in mPOS from both a technical and business process perspective,” says Ray Carlin, vice president and general manager for retail solutions at HP. “With their help, organizations can ensure they have the right infrastructure and operations in place to succeed with mobile POS.”