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Mobile POS Beta Site Fear Keeps Checkout Right By Exit

September 28th, 2011

But that won’t help the customer loss-prevention concerns. “We don’t allow them to ring people up in the middle of the store, don’t allow our people to ring customers up at the sales counters,” Mitchell said. “Our store is so big that we won’t know if someone has paid for something or not. We haven’t figured out a way” to verify purchases.

From NCR’s perspective, mobile-payment anti-theft efforts can borrow many tried-and-true tactics from their POS ancestors, including placing paid labels on products once scanned, placing products in logoed carry-out bags and “securely closing the packaging, taking advantage of [approaches such as] receipt-on-label,” said Jack O’Malley, senior manager of product marketing for NCR.

Should greeters/security guards verify digital—and, for that matter, paper—receipts at the door? There are key business questions about whether that’s a good idea, given how much time it would likely take (especially during busy periods such as holiday sales, which are—painfully—the exact times when mobile in-store checkout would be most attractive) and the impression of lack-of-trust it could convey. Although some of that could be statistically minimized by simply making such checks random or only when the guard has a specific suspicion (that last one is a customer relations and legal nightmare in the making), the fact is that mobile devices in the hands of door-checkers enable the type of verification that is simply impossible with traditional POS.

NCR’s O’Malley, who had been with Radiant at the time of the acquisition, laid out how such verifications could be done.

“Specific details about an individual transaction should be included on a receipt like cashier ID, time/date of transaction and ticket ID identified by both a visible number and a barcode that can be easily verified within the system. Because mobile tickets are not stored locally, but immediately updated on the POS server, they can then be retrieved from anywhere,” O’Malley said. “So if associates are stationed by the door and they wanted to conduct a spot check on a particular customer, they could then utilize a mobile device to retrieve an already finalized ticket by entering the ID, or scanning the barcode, on the receipt and validating the receipts match.”

Greg Buzek, the president of retail technology research house IHL, pointed to other logistical challenges for moving the purchase process into the middle of the aisle. Associates can certainly handle the mobile device plus print out paper receipts from a nearby printer station or by wearing a wireless belt clip printer (“Geeks, don’t leave home without it”). But space and supplies will still be needed—”You’ll need some sort of cash wrap, a place and a means to take the security tag off, fold the purchases, put them in a bag”—and that’s going to make the middle-of-the-aisle convenient checkout a lot less convenient.

As for Hobby Superstore, although Mitchell’s store has been testing two of the mobile units since June, she said it has mostly been to get used to the devices. “The real test is going to come in Christmas-time.”

As for going back to the original plan of truly store-wide distribution, Mitchell said: “At this point, that’s our hope for next year.” For retail mobile payment with large chains, those words are going to sound very familiar.


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