Going Mobile In-Store: First Pile Up The Complexities, Then Simplify

Written by Frank Hayes
April 11th, 2011

What’s so hard about using mobile devices in-store? Apple and Home Depot are already doing it. Nordstrom is kicking around ideas. Although most retailers are already deep into mobile commerce—where customers use their phones to buy when they’re outside a store—few are flipping that scenario so that associates use mobile in-store, especially as POS devices. The problem, according to one retail IT exec: In-store mobile generates a dizzying array of options, and picking through them all seems next to impossible.

As that exec pointed out in a recent conversation, “Mobile POS is all trendy and cool right now, but it may not be the right answer to your problem.” On the other hand, the possibilities don’t have to be endless, especially if you start from what it’s practical for mobile devices to do in your stores instead of starting with a device and imagining the possibilities.

Maybe you’re trying to handle overflow from checkout lanes at the busiest times, the exec suggested. That means associates armed with mobile devices could cherry-pick just the customers whose purchases can be handled well by a mobile device. Compare that approach to replacing big cash-wrap stations so you can reclaim chunks of the sales floor: Now associates have to do everything that’s possible at a full-scale cash wrap.

In-store mobile gets a lot simpler if all you’re doing is sending associates out to roam the store doing suggestive selling or accepting returns only at the door on the way in. If your main goal is to look as cool as the guys in the Apple Store, things can get showy—and complicated—mighty fast.

If you’re doing mobile POS, you’d really like to repurpose your existing POS application. That is (relatively) easy if you can just run the user interface on the handheld, but it’s much more complicated if you must re-create the whole application on the mobile device. And what about payments? Swiping a credit card is easy these days. PIN debit gets trickier. Checks and cash are a nightmare.

A mobile POS device has to communicate securely with the store’s Wi-Fi in a PCI-approved way. Loss-prevention gets a whole new meaning when a thief (or a bad-apple associate) can walk out of the store with a device containing your Wi-Fi passwords, your POS application and—if you’ve been sloppy—a collection of recent payment-card transactions.

A mobile device could also be used just to tally up a customer’s purchases, after which the customer would have to pay at a kiosk or in a regular checkout lane. That’s simpler, right? But that approach only speeds things up if the associate with the mobile device can also bag the goods, deactivate loss-prevention tags and collect clothes hangers.

Where does the associate carry all that stuff?


Comments are closed.


StorefrontBacktalk delivers the latest retail technology news & analysis. Join more than 60,000 retail IT leaders who subscribe to our free weekly email. Sign up today!

Most Recent Comments

Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

I am still unclear about the core point here-- why higher value of European cards. Supply and demand, yes, makes sense. But the fact that the cards were chip and pin (EMV) should make them less valuable because that demonstrably reduces the ability to use them fraudulently. Did the author mean that the chip and pin cards could be used in a country where EMV is not implemented--the US--and this mis-match make it easier to us them since the issuing banks may not have as robust anti-fraud controls as non-EMV banks because they assumed EMV would do the fraud prevention for them Read more...
Two possible reasons that I can think of and have seen in the past - 1) Cards issued by European banks when used online cross border don't usually support AVS checks. So, when a European card is used with a billing address that's in the US, an ecom merchant wouldn't necessarily know that the shipping zip code doesn't match the billing code. 2) Also, in offline chip countries the card determines whether or not a transaction is approved, not the issuer. In my experience, European issuers haven't developed the same checks on authorization requests as US issuers. So, these cards might be more valuable because they are more likely to get approved. Read more...
A smart card slot in terminals doesn't mean there is a reader or that the reader is activated. Then, activated reader or not, the U.S. processors don't have apps certified or ready to load into those terminals to accept and process smart card transactions just yet. Don't get your card(t) before the terminal (horse). Read more...
The marketplace does speak. More fraud capacity translates to higher value for the stolen data. Because nearly 100% of all US transactions are authorized online in real time, we have less fraud regardless of whether the card is Magstripe only or chip and PIn. Hence, $10 prices for US cards vs $25 for the European counterparts. Read more...
@David True. The European cards have both an EMV chip AND a mag stripe. Europeans may generally use the chip for their transactions, but the insecure stripe remains vulnerable to skimming, whether it be from a false front on an ATM or a dishonest waiter with a handheld skimmer. If their stripe is skimmed, the track data can still be cloned and used fraudulently in the United States. If European banks only detect fraud from 9-5 GMT, that might explain why American criminals prefer them over American bank issued cards, who have fraud detection in place 24x7. Read more...

Our apologies. Due to legal and security copyright issues, we can't facilitate the printing of Premium Content. If you absolutely need a hard copy, please contact customer service.