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The evolution of POS technology in an omnichannel world

By Contributor
Fri 22 Apr 2022

Article by Manhattan Associates A/NZ managing director, Raghav Sibal.

Many retailers have quickly and successfully navigated the challenges of the last two years – to the extent where they are now equipped with many of the right tools required to seamlessly serve their customers across whichever touchpoints or platforms they prefer.

As learned pandemic behaviours become the default setting for millions of consumers around the globe and in Australia, brands have continued serving customers via click & collect and kerbside pickup while simultaneously processing online returns in-store. 

For many retailers, this agile, innovation-heavy fusion of online and physical demand is becoming more commonplace, placing the role of modern, dynamic Point-of-Sale (POS) technology squarely at the centre of a redefined connected commerce era.

For brands today, a reimagined customer experience can be broken down into three key stages, with modern POS playing an important linchpin function in each of the three phases: 

  • Pre-purchase: Retailers need to have full visibility of not just customer data such as purchase history, but also their own inventory too.
  • Purchase: Out-of-stock is no longer an option for retailers today. With modern POS, endless aisle capabilities mean shoppers can purchase goods from across an entire network rather than being restricted by inventory availability at a single location.
  • Post-purchase: Stores have a critical role in the returns process, but without smart, joined-up store systems, returned goods can often fall into an inventory 'black hole'.

From the retail industry's first conception of a point-of-sale system, invented back in 1879, the retail landscape has come a long way, and for those who want to meet the needs of the 21st-century shopper, they need to be across all aspects of the omnichannel. 

But, as we observe an acceleration towards a true convergence point between physical and digital retail (fuelled by the effects of the pandemic), retailers need to continue to innovate and remove any remaining points of friction from this reimagined shopping experience. 

For example, let's go back to the perennial problem of out-of-stock predicaments. It's hard to believe that even in this day and age, only a small minority of retailers can offer in-store purchasing from another store's inventory or the warehouse. From a customer experience perspective, this tends to feel like an outdated process, causing not only the risk of losing a sale but also brand loyalty.

To truly reimagine the customer experience journey at a deeper level in 2022, we must recognise that the role of the store is no longer limited to selling. Instead, brick-and-mortar retail must be repositioned as a hub for fulfilment too. 

The benefits of this approach have been played out over the last two years. They continue to do so today – with retailers with store fulfilment options seeing higher revenue growth – a 114% increase when click & collect is implemented and a 60% increase when ship from store is implemented. 

The future of the customer experience journey is closely linked to eCommerce, and the future of eCommerce is intrinsically linked to the evolving capabilities offered by stores.

Retailers need to adopt a 'sell/fulfil/engage' mentality to meet supercharged customer expectations. However, when it comes to future-ready POS implementation, brands often make three common mistakes: adopting a store-only plan which could limit future agility, underinvestment in change management leading to uncertainty or failure to thrive, and selecting a "proven" vendor with old technology without consideration for new innovations.

All too often, brands are still thinking in silos. Instead, they need to develop a unified commerce roadmap – encompassing a POS + clientele management + store fulfilment + customer engagement strategy. Likewise, retailers need to make a clear plan for organisational change and select the right vendor capable of delivering against long-term, aspirational, and often moving targets.

As the evolution of POS continues amidst the backdrop of a pandemic-effected economy, it has become increasingly clear that customers are in the driving seat when it comes to how, when, and where they want to shop. 

Today, it's now up to retailers to take the reins of this new customer experience journey and drive the narrative forward. They can only do this by having sophisticated, modern POS and order management systems in place that support their customers varied shopping journeys.

Whether customers are shopping in-store, online, via a smartphone or on social media, retailers need to ensure that they can deliver a seamless customer experience journey across all the places their brand is represented, both online and physically.

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