Your Point of Sale
Today, technology allows quite a lot to take place at the cash register, beyond just the exchange of money for goods. For one, Schweitzer says that digital advertising can be integrated at the POS, including the ability to change advertising content depending on the quantity of product on hand or to tie in with specific promotions, including coupons tailored to customer purchases.
Then, there is the widespread integration of loyalty program features at the POS. “Retailers are using customer loyalty programs to track customer spending, and keep customers coming back with rewards such as gift certificates, entry forms, discounts, points and free gifts,” Schweitzer says. She also describes an interesting feature that ties in with the “buy local” trend, where software identifies items that are produced locally and indicates this on the customer’s receipt.
Using a self-hosted loyalty program integrated with one’s POS system may save on costs associated with third-party programs, ECRS says, and it provides more flexibility. “Point-based programs are effective, transparent and easy for customers and employees to use,” they say, adding that later this year their company plans to roll out an additional loyalty program service to complement its current loyalty points-based system. As opposed to the “pull” that loyalty points have in bringing customers to the store, the new service will integrate social media, and will “push” promotions out via e-mail on a custom schedule set by the retailer.
Self-checkout. Speaking more broadly about the potential of POS technology, ECRS says, “It is important that natural grocery stores cater to the needs and shopping preferences of their customers, whether it’s with traditional checkout lanes, self checkout, mobile POS or new, high-technology innovations,” such as their company’s 360-degree product scan tunnel for self checkout.
Many customers today, ECRS says, are growing used to technology that allows for self checkout. “Autonomous self checkout is great option to absorb traffic during peak hours, cater to lunch crowds or to improve direct customer interaction on the sales floor,” they say, adding, “For example, a self-checkout kiosk placed in a deli department would allow faster service for customers who simply want to pick up a quick lunch and get back to work; a convenience that could actually result in higher sales.”
Key points to consider in selecting a self-checkout system, according to ECRS, include reliability, minimal need for employee interaction and intuitiveness for customers. They believe that the commonly implemented practice of having multiple self-checkout lanes overseen by a dedicated attendant with a workstation is not ideal for many natural grocery stores. Instead, self checkout should serve as a true stand-alone “robot” or “assistant.”
Mobile payments. Technologies that allow customers to use nontraditional forms of payment at checkout, from cloud payments to proximity payments, are coming into their own. Some of these solutions use PayPal, while others use Near Field Communication (NFC) from mobile phones to conduct transactions. One forecast has the percentage of payments made under the heading of “mobile” rising to 13% by 2018 (1).
“Mobile POS solutions have become more popular as retailers look for innovative and cost-effective ways to increase efficiency and improve customer service. Mobile solutions allow retailers to complete transactions while away from the store and also reduce hardware costs,” says Schweitzer. There may, however, be slight security concerns with some of these payment options, and there are infrastructure obstacles to their widespread adoption.
Of the future of mobile payments, Schweitzer says, “While we do not expect this to replace traditional POS systems, we see it working in conjunction with the store’s existing solution.” ECRS agrees with that assessment, stating, “A combination of traditional and non-traditional POS options should provide a competitive edge to natural retailers and provide benefits for both the customer and retailer.”