Pos Stays ‘Front End’ Center

In-store technologies are a constant area of focus at RSR. Annually, RSR conducts an in-depth benchmark report to unearth where retailers see the biggest challenges, opportunities and inhibitors to leveraging more advanced technologies in their stores. Clearly, point of sale still seems to be at the center of retail strategies—and opportunities.

The following is from this year’s study, the “Customer Centric Store Benchmark Report,” released in April 2008. It had 126 qualified retail respondents, with 73% coming from the United States. Of the 126, 60% were general merchandise and apparel (GMA) retailers, 29% were from the fast-moving consumer-goods (FMCG) segment, and the remaining 11% were from the hardware/DIY/other category. Also, 34% were “winning retailers” (those whose sales outperform inflation), 46% were average retailers, and 20% were lagging retailers.

Across all retail segments and tiers, modern POS hardware and software are the critical technologies required for a satisfactory in-store customer experience. Directly, speed of checkout is critical to leaving a lasting impression on the customer. Indirectly, the ability to capture detailed, accurate information at POS is the linchpin to capturing data for enterprise-wide business intelligence, improving store planning, allocation and replenishment, and ultimately reducing out-of-stocks (identified by retail winners as a critical component of the in-store experience).

It is interesting and heartening to find real-time cross-channel inventory and customer-data synchronization rising in retailer importance. This is a direct result of customer demands and expectations and was also identified as a top technology driver in RSR’s most recent multichannel retailing benchmark report, “Finding the Integrated Multi-Channel Retailer.”

For the most part, RSR wasn’t surprised by results regarding the value proposition of different technologies across retailer segments. In general, FMCG retailers place a premium on self-service convenience, while general merchandise and apparel, and the DIY and other product segments place a higher premium on more high-touch technologies.

The following are specific technologies that provide the FMCG segment more value than other segments:

Customer-facing self-service touchpoints – 86%

Digital signage – 91%

Dual-displays at POS – 91%

Self-checkout – 77%

In-store rewards and coupons – 82%

Personal scanners, product information kiosks, employee product-information training – 91%

Cross-channel customer and inventory synchronization – 77%

Distributed order management – 77%

Employee selling tools on the selling floor – 90%

RSR was more surprised by the lack of importance GMAs placed on some technologies that should be critical to these retailers’ success:

37% find little to no value in distributed order management

33% find little to no value in employee selling tools on the sales floor

27% find little to no value in modern POS hardware and software

46% find little to no value in providing KPIs (key performance indicators) and alerts to field management on mobile devices

RSR remains hopeful that the customer will pull these retailers in the right direction. If historically “stodgy” FMCG retailers can see the value in distributed order management, surely GMA and other retailers can find the same.