When discussing retail trends for the upcoming year, expect to see the consumer continuing to elicit more control of the retail industry, making building a unique and highly satisfying consumer experience more important than ever. Simply providing the most highly demanded products at competitive prices will not be enough to increase, or even fully satisfy, the customer base in 2013. But what is the key to customer experience? What are the most effective aspects needed to engage the consumer of tomorrow?
In 2013, the answer to this question can best be summed up under the umbrella of efficiency. Above all else, customers want their needs to be served in the most efficient and intuitive way possible and point-of-sale (POS) systems are proving to be excellent channels to achieve this primary need.
The most widespread trend that will be taking over in 2013 will be the integration of advanced-mobile options. The days of waiting in long lines during peak retail seasons are numbered. Recognizing the need to adapt to the changing landscape of the eligible client-base – a younger and 'always-on' customer – mobile point-of-purchase systems are proving to be a win-win. Not only do tablet or smartphone POS systems streamline service and enhance guest satisfaction, this consumer-driven trend offers enormous cost-savings when compared to traditional cash register POS systems.
Additionally, the touch screen aspects offered by most mobile POS devices are more intuitive than traditional systems. Mobile POS systems do not require complex configurations or the need for a back-up server. Most employees are efficient with smartphones and tablets, which not only save time from a training staff perspective, but also offer self-service for customers, yet another example of increased efficiency and differentiating value in the storefront.
Another trend we expect to hit the POS space in full force next year is the integration of more loyalty programs and customized advertising and marketing promotions to engage with customers at each stage of the purchase process; from driving impulse consideration, all the way to the final purchase. Loyalty programs have been picking up momentum for the past couple of years and are now becoming fully integrated into on-site POS systems, both mobile and traditional. With customer loyalty software programs launching in every type of retail venue imaginable, cashiers are able to sign customers up within one to two minutes, meeting the easy and quick transaction consumers' today demand while also reminding them of the added-value offered by the vendor.
Customer relationship management is also being met through customized advertising. While custom-advertisements, such as coupons based on past purchases on receipts, have been offered for some time now, new POS systems now exist that scan customers in purchase lines and then display digital advertising based on their gender, age, etc. This innovative technology is another medium enhancing customer experience and encouraging impulse buys in the checkout aisle.
2013 is the year of the customer experience. With a new generation dominating the customer base, retailers must adapt by increasing purchasing efficiency and demonstrating value beyond the primary products and/or services being offered. This expected paradigm shift of individualized service and a more personalized experience is something we expect to see well into the New Year and 2014.
Jay Graham is vice president of technology solutions at Randstad Technologies, a technology talent and solutions provider in the U.S. that provides technology recruitment, consulting, project and outsourcing services.