Independent software vendors (ISVs) and software developers face a significant challenge when designing solutions for retailers and other customer-facing businesses: What works today may not meet consumer demands in the future. Furthermore, change can happen quickly. Think about how your users had to adapt to changes driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. If you provide a feature-rich retail solution tailored to a specific vertical market or niche, your software may have included all the functionality your clients needed. However, could merchants use it with hardware that they could adapt for online order fulfillment, curbside pickup and payment, self-service, or other new processes?
Hardware Features for the New Normal
The time you spend integrating your software with point of sale (POS) hardware is best spent by focusing on solutions that give retailers the flexibility to adapt to consumer behaviors – even when they change drastically. Look for hardware designs that allow merchants to use and connect the solutions anywhere – indoors or outdoors—and leverage the solution for multiple use cases.
An example of future-proof design is Epson’s OmniLink® TM-m30II-SL thermal receipt printer with tablet mount, which received an iF Design Award for innovative industrial product design excellence. The all-in-one solution, can connect multiple POS peripherals, allowing merchants to use it as a compact mPOS station, self-service station, or pick up station for online orders–whatever they need to meet consumer demands and operate most efficiently.
A Checklist of Future-Proof Hardware Features
To give your clients the greatest flexibility and help them get the most out of their hardware investments, you need to choose hardware integrations carefully. Aileen Maldonado, Product Manager at Epson America, recommends that ISVs and software developers ensure hardware has the following features:
It’s fundamental not to lock merchants into using one-note hardware that your users would have to rip out and replace when their industry or consumer behaviors change. Consider investing in hardware that supports multiple connectivity options. Spend your time integrating and certifying solutions that can be used and deliver value in multiple ways.
It’s common sense to ensure that any hardware solution you choose does what it says it will do, e.g., a printer needs to print. But it’s wise to consider all the needs of your users. Are they using the printer with multiple POS devices? Can it support line busting by printing via mobile device? Does it support POS peripheral devices or serve as a self-service station? To communicate orders to employees in a micro-fulfillment facility?
If you work with larger, tier 1 and tier 2 retailers as well as small and micro businesses, also consider whether the time you invest in integration will improve operational workflows and pay off for all of your customers.
Make sure the solution you choose addresses a broad range of use cases for your customer base.
As merchants change operations to meet consumer demands, they’re using technology in new places. They need more than wired solutions that sit on one countertop. Look for hardware that connects via USB, Ethernet, and Bluetooth to allow them to use the solution however they need to, including for curbside or buy online pickup in store (BOPIS), in the aisles, or at a traditional checkout counter.
- Cost savings
You will capture merchants’ attention if you can show them how the solution will save money. As they find their way through recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ll appreciate solutions that, for example, are energy efficient, can act as a self-servicing kiosk thus reducing labor hours, and have paper-saving features.
Build Loyalty by Helping Clients Weather Change
As the impact of the pandemic decreases, consumers are likely to return to some of their previous habits, shopping in physical stores. However, analysts are predicting new habits will also continue to trend. For instance, eMarketer predicts e-commerce will grow from 14.4 percent of total retail sales in 2020 to 19.2 percent by 2024. Also, even before the pandemic, SOTI found 73 percent of consumers prefer retail self-service rather than interacting with sales associates.
“We saw trends in consumer behaviors, even before the pandemic, toward online ordering and self-service,” Maldonado says. “Since the pandemic, those trends accelerated, and some new trends like curbside pickup are here to stay.”
Merchants who had resisted transitioning to omnichannel operations now have little chance if they want to meet consumer expectations and build customer loyalty. And the technology they need to offer new services such as BOPIS or curbside pickup must work seamlessly to provide the best possible customer service.
The partnerships you form can help your clients deliver – and keep your business relevant as consumer-facing industries continue to navigate through change. They’ll appreciate the forethought and design flexibility you put into your solutions, including your careful selection of the hardware they’ll use to run them.