One of the biggest lessons of 2020 is that businesses must be agile enough to respond to changing circumstances and consumer behaviors. For years, ISVs and their value-added reseller (VAR) channels in the retail point of sale (POS) market tossed around the phrase “adapt or die” in response to industry disruption. This year, solutions providers had the opportunity to help retailers adapt and grow more agile by building a bigger online presence, deploying mobile solutions, and leveraging technology in other ways to survive.
Aileen Maldonado, product manager for Epson America’s POS Solutions Division, says some retailers had already done the work to create agile organizations. “Companies that had a strategy for expanding their businesses beyond a brick-and-mortar store with a checkout counter were better positioned,” she says. “Retailers with the capability to accept online orders and who had mobile solutions were able to adapt much faster.”
She points out that if a business didn’t have e-commerce capabilities and mobile solutions deployed, they had to accelerate their plans. “Retailers that had a one- or two-year roadmap for buy online pickup in store (BOPIS) implementation were forced to pull that in,” Maldonado says.
How BOPIS, or Buy Online Return In Store (BORIS), processes work, however, isn’t the same process for every business. During shutdowns, consumers could enter stores deemed essential but were not allowed to go inside others. “Transactions occurred curbside or in outdoor shops,” Maldonado explains. “Businesses needed mobile solutions to manage pickups, accept payment, and print receipts.” She adds that ISVs who have integrated their solutions with a line of mobile printers, such as Epson mobile wireless receipt printers, including mobile belt clip printers, provided retailers with much-needed functionality and flexibility as they adapted to those changes.
Retail Trends in Mobile Solutions for 2021
The course the pandemic will take is uncertain, and further shutdowns may be necessary for some businesses, but its impact on consumer behaviors may be lasting. “Just because restrictions are lifted, it doesn’t mean consumers will be comfortable going back to shopping in stores,” Maldonado comments. She adds that employees, too, will have persisting concerns over workplace safety.
“We’ll continue to see social distancing for a while, and retailers will pivot their business models,” she says. These concerns are driving retail trends for the next year, including:
1Continued migration to online business
“More brick-and-mortar retailers are creating an online presence and reaching a greater audience using delivery,” says Maldonado. She points out that they’ll need printers that work with mobile devices as well as PC-based POS terminals. She advises ISVs: “Retailers need flexibility in terms of which device they can print from – if a tablet only works with a specific printer, it will be detrimental to adoption.”
2Heavy reliance on BOPIS and BORIS
Maldonado expects consumers to continue to buy online for in-store or curbside pickup, which requires mobile solutions to create a streamlined, customer-friendly operation.
Retailers are also refining their processes for accepting returns. “With the coronavirus, there is a return cooling-off period before items can be returned to inventory,” she says. Sales associates can use mobile printers with label printing functionality for bag-and-tag processes that show when the items were received and when they can be safely returned to the sales floor.
3Greater demand for line busting solutions
With a continued emphasis on social distancing, consumers won’t be comfortable standing in line for more than a few minutes. Maldonado says, “I’ve seen it. People won’t wait, and they walk out. Long lines mean lost revenues for retailers.”
Kiosks and mobile solutions, including printers, enable customers to quickly pay for their items and leave. She adds that when customers know that option is available, it may be an incentive to shop at that store.
4Mobile printer ergonomics become a greater priority
With processes requiring sales associates to carry mobile printers with them at all times, ergonomics will become a more important factor in printer selection. Maldonado says to look for printers for your mobile solution that are lightweight, easy to use, and that have long battery life and interchangeable battery packs.
Opportunities for ISVs and Their Channels
Sweeping change throughout the retail vertical is creating new opportunities for ISVs and VARs. Solutions providers offering total mobile solutions for line busting and managing curbside pickup can sell deeper into existing customers and develop attractive products for brick-and-mortar retailers adapting their operations to social distancing guidelines. Solutions providers can also add value with integrated payments, loyalty, marketing, CRM and other Software as a Service (SaaS) applications that provide retailers with all of the features they need when using mobile solutions.
VARs will also find opportunities to provide the wireless infrastructure retailers need to connect mobile solutions both inside and outside their clients’ stores. They’ll also find retailers looking for cellular failover solutions to prevent disruptions if Wi-Fi connectivity is disrupted.
Maybe most importantly, retailers need your expertise. POS technology and mobile solutions aren’t their core competency – their yours. And they can also use advice from trusted business advisors who have adapted to change. Design the total solutions they need to help them adapt their businesses now and be ready for whatever 2021 has in store.