There’s a new catchphrase in the retail industry: Perfecting the pivot.
The reality of doing business in the COVID-19 era entails meeting the needs of customers without actually “meeting” the customers. Two technologies in particular help restaurants, shops, grocery stores, and other retailers attract customers while abiding by social distancing and other pandemic-related guidelines: POS portable kiosks and online ordering.
Combining those two trends is seen as the key to survival for a growing number of businesses that rely on direct sales and services to consumers. Just as importantly, the technologies are seen as key factors in keeping retail employees safe.
For example, when giant food vendor Aramark adapted its EverSafe operational safety program to accommodate COVID-19 precautions, the plan emphasized increasing use of self-service kiosks, touchless self-checkout terminals, mobile ordering, and contactless pickup and delivery, as Modern Restaurant Management reports.
How POS Portable Kiosks and Online Ordering Fit Together
Business News Daily identified unified commerce as the fastest-growing trend in the restaurant and retail industry in 2020. And that was before the implementation of social distancing and other restrictions related to the pandemic. Also called multi-channel or omnichannel commerce, the goal of unified commerce is to seamlessly merge the shopping, ordering, and purchasing experience by allowing customers to shop wherever, whenever, and however they choose.
Providing customers with the self-ordering and self-checkout options they crave begins by using a tablet that connects wireless to the POS system and serves as a self-service kiosk. The next step is to offer a mobile app or mobile-friendly website that duplicates the options and easy-to-use interface of the in-store mobile kiosk.
Among the trends forecast to shape the retail industry in 2021 are multiple payment methods, self-service multimedia displays, combining in-store and online sales platforms, empowering employees, and embracing automation and data analysis. The union of POS portable kiosks and online ordering promote all of these trends.
Benefits of Syncing Online Orders with Portable Kiosks
Far from the standalone POS systems of yesteryear, the primary capability of modern POS products is their ability to reach out to various apps, cloud-based services, and hardware such as receipt printers and barcode scanners. Mobile POS kiosks linked to online ordering systems improve the efficiency and accuracy of orders, allowing them to be filled more quickly and reducing returns and dissatisfied customers.
Customers benefit when retailers combine their accounting and inventory software with their online presence. They are assured that when they use the click-and-deliver option on a retailer’s website or mobile app, they will enjoy the same shopping experience as they would get by visiting the store, plus faster and more accurate order processing.
Another advantage of online POS systems is the many hardware choices they offer retailers. For example, receipt printing from a standard PC-connected printer can’t handle the high volumes that wireless-connected mobile POS kiosks accommodate. The low cost and easy connectivity of POS portable kiosks make them an ideal choice for small retailers in particular, such as salons, pet grooming services, and neighborhood cafes.
The Growth of Contactless Options for Kiosk POS Systems
Even before the COVID-19 response, retailers were increasing their use of contactless technologies in conjunction with their POS operations. Retailers are discovering that the combination of mobile kiosks and online ordering is allowing them to build their brand by reaching new audiences.
The obvious downside to POS portable kiosks is the need to sanitize them after every use to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Kiosks that support contactless payment methods help to minimize the potential danger, but not all customers are willing or able to use contactless payment methods. An alternative that a growing number of retailers are choosing is the creation of virtual kiosks that rely on online ordering.
Customers are able to use virtual kiosks to access the store’s inventory quickly and easily, place orders accurately, and arrange for pickup or delivery of the items they ordered, all with just a few clicks. Businesses benefit by being able to collect and analyze more data about their customers and their shopping and spending preferences.
Tips for Integrating Online Orders with Mobile POS Systems
As they adjust to the new normal, retailers have focused on keeping their operations running as smoothly as possible. Combining online orders with portable POS kiosks must be done carefully to avoid disruptions that can interrupt the order-processing flow. However, the integrated system has to include all the features the business will require to realize all the benefits of unified online and on-premises operations.
- It must include a branded website.
- It needs to support integrated payment options.
- It has to accept and complete orders quickly and efficiently.
- It must feature automatic notifications.
- It has to include the ability to generate reports providing insight into customers.
- It must allow customers to check the status of their orders.
- It should include the ability to combine customers’ online and in-store activities, including sales across channels.
Retailers that fail to capitalize on the customer data that combined online and on-premises POS systems collect risk falling behind the competition. Online ordering gives businesses insights into how people interact with their site and mobile app, as well as their other online activities. These include the product reviews they read before visiting their site, the competitor sites they access, and which of their products attract the most (and least) attention.
Many of the most important trends affecting retailers predate the COVID-19 response. In most cases, the pandemic is merely highlighting and speeding up changes that have been underway for years, such as the shift to online ordering, self-service kiosks, and contactless payments. The retailers that are best able to adjust their operations to meet the changing needs and preferences of their customers will be the ones who not only weather the storm, but are made stronger by it.
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