A retailer’s guide to embracing in-store mobile technology

James Pepper, technical director at Vista Retail Support, offers up his top tips on how retailers can implement new mobile technology.

Mobility is expanding in retail, as storeowners increasingly deploy tablets and other hand-held technology for assisted selling, customer self-service, staff training and visual merchandising.

However, any retailer deciding to fully embrace this technology has to meet some basic requirements if the transition is to proceed smoothly and profitably.

Firstly, the brief should be determined by the fundamental purpose of the project, whether that is to boost revenue or respond to customer demand.

The next step is to choose the right hardware and to think through what it will be needed to support it. If the device being deployed is a tablet, for instance, then it is likely that the peripheral components such as printers, hand-scanners and PIN entry devices (PEDs) will need robust wireless or Bluetooth technology.

At this stage, it is a good idea to ask the provider for case studies and customer references showing how in an everyday retail context, the hardware will work seamlessly with the chosen software and payment applications.

Next, it is worth considering the wireless Local Area Network (LAN) behind the technology. To ensure connectivity does not fail, a retailer needs to ensure the premises are properly surveyed and the most suitable solution selected. To achieve optimal installation, a store operator needs to employ an IT services provider which is experienced in Wi-Fi networks installation and support.

Further expertise will also be needed if a retailer is going to use the new equipment to process payments. A good Qualified Security Assessor will be able to lead a store operator through the all-important requirements of the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI), which must be met.

Once compliance has been established, the IT services company can deploy point-to-point encryption of card payment data, standard chip-and-pin card security and Wi-Fi at point-of-sale.

Expertise is also required in another area that is easy to overlook – backup. Sorting out problems quickly and effectively requires experience, while cutting corners only piles up costs and leads to downtime delays that ruin a retailer’s reputation.

One way of reducing expenditure in this area is to use remote monitoring applications to check on the new devices, allowing software updates to be deployed remotely.

Finally, it is important that staff training is thorough and built into a carefully planned change management programme involving all stakeholders.

If undertaken with inadequate planning and expertise, the shift to mobile technology can be expensive, complex and drawn-out. Yet if retailers follow the guidance above, they should have a trouble-free deployment that gives them the benefits of reduced costs, slicker operations, better-informed staff and higher revenues.

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