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How point of sale systems impact the customer experience

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The majority of retailers are aiming for customer-centricity, but according to Forrester only 8% qualify as truly ‘customer obsessed.’ However, this 8% lays claim the industry’s highest growth rates in revenue, profitability, market share, customer retention, and employee engagement. Each stakeholder in the retail ecosystem is working towards customer experience, but even the most sophisticated teams can’t overcome hurdles around legacy technology.

Point-of-sale (POS) systems are the heart and lungs of the retail-consumer ecosystem, driving efficiency and effectiveness across the organization. Because of its central role, the POS needs to integrate in-store and online purchases and fulfillment options, support evolving customer preferences and strategic priorities, and capture and leverage data appropriately across the organization. But traditional POS systems are not keeping pace with new demands.

These systems were built around retailer data requirements, not customer behaviors and they’ve struggled to adapt to new retail business models. As a result, traditional POS systems create barriers to customer experience.

 

The mismatch between legacy technology and modern customer expectation

Every customer is familiar with not being able to find products or get answers to questions, having to wait ages to checkout, and an almost punitive returns process. Historically, these inconvenient aspects of shopping were a price the customer was willing to pay—but that’s not the case anymore. Customers now expect a certain level of efficiency and personalization across every touchpoint.

Part of the problem comes from a mismatch—the customer thinks about their interaction with the brand holistically and doesn’t see a divide between channels or stages. By contrast, many retailers have disparate teams and systems for different corporate functions, with information silos and a firm divide between ecommerce and brick-and-mortar operations.

 

The new customer and how they shop

While the divide is nothing new, the pain caused by it is growing. According to a recent study by PYMNTS and Visa, “the more consumers have been exposed to digital shopping tools, the less patience they seem to have for the frictions that have long accompanied in-store shopping, such as checkout lines and product shortages.”

The pandemic allowed customers to examine their values and what they want from the brands that serve them. The result is they want not only ease and convenience but also service. According to an international Accenture survey, the “reimagined consumer” now represents 50% of shoppers. These reimagined consumers changed their values during the pandemic, and nearly half of them desire new tools and improved shopping advisory services using digital channels. “Everywhere commerce” is another trend, allowing customers to buy from anywhere and pick up their purchases from store, locker, delivery, or other channels.

Customers expect a seamless interaction between physical and digital touchpoints. Retailers must now be more agile than ever while providing an exceptional customer experience. A Salesforce study of 12,000 global consumers and 3,600 businesses revealed that 80% of consumers view “flawless engagement” as being just as important as product quality. Nearly 70% want companies to offer traditional products and services in new formats, especially desired by Millennials and Gen-Z. However, the most critical takeaway for retailers is this: Over 90% of customers are willing to re-purchase after a great service experience.

 

How Mulberry uses technology to enhance the store experience

Customers are gravitating toward brands that feel authentic and that lean into what makes them unique. Founded in 1971, Mulberry’s iconic style—inspired by hunting, fishing, and other English rural pursuits—informs every aspect of the brand’s customer experience. When Mulberry opened their London flagship store, they entirely re-thought how to create a customer-centric journey that brings “Somerset serenity and London energy.”

Mulberry turned the store into an omnichannel experience hub. They made the location feel like a chic lounge by doing away with the checkout line and letting customers make purchases from anywhere in the store. They eliminated inconveniences by accepting local payment types from across the world and increased customer convenience with endless aisle and ship-to-home capabilities.

Every sales associate carries an iPad or smartphone that lets them instantly access the entire product catalog, the full range of product images, and information not only about their own store stock but also e-commerce and other stores’ stock availability. Most significantly, the sales associate completes the transaction on their iPad or smartphone.
“One of the most important things is getting a seamless experience presenting products to the customer on a customer-facing application,” said Mulberry’s group IT director, Richard Cunningham. “Now we have flexibility by not having a fixed till point,” he said. “And in terms of the customer journey it makes it so much smoother as there’s no need to take someone over to a fixed point in a store.”

How Point of Sale impacts the experience

A high-touch personalized experience has become a de facto expectation. But it doesn’t always look the same. The 1:1 luxury experience is right for some customers, others value inventory access, pick-up efficiency, or return convenience. Regardless of product type or vertical, what’s important is that the systems and processes that support the customer experience are invisible so that the entire experience feels effortless, efficient and unified across channels.

Return depots, curbside pickup, video chat, virtual appointment, and social selling are all part of the expanding omnichannel strategy retailers now use to serve customers and stay competitive. Novel store formats are also gaining popularity. New offerings include pop-up stores that offer an immersive shopping experience, showcase new collections, or serve as an innovative short-term storefront.

The lesson here isn’t that customers want a specific new store format or engagement channel, but rather that adaptability and agility trump all. The retailers that listen to their customers, think creatively, and execute quickly are winning the race.

Most POS systems used by enterprise retailers were designed over 30 years ago and can’t keep up with modern omnichannel demands. They manage massive customer bases and store footprints but were built on legacy architecture and are intended to maintain an outdated status quo. Customizing, changing or extending is costly and time consuming, when possible at all.

 

Read our new whitepaper, The Silent POS and its impact on retail to learn more.

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