Needless to say, the retail industry faced monumental changes during 2020. Many brick-and-mortar locations closed their doors, and omnichannel retailing and health and safety quickly became the focus of the industry. As we enter 2021 and the world continues to slowly reopen and move further into the “new normal,” what technology for retail stores can be expected to make a splash in the industry? Read on to find out.
Online Ordering / eCommerce
It comes as no surprise that online ordering will continue to be pivotal to retailers around the globe. In fact, 69% of Americans have shopped online and that percentage is expected to hit 91% by 2023. And did you know that shopping app downloads reached 2.8 million on Black Friday 2020, a new single-day record?
As shoppers everywhere continue to enjoy the convenience and extra level of safety that comes with placing their orders online, it’s more critical than ever for online ordering software to be an important piece of technology for retail stores. Some online ordering features retailers should look for in a POS application include:
- Secure payment technology, automatic tax calculation, automatic carrier shipping rates
- Customer account creation and customer profile abilities
- Inventory management
- Sales analytics
- Web and mobile applications
- Professional, attractive online store layouts that are easy-to-brand
- Marketing tools like social media integration and search engine optimization
- And more
Equally important to having the right eCommerce software is having the right eCommerce hardware. Using a POS printer like the mC-Print3 with CloudPRNT technology can greatly streamline omnichannel retail operations. CloudPRNT technology enables printing directly through a cloud service by working with the online ordering service to store and create print jobs and communicate status with the printer. This seamless online order fetching makes it so that retailers can automatically receive online orders without the need for an additional tablet, software, or SSL certificate. And better yet, the mC-Print3 features USB hub functionality, allowing for connecting peripherals like cash drawers, customer displays, scanners, and more. There’s no reason for omnichannel retailing to cause complicated logistics for business owners!
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Another retail trend related to eCommerce is buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS). While the same POS software mentioned above can likely field BOPIS orders, the technology that retail stores may need for BOPIS may be slightly different.
While many online orders are paid for by credit card, retailers may still experience some shoppers who wish to pay with cash. In that case, a space-saving, all-in-one POS featuring a small cash drawer – like the Star Micronics mPOP™ – may be ideal. A thermal printer (like the Star Micronics TSP654IISK) capable of printing linerless labels – which are repositionable, residue-free, and can improve order accuracy up to 99% – may also be helpful in preparing BOPIS orders for customer pickup. Last but not least, if a store is offering curbside payments, portable receipt printers with magnetic stripe readers (MSR) can allow employees to complete transactions at the customer’s car, eliminating the need to run back inside and ultimately saving the business time and money.
Did you know that 85% of shoppers said they have made additional in-store purchases while visiting stores to pick up their BOPIS orders, and 15% of them say they make those additional purchases “somewhat frequently?” Because of that, it is worth noting that if a retailer experiences a high volume of BOPIS orders, it may be useful to invest in a higher-volume cash management solution. Star Micronics proudly offers three lines of cash drawers with a variety of features, sizes, and price points, to meet any retailer’s cash management needs.
Health and Safety Products
While recent events have undoubtedly expanded the eCommerce market, brick-and-mortar is here to stay. In fact, according to Tinuiti,
“Last year, real estate experts predicted that digitally native brands would open 850 brick-and-mortar stores in the next 5 years, with New York being the most popular destination. And while the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly slowed the openings of new brick-and-mortar stores, we’re still seeing offline experiences from previously online-only brands, and will continue to in 2021.”
While physical retail locations will remain, so will health concerns. Businesses can put their employees’ and customers’ minds at ease by deploying the right health- and safety-focused technology for retail stores. One tool is a sneeze guard, or a plexiglass divider placed at the point of sale to limit the spread of germs. Not all sneeze guards are the same, and retailers may find a lightweight, portable guard (like the Star Micronics POSShield) that doesn’t require any drilling or mounting is a more convenient choice for both their short-term and long-term needs.
Another simple yet effective health and safety tool is antimicrobial covers. This film, which is safe to use and easy to apply, reduces germ transfer on high-touch surfaces like door handles and push bars, checkout counters, restroom surfaces, elevator buttons, and more. Antimicrobial covers can help build consumer confidence in a retailer, as the film is printed with an eye-catching message conveying that it limits the spread of germs. This message lets customers know the store is doing what it can to protect the public health.
Augmented Reality (AR)
Purchasing products online isn’t the only web-based tool making a splash in the retail industry. A Nielsen survey has revealed that consumers listed augmented and virtual reality as the top technologies they’re seeking to assist them in their daily lives, with 51% saying they would be willing to use AR to evaluate products.
And AR isn’t just for big name brands. In 2020, Shopify launched Shopify AR, a toolkit for small- and medium-sized businesses to create immersive AR experiences showcasing realistic and interactive versions of products to shoppers. AR helps shoppers get a better understanding of a product’s size, scale, and details, and apparently digitally “trying it on” works – Shopify reported that interactions with products having AR content experienced a 94% higher conversion rate than products without AR.