With the rapid evolution of mobile retail technology, customer expectations have taken on new meaning, forcing retailers to reassess their approach to customers’ experience of their ‘brick and mortar’ and online stores. Hugh Davies, business development manager at Epson South Africa, examines the phenomenon.

Traditional retail models are quickly falling out of favour among consumers, causing massive disruption in the retail sector. A look at the latest point of sale (POS) and printing technology trends will prove to retailers that there is a very real need to listen to their customers, and make innovation a central priority in their businesses if they have any hope of surviving this disruption.

For instance, many retailers have made it possible for customers to purchase goods and services from their online retail platforms – such as e-commerce sites and mobile applications – following the rise in smart phone usage in South Africa. These retailers understand the importance of offering mobile payment solutions for customers who prefer the convenience of shopping online instead of having to wait in line in-store.

Online purchasing is also gaining popularity within the fast food sector, which gives customers the ability to order and pay for their meal deliveries online, and even track the order as it makes its way to them. Epson, a global leader in innovative point of sale and printing technology solutions, was instrumental in implementing these efficient delivery and payment systems for some of the biggest fast-food chains in the world.

Epson’s intelligent range of POS printers acts as a gateway between the information sent from the customer and the restaurant, allowing restaurant personnel to accept or reject orders using a smartphone or tablet, and automatically send accepted orders to the receipt printer through its WiFi capability.

However, this does not mean that the traditional “brick and mortar” store setup is dead in the water – on the contrary, there are a variety of innovative tech solutions that retailers can implement in-store to enhance the customer’s shopping experience.

For customers who want to avoid busy shopping malls and time-wasting queues, retailers should consider on-the-floor solutions that speed up purchase transaction processes, such as placing mobile pay-points at various points in the store.

Many of South Africa’s major retailers will attest to the benefit of Epson’s TM-printers in this regard. These intelligent printers act as a back-end communication system, replacing the traditional cash register with a compact device that acts as both a transaction port and stock information device.

The TM-m30, for instance, is a cost-effective point-of-sale (POS) device designed to optimise payment processes for retailers, through its Ethernet, Bluetooth and Wi-i interfaces. Best of all, this compact device can be integrated into virtually any operating environment and provides staff with an easy-to-use, fast, and on-demand printing solution to improve the customer experience.

POS systems offering wireless and integrated connectivity are among some of the new emerging trends in the retail sector, providing mobility and ensuring customers spend less time at pay-points waiting for card payments to be processed.

Along with mobile payment solutions, self-service portals allow an added layer of convenience to the overall shopping experience – but this of course depends on the type of retail environment in question. For example, a self-service counter might work quite well in grocery stores, but might be less successful in a hospitality environment or a clothing store, where customers might prefer face-to-face interaction.

Engineering a retail space that considers and caters to customer expectations is vital for retailers that hope to maintain and grow their positioning and a highly competitive marketplace. As customers increasingly favour doing their shopping online, and the use of mobile platforms to make quick and convenient purchases, retailers need to embrace the evolution that this technology brings in order to survive.