'Apple-style' mobile tills could revolutionise retail

shopping rush

Mobile point of sale (Pos) technology is already available for use by retailers if they want it, as the success of the Apple store's use of it as shown.

This was the message from a roundtable that included two big vendors of the technology, Fujitsu and Motorola, who have already worked with Apple to implement the tech in its stores.

Apple is ahead of the game when it came to the use of mobile PoS devices, the firms said, which customers are already used to seeing in Apple stores across the UK and US.

Mark Keohane, head of self-service and mobile services at Fujitsu Services, said he has worked very closely with Apple in Britain for the last three years.

He described what happened in the Regent Street store in London, where there are now two levels with very few fixed tills and 50 or 60 handheld devices.

"Prior to having handhelds in the store, the queues were out of the door," he said. "It was bizarre really you selected your product and then had to go outside at the back of the queue."

"There's now a collaborative relationship between shoppers and staff that is paramount for Apple. Staff are able to close the deal and complete the transaction at the point of decision," he added.

"We've seen that with fashion retailers as well. They are looking at the changing room area where customers make decisions. You could close the sale there and then."

Other well-known businesses in the UK such as WHSmith, Boots and the Co-Operative Group were trialling the technology.

Greg Rankin, marketing manager for secure payments company Ingenico, said that mobile PoS devices generated the most interest among its customer base.

"[The devices] are future proof for the kind of payment technology that we are seeing in the UK at the moment, such as with the rollout of contactless cards," Rankin said.

Rankin said that mobile PoS devices were multi-functional and should not be simply thought of as mobile tills, but enhanced customer service as they could look up information such as how much stock was in store. They also carried Wi-Fi and Bluetooth functionality.

He said that in the past it would have been thought of as too expensive to have a PDA to use when roaming around the shop floor. But now there was a fully integrated secure payment module, meaning suddenly you had a lot of different uses.

"You can make payments, but you can satisfy a lot of needs that really enhance customer service, particularly in the retail environment," Rankin said.

"But it's not just the traditional retail arena. There is significant interest from airlines who are seeing a significant level of card fraud onboard, particularly in a world where magstripe is prevalent rather than chip and PIN."