This article This article written by Matt Pillar originally appeared in Retail IT Insights. To read the article on that site, please click here.
Tech companies rise and fall with dramatic swings in the in-store technology preferences of retailers and consumers. We talked with David Crist, SVP of sales and marketing at Brother Mobile Solutions; Angela Mansfield-Swanson, director of corporate marketing at CognitiveTPG; and Adam Ortlieb, associate director of marketing at Seiko Instruments, to get insight into how mobile POS will impact the printer industry.
2013 marks the first year that receipt printers didn’t top the list of POS hardware priorities in our annual tech spending survey. They ranked a statistical tie with mobile POS hardware. How would you interpret that showing?
Crist: The entire mobile POS landscape has changed dramatically over the past one to two years. We are not surprised that new computing platforms, new software applications, and new operating systems have taken mindshare and some project investment interest away from a “utility” peripheral like receipt printers.
Mansfield-Swanson: Last week I was at my local Nordstrom Rack and noticed that they were removing all the check out stations except for one. Every sales associate had a handheld for accepting payment, and remote POS printers were set up throughout the store for issuing receipts. Is this the future of retail? There is no doubt that the mobile solutions are changing the face of your traditional POS system, so it is not a surprise that printer hardware no longer ranks a top priority. However, I do believe that this drop in ranking is also attributed to the major refreshes that happened over the last two years. Despite these trends, there is still growth in thermal receipt printers (6% according to IHL) and POS printers still comprise the majority of the revenue.
Ortlieb: I think the phenomenon of evolving technology priorities reflects the added competitive pressures retailers are facing, and the resulting need to really optimize the customer experience at the point of sale/service.
Shoppers are armed with more information than ever, and their expectations have clearly heightened since the proliferation of smart phones. To remain competitive and maximize customers’ share of wallet, retailers have to offer a seamless cross-channel buying experience. Evaluating the right mix of customer engagement technologies in the store — including mobile, conventional POS, and self-service technology — is critical to achieving this.
A reliable mobile solution, including a small formfactor, easy-to-use mobile receipt printer, is ideal for getting customers the information they need faster and for accelerating transactions to avoid wait times.
As consumers become more reliant on their mobile devices and incorporate them into retail transactions, how will the role of the paper receipt evolve?
Crist: We still believe there will be a continuing role for the paper receipt. However, the use of paper receipts will become more elective by the consumer, will need to be available in many different (mobile) application environments, and for many, will still be the backstop or security blanket to confirm a transaction. More retailers may even consider the paper receipt as an extension of their brand or customer experience, requiring it to contain more data, graphics, and higher quality paper.
Mansfield-Swanson: With the adoption of mobile POS solutions, the paper receipt will need to offer more value to the consumer, something more than a transaction record. When retailers can leverage the receipt as a marketing tool to connect with the customer, you will find the receipt has more value. Personally, I don’t think e-receipts are a game changer. They are not for everyone; in fact, many consumers do not want to give away their email addresses. Remember, receipts do have a purpose. A retailer still needs to offer printed receipts, so the electronic receipt is only optional. My experience is that if a consumer wants the electronic receipt, they typically request the printed version as well for immediate review. At the end of the day, it comes down to whether or not you want your wallet or your email inbox full of receipts.
Ortlieb: Showrooming appears to be the most impactful phenomenon created by shoppers’ increased reliance on mobile devices. Fortunately, paper receipts can be a useful tool to mitigate some of the potentially adverse effects of showrooming.
With paper receipts, retailers can immediately get important information into customers’ hands to enrich the buying experience, enhance customer loyalty, and even drive incremental revenue. Coupons, rebates, extended warranties, loyalty programs, Facebook promotions, and QR codes are all great examples of highly effective elements that are easily incorporated into receipts. Moreover, because these promotions are not being sent electronically, they can be distributed to a much broader audience than simply to those who have previously opted in.
How is your company responding to the growing interest in mobile POS among retailers?
Crist: There will be a continuing need on the part of all peripheral manufacturers to adapt and “follow the transaction,” wherever it ends up going. There are so many mobile POS/transaction processing scenarios under consideration right now within retail that it’s almost impossible to generalize. We’ve taken the approach of designing and selling platform printing technologies that are flexible, mobile, and reliable, and that integrate well with other solution components.
Mansfield-Swanson: We are looking at ways to expand and evolve our product solutions to meet the growing movement toward mobile POS, including offering small, mobile solutions that are intuitive and can work with the new technologies such as QR codes and near field communication. We think there is a great deal of evolution still taking place in shaping the ultimate mobile solution, and we will continue to play a strong role in the environment once it’s better defined.
Ortlieb: We currently offer an array of options to meet evolving customer engagement requirements, including a line of wireless mobile printers designed for ease of use, speed, reliability, and cost-effectiveness. We also continually work to advance key design characteristics of these models, such as extending battery life without adding bulk to the units. Retailers rely on these devices as part of line busting solutions to significantly improve their in-store shopping experience, build customer loyalty, and increase revenue opportunities.
Because many retailers require a mix of technologies to tackle these challenges, we also manufacture stationary POS printers, as well as direct thermal receipt printers for kiosks and self-checkout applications. Similar to our mobile printers, these units require designs that emphasize form, reliability, performance, and ease of use. These features help free up needed real estate at the POS, avoid costly downtime, and accelerate transactions.