Retailers are increasingly turning to mobile technology to help them work smarter, better, and faster in an ultra-competitive business environment. Mario Carrillo, product manager at Panasonic, explains why a growing number of retailers rely on rugged mobile technology and payment sleeves to meet these goals, while also improving the customer experience at the mobile point of sale (mPOS).
At Panasonic, the “voice of the customer” and the industry experience of our team members are key components of the Toughbook product family and solution delivery. My background is in the payments industry, and at first glance, you might wonder how I ended up at Panasonic. But retailers have utilized our mobile devices at the back of their stores for years. Increasingly, the savvy ones are looking to bring that same technology and innovation to customer experiences at the front of the store.
High-Tech Front and Back Operations
With mPOS sales on track to hit 28 billion transactions this year and then rise to 87 billion by 2023, according to Juniper Research, the race is on to find technology that can be used both in the front of the store and in the stock room. Why? When companies can rely on a single device to handle everything from store operations, to inventory control, to payment transactions (and anything in between), both the retailer and the customer win.
Historically, retail managers have used a tablet or laptop for store operations like inventory management. As technology has evolved and online shopping has increased, retailers have needed technology at the front of their stores to replace many of the traditional ways of performing customer-centric operations, like checking inventory — a process that use to require a trip to the stock room and a walkie-talkie.
Fast-forward to 2018 and the process of checking inventory has been greatly streamlined by technology. Retailers can now use mobile devices to help customers view an item, determine its availability, ship to the store or their home, and pay for the item. On the back end, those retailers gain access to rich, actionable customer data while also streamlining their operations and meeting customer expectations for faster service.
Panasonic’s Payment Sleeve Solution
Unfortunately, many retailers are still piecing together incompatible or disparate technologies that don’t play well together. For example, a retailer may be using a consumer-grade tablet to satisfy its own operating system (OS) and software requirements.That approach works up until the point where the firm needs to process customer payments — a step that requires an EMV-certified payment device. This limits the retailer’s capabilities and/or forces it to invest in an additional device that can work with other mobile hardware.
At this point, the retailer now must invest in tablets and payment devices for employees to carry around and use. This creates inefficiencies for retailers, many of which are now looking for a single device that can handle both functionalities and that allows employees to comfortably and confidently carry the tech with them during an entire shift throughout the store.
The other challenge is that consumer-grade devices are not built for this type of use. To maximize the total cost of ownership, retailers need devices that are tough enough to handle drops in the stock room or on the sales floor, while supporting the software they need to manage inventory — and be compatible with customer-facing payment options.
What’s the solution? Payment sleeves, which can be easily slipped onto a device, and transform it into a payment terminal that can scan barcodes, take payments (EMV, contactless, PIN-based), and/or perform back-end retail functions. Designed for use with the Panasonic Toughbook G1 rugged tablet, the Panasonic Payment Sleeve features a quick-release function that allows users to remove the payment sleeve and use the tablet for business operations.
Panasonic’s rugged devices also support what I call “Wi-Fi on steroids.” Our antennae and communications technology are designed to meet certain military standards, where connectivity is mission-critical. For the retail experience, in-store connectivity is crucial to avoid a line of unhappy customers because there’s no signal when they’re trying to check out.
The Panasonic Payment Sleeve solution also accommodates customer preferences. An employee can hold the payment device and the tablet within a single form factor that, when rotated, is used to receive customers payments. Or, the payment device can be removed from the sleeve and handed directly to the customer (and then replaced once the transaction has been completed).
Technology as a Competitive Advantage
As retailers strive for the perfect balance of mobile devices, supporting their mobile payment infrastructure and software, we expect to see more of them turning to modular solutions like the Panasonic Toughbook tablet and payment sleeve. Rather than settling for a consumer-grade tablet that will need replacing in 18 months, a bulky RFID reader, a printer and a barcode-scanning tool, we see more of them opting for multipurpose rugged mobile device-based options that enhance worker productivity while improving efficiencies across the board.
As technology continues to evolve, and as customers expect to be able to “pay from anywhere” (poolside, on the retail floor, at your doorstep, out in the parking lot…), tools like the payment sleeve will become even more critical for retailers. In return for their investment, retailers will be building customer loyalty in a world where the next competitor is literally one click away. Without a solid mobile payment infrastructure that ties in with its back-end operations, retailers will quickly find themselves falling behind the curve.
Learn more about the Panasonic FZ-G1 and payment sleeve here.