Australian retailers must refresh and connect their POS systems to deliver on omnichannel’s promise of seamless, personalised customer service.
Legacy point-of-sale (POS) systems are a major roadblock to gaining a comprehensive understanding of consumer behaviour, correlating it to inventory management, and getting customers what they want and when they want it — no matter the channel. The issue is not confined merely to physical stores, as online transactions and e-commerce gateways often also operate without integration to the data and back-end processes that ultimately determine customer experience quality.
A benchmark study conducted by RSR Research found that 77 percent of retailers worldwide believe their legacy POS systems prevent them from providing a consistent omnichannel customer experience.¹ If Australian retailers want omnichannel to elevate their sales, customer loyalty and competitive advantage against global competitors, they should focus on integrating their POS end-points from the ground up to provide real-time views of inventory and each individual customer.
Getting the bigger picture of retail performance
Each POS touchpoint collects large volumes of immensely valuable data about customer behaviours and transaction patterns. However, legacy POS systems are inevitably siloed separately from one another, with no means of combining and analysing each point’s data as part of overall retail performance. “Legacy” does not just mean terminals or devices in physical stores: e-commerce and online transaction systems are often equally isolated from one another, particularly for early-adopters who saw online retail as a total replacement to physical sales. Today’s customers have proven otherwise, with more than 90 percent of purchases being researched online but purchased in physical stores.
These same customers expect a consistent, personalised experience of a retail brand no matter what channel they’re using. POS touchpoints that are not fully integrated will not allow retailers to “join the dots” between each touchpoint to get the big picture of the customer’s journey. Nor can they provide customers (or the front-of-house staff serving them) with the personal insights and information that would otherwise enhance their buying decisions and overall experience.
Australian retailers have been quick to adopt multiple sales channels and POS systems, but less so when it comes to integrating them. Although six in 10 Australian retailers offer transactions via their websites, four in 10 lack a customer experience management strategy² — a critical element to coordinating multiple customer channels and touchpoints. Without that overarching strategy, retailers may be tempted to simply keep replacing their POS touchpoints with the latest and greatest technologies. Yet this does not tackle the underlying issue that each POS “dot” and its data cannot be connected or interpreted by those responsible for customer experience.
Best-practice POS transformations
The only way to deliver true omnichannel customer experiences is to transform the back-end platforms that govern them. The omnichannel POS system must be able to gather data from POS touchpoints across all channels, communicate this data to inventory and supply chain processes and analyse it to provide retail managers with real-time insight into customer and transaction trends. This must be done in a consistent way that recognises and smooths out the differences between in-store and e-commerce systems to avoid creating complexity that grows with each new channel.
Back-end platforms must also pass back information to each POS end-point to personalise the experience that each customer has. This may include providing commonly searched-for product information or reviews to in-store associates via their mobile devices; or adapting a customer’s view of the retailer’s website to show real-time information about product availability and delivery time based on current inventory levels — a potentially powerful differentiator for the 26 percent of Australian online shoppers buying products overseas. By personalising the end-points of the POS system using the data that it collects, retailers can start to generate customer experiences that are constantly adapting to what customers seek, independent of the channel through which they interact with the brand.
Implementing these back-end transformations is much faster than ever before. Cloud-based platforms can be rolled out to retailers’ infrastructure within days instead of months. The use of off-the-shelf mobile devices (like smartphones and tablets) as POS touch-points makes it much simpler to update information available to front-of-house staff.
Australian retailers are not the only ones struggling with omnichannel: the global retail industry also faces significant hurdles when it comes to legacy POS systems. But if they can translate their penchant for early adoption of cloud and mobile technology into complete back-end integration of their POS systems, Australian retailers can establish themselves as some of the first to deliver on the omnichannel promise to customers globally.
¹ RSR Research, 2015. Commerce Convergence: Closing the Gap between Online and In-store
² Frost & Sullivan, 2015. The Customer Experience Challenge for Australian Retailers