Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Nordstrom Sees Sales Boost From Mobile POS Devices

Kelly Clay Contributor 

Long lines are one of the worst nightmares for retailers – especially those with consumers about to make purchases worth hundreds of dollars. For these customers, standing in line for several minutes provides the opportunity to think about the purchase they are about to make. This time can allow customers to think about the necessity of the purchase and the cost, and given too much time to over-analyze the potential purchase, a customer standing in line can easily decide to set aside part of the potential purchase and pay less for fewer items – or even walk away entirely.

Retailers like Apple and Home Depot recognized the need to eradicate this wait several years ago, providing employees with mobile POS devices that enable them check out customers from anywhere within the store if the customer is paying with a debit or credit card. Employees at Apple’s retail stores have been armed with iOS devices for several years, enabling consumers to easily make purchases without waiting in line. In early 2011, Home Depot introduced their “First Phone” to allow customers to check out from anywhere within the store, also without having to wait in line.
Now, Nordstrom, the Seattle-based fashion and beauty retailer offering apparel, shoes, makeup and other beauty products, is rolling out mobile point-of-sale (POS) devices throughout their full-line stores, as well as in some of their Nordstrom Rack stores. These mobile POS devices, which is a modified iPod Touch with a merchandise scanner and credit card slider, allow employees to check out customers from anywhere in the store. The app on the device also provides Nordstrom’s sales staff access to the company’s entire inventory, which is useful when helping customers check if an alternative size or color is available elsewhere, without needing a register to look up that information.

Nordstrom has deployed over 6,000 of these devices throughout their 117 full-line stores, and at some Nordstrom locations, there are more mobile POS devices than regular registers. Colin Johnson, a spokesperson for Nordstrom, says that these devices are part of a larger plan for Nordstrom to help “provide a more technology enabled store experience.” He notes that in 2005, Nordstrom began offering the option to ship merchandise directly to customers, and in 2009 the company integrated inventory with its online store. In 2010, Nordstrom then introduced WiFi into stores to “make it easier for customers to stay connected in the stores by using their mobile devices to shop and to compare and learn more about merchandise.”

With WiFi, Nordstrom laid a foundation for these new mobile POS devices, which Nordstrom finished initially rolling out in mid-2011 and are primarily being used in B.P. (the trendy young women’s section) and shoes, which is a conglomerate of smaller departments catering towards specific demographics. Other departments using these devices include men’s. At the flagship Nordstrom store in downtown Seattle, most sales associates in these departments can be found armed with a mobile point-of-sale device and using them to checkout customers paying with plastic. When a Nordstrom customer checks out with a mobile POS, they can sign for their purchase and enter an email address for a paperless receipt. For most Nordstrom customers, checking out with a mobile POS is an incredibly intuitive and almost shockingly simple experience.
Johnson explains that the goal of using the mobile POS for Nordstrom is really to “take care of customer anywhere in the store. We don’t have to take you to the cash register, and instead, can do that right there with you on dressing room or when you’re trying on shoes – and then you’re on your way.” He adds, “that kind of ability to increase speed and convenience is increasingly important.”

Increasingly important for not just the customer’s convenience, but for Nordstrom’s sales. According to the company’s 2012 March Sales Report, “Preliminary quarter-to-date total retail sales of $1.73 billion increased 15.3 percent compared with total retail sales of $1.50 billion for the same period in fiscal 2011.” Additionally, according to the 2011 Nordstrom Annual Report, “both the average selling price and the number of items sold increased in 2011 compared with 2010.”

Is it a coincidence that the average number of items sold and the average selling price both increased after implementing mobile point-of-sale devices? While Johnson explains that the new mobile POS at Nordstrom is designed to provide a “faster and more convenient experience for customers and reduce the time it takes time for customers to check out,” he adds that “anything that can help that is beneficial.”

This efficiency undoubtedly reduces the potential amount of time customers have to think about their purchases before they reach the register. Though consumers may enjoy the convenience these new mobile POS devices offer, both Nordstrom’s 2012 March Sales Report and 2011 sales figures allude to the real benefit of these new mobile point-of-sale devices.

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