In a trend that Apple started in its stores, mobile point-of-sale (POS) is increasing at a rapid rate in the retail industry. It started with Apple, then smaller mom-and-pop stores adopted the strategy as a way to save money. Now, more retailers than ever before are using tablets or smartphones as checkout devices for their customers.

Mobile POS creates more opportunities for retailers who arm their staff with tablets

Companies can use an associate app on iPads to make sure that their interaction with the customer doesn’t end when the shopper leaves the store. An associate can get the customer’s email address, send them a list of the items they looked at, and add some related items they might like. The goal would be for the shopper to be pulled back into the retailer’s website when they get home, rather than going to Google and possibly ending up on another seller’s site.

Create a store associate app for your floor staff. It should have a barcode scanner so they can instantly look up an item a shopper is curious about. Include customer reviews, Q&A, and video reviews so that they can add authentic customer opinions to their own expert opinion.

As tablet checkout becomes more common, stores will likely move to a more showroom style, with limited inventory and an emphasis on home delivery. Therefore, the associate app should include several options for purchase. Customers could buy a product right away for regular price. Or they would have other options like getting it shipped to their home for another fee, and next-day delivery for an even higher rate.

The app should let associates save their interaction with a customer, and send them an email so they can keep shopping when they get home. So if an associate helps a person check reviews on two items while they are in the store, and they are still undecided, the consumer could research the different products online later.

Mobile POS helps save time, space, and money

Customers will appreciate retailers who are able to cut down the wait time for making purchases during the holidays. Let’s face it–no one likes to wait on line. By having mobile POS solutions, employees can help more consumers right away on the sales floor. Says Chantal Tode of Mobile Commerce Daily:

“The advantages for large retailers of mobile POS include the ability to enhance customer service by enabling store associates to engage customers on the sale floor, significant cost savings as mobile POS is less expensive than traditional systems and the opportunity for increased sales because of enhanced relationships with customers.”

According to the Yankee Group, by replacing three cash registers with mobile POS, large retailers can increase their revenue by $20,000 per location due to the amount of space they free up for more products on the sales floor.

This holiday season, expect to see more stores using mobile point-of-sale technology

According to a recent report from Yankee Group, 61% of merchants with 500 or more employees have either already deployed mobile POS technology or plan to do so some time in the next 12 months. Says Jordan McKee, an analyst at Yankee Group:

“As we move into the holiday shopping season, we are going to see a lot more mobile point-of-sale, and I think it is really going to stick. I don’t think it is going to be just implemented for line busting. It is going to be the full package.”

Mobile POS: Hype to Reality, a new study from research firm IHL Group, determined that the mobile POS market will surpass $2 billion in hardware and software sales in North America in 2013; and 28% of North American retailers plan to adopt Mobile POS in some form by the end of the year.

Mobile in retail is now a $5.7 billion business worldwide and continues to grow rapidly, according to the IHL Group. It is the fastest moving trend in retail since stores implemented the Internet.

Does the rise of mobile POS mean the end of cash registers?

Experts are divided on whether mobile POS will completely replace cash registers in retail establishments. The IHL group study found that across North America, retail mobile POS devices will cannibalize 12.4% of traditional POS shipments by 2016.

Also, over 85% of larger retailers suggest that for the next three years, mobile POS will serve as additional transaction points in their stores, rather than as replacements for traditional fixed POS stations. Says Tode:

“There will most likely always be a need for at least one physical checkout location in these stores to serve those customers who are not comfortable checking out via mobile device or who have multiple items to purchase and want to be able to put them down on a counter to have them bagged. Still, it is likely that the number of traditional cash registers will begin to shrink as mobile POS takes off.”