Retailers Prep for Black Friday
Although new technologies designed to help retailers for their big Black Friday sales are being made available, it’s the tried and true technologies that are going to be used on the unofficial start of the Christmas shopping season.
Tablets have become a hot technology topic, and there are several products now available designed for point-of-sale (POS) applications, but retailers aren’t adopting them this year. Instead, they’ll rely on linebusting techniques and technologies that have already been proven in past years, said Greg Girard, program director for retail merchandise strategies at IDC Retail Insights.
"The use of mobile devices will be slightly higher than prior years, but they’ll base that on linebuster devices they’ve been using in the past," Girard said. "I don’t think that they’ll be introducing any new linebuster mobile devices that are on the iPad or on the iPhone or any of those types of devices, because those aren’t ruggedized and those aren’t secure, and they don’t actually have the ability to conduct transactions rapidly, which is what transactions need on Black Friday."
Typical linebusting devices used at retail include ruggedized handhelds from the likes of Motorola Enterprise Mobility and Moneris, but there are additional problems associated with using such devices on the floor, Girard said. At checkout counters, consumers can put their merchandise down on counters, but that’s not possible if they complete their purchase transactions with a clerk outfitted with a mobile POS device.
The devices are more useful on a wireless network so that a clerk can walk up to a closed lane with a mobile POS device and open for business almost immediately, he said. Such devices are mostly limited to retail formats with checkout lanes at the front of the store rather than checkout counters in the store’s interior, he added.
Some large electronics retailers are experimenting with mobile devices and applications, though. Best Buy is offering the Shopkick application for smartphones. When the app is open on a customer’s smartphone, it will detect an individual Best Buy store’s signal when it enters the store. Customers receive instant rewards, called "kickbucks," which can be redeemed at the store or converted into Best Buy certificates through the user’s account. According to Best Buy, Shopkick has also been integrated into the POS system to make it quicker and easier to redeem special in-store offers and added bonuses, all of which can be sent a Shopkick-enabled smartphone.
Another technology is Tecca, which is a shopping app for the iPhone and Android (as well as web browsers) that Best Buy supports. Consumers can use the app on their smartphones to browse and search products, scan barcodes in the store, and get product and pricing information.
Still, one of the most important things going on at retail in relation to Black Friday this year is promotions, Girard said. Retailers have front-loaded promotions and discounts that typically occur later in the holiday shopping season. This year, the promotions and discounts are coming early; many of them are already circulating.
"That’s the major business difference I see this year from last," Girard said.