Why Restaurants are Cashing in on Self-Checkouts

Self-checkouts in your restaurant can increase the average ticket size, improve order accuracy, and increase customer satisfaction.

It’s the holiday shopping season, which means that malls and stores are packed with customers. After fighting crowds, shoppers don’t want to wait on long lines at your restaurant, holding bags and tired children, wasting precious shopping time. Instead, quick-service restaurants can facilitate the ordering process with self-checkouts that move lines quicker, increase the average ticket size, improve order accuracy and serve customers faster.

Movie theaters, banks, hotels and other venues are giving their customers control over the purchasing process with kiosks. Consumers are accustomed to using ATMs, automatic ticketing, and self-check-out at hotels — and they may prefer self-checkouts in your restaurant as well. A report from iVend Retail found nearly 40% of consumers felt customer experiences could be improved by kiosks.

 

Kiosks are typically easy to use and engage people while they are placing an order at your quick service restaurant. Not convinced? Here are four reasons why you should be:

 

  1. Line busting capability.

    A restaurant kiosk is a cost-effective, line busting solution that puts your customers in control of the ordering process. These kiosks help ensure shorter lines, less waiting and a more pleasant experience for shoppers, diners, and employees. It’s recommended that the restaurant have staff ready to assist people at the kiosks for the first several weeks after they go live. Additionally, self-checkouts give cardholders another layer of protection. Payments are processed by the patrons themselves and their credit cards never leave their hands.

 

  1. Expedited orders.

    Restaurant kiosks cut out virtually all the waiting to place an order. More kiosks to order from means that orders are going to come in fast and furious, especially during the busiest shifts. During these busiest of times, your staff can focus on food preparation, keeping the dining room clean, and turning tables, creating a more efficient, customer-friendly operation.

 

  1. Promotions and upselling.

    Fast-food giant McDonald’s reported that its average check size went up 30 percent after implementing self-checkouts. Upselling guests on drinks, sides, desserts or appetizers takes some training and skill. Even the best upsellers may not remember to make suggestions to every customer, but a kiosk will upsell/cross-sell on every screen and every transaction, without fail. This gives diners the opportunity to try extras they may not have otherwise ordered.

 

  1. Improved order accuracy.

    When customers enter their orders into the restaurant kiosk, orders are transmitted to the kitchen immediately so staff can begin preparing them. This eliminates unreadable, hand-written tickets that are run back to the kitchen and deciphered by staff, or inputting handwritten orders into a workstation, which are invitations to make mistakes. Remaking meals that were prepared incorrectly is frustrating for your staff and a waste of time, energy, and resources. Taking orders on a self-checkout can save staff time and money by reducing the number of forgotten orders, errors and resources spent remaking food or drinks that were improperly inputted into the POS system.

Implementing self-checkouts at quick-service restaurants can increase the average check size, reduce wait times and increase customer satisfaction. These kiosks encourage larger orders by giving customers extra time to look through the menu and automatically suggesting combinations and upsells. People love to control the ordering process, so instituting this technology will build brand loyalty and help turn first time diners in high-value, repeat customers.

Having the perfect products for your kiosk is key to a successful checkout process. Star Micronics along with Mobile Bytes can offer all that you would need. Line busting is simple with the high speed of Star’s TSP100III. Expedited ordering is easily handled by Mobile Bytes online ordering app. Star Micronics can offer you promotional support with Engage Now and Receipt Flip. You can rely on the accuracy of the TSP100III as well. Using Star Micronics printer and Mobile Bytes solution you have everything you need in the perfect POS system.

3 Things to Consider When Choosing a Bank Kiosk

Market research shows that implementing a self-service kiosk means a better customer service for patrons. Discover why.

 

Banking has changed quite a bit over the past few years, as mobile technologies rise and questions about financial security and data breaches are headline news. According to a survey completed by TD Bank, more than 50% of their customers are using online banking for normal transactions like deposits and transfers. But for more detailed banking information or financial products, people still prefer to do it the old-fashioned way and visit their local branch.

For customers who want to visit the branch for routine transactions, many institutions have myriad options for them. Full-service assistance, drive-throughs and self-service kiosks are usually available, but online banking customers may be most comfortable using the bank kiosk.

Market research shows that implementing a self-service kiosk means a better customer service for patrons. One published study found that when given the option, 89 percent of 1,000 people surveyed would “sometimes” or “always” choose a self-service kiosk over a full-service option. These kiosks are typically easy to use and engage people while they are making a purchase. In turn, stores, restaurants, airports, banks and hospitality venues can reduce their payroll, boost profits and provide a high level of customer service with less staff.

If you’re considering installing bank kiosks, consider these three things:

  1. Customer Experience: Bank kiosks can facilitate a better customer service experience through a user-friendly interface that helps reinforce your brand. Banking at the kiosk means it’s just the customer and the machine, there is no line backing up behind them. People have a few extra minutes to read about new products and services at their own pace and find something that piques their interest.

 

  1. Security features: Don’t leave anyone’s financial information up for grabs. Banking kiosks should protect your customers’ privacy as well as an actual employee, so this hardware should be equipped with extra protection including:
  • Physical privacy screen: People shouldn’t be able to see the kiosk screen unless they are standing directly in front of it. Privacy screens help protect people’s financial information from prying eyes.
  • Physical and digital keys: A banking kiosk should require two keys to access the head and base for added security so it can’t be opened by just anyone.
  • Proximity detectors: Kiosks should be equipped with special sensors that can tell when a customer is approaching or departing. If a person leaves before logging off, the kiosk will automatically end the session.

 

  1. Software security: Investing in kiosk hardware with the security options listed above is important, but don’t forget the software. Software security helps protect your customers from data breaches and fraud.
  • EMV-compliant card reader: Look for a kiosk equipped with a card reader that is EMV compliant. Merchants and institutions using non-EMV compliant devices are held responsible for fraud.
  • PCI-compliant PIN pad: PCI standards require secure processing for card transactions, so be sure to ask if your equipment is PCI compliant.
  • Core platform integration: Bank kiosks should integrate directly with the bank’s core platform so it’s like visiting a teller and more secure than stopping by the ATM.

 

Bank kiosks are the preferred method for many customers who want to take a few extra minutes to review their account balances or skip the line because they’re pressed for time. A self-service kiosk serves a very specific purpose, but kiosks used in financial institutions need enhanced security features and PCI and EMV compliance to protect their customers’ sensitive information from fraud. Bank kiosks are a great way to generate interest in new financial products, eliminate wait times and reach customers who want an omnichannel experience.

How Cloud-based Software is Changing the POS Game

Cloud-based software solutions are affordable, powerful platforms that reduce downtime and increase mobility. Discover more.

Cloud-based point of sale (POS) packages are comprehensive solutions that are easy on your wallet. These affordable, powerful platforms reduce downtime and increase mobility, provide in-depth reports and securely store your important data. “Software as a Service” (SaaS) solutions are easy to install and update automatically, so you are always running the most recent version of the software. But how can a cloud-based POS solution help your restaurant up its game?

  1. Reduced downtime: Today’s cloud-based POS solutions keep functioning, even in the event of an internet outage. Solutions are available that secure your data in the cloud but that store data locally on restaurant hardware. When connectivity returns, data is synced to the cloud automatically. This allows your restaurant to operate without disruption.

A cloud-based solution also provides the benefit of keeping your data secure in the event of a power outage, theft or accident, so you are assured of business continuity and nothing is at risk for permanent loss.

 

  1. Cost-effective: Cloud-based software providers charge a budget-friendly monthly fee for software and data storage. This service is perfect for businesses that don’t have thousands of dollars in upfront fees to make an outright software purchase. There are no upgrade costs or unexpected charges — the monthly fee includes everything you need.

Using cloud-based software, there is also less of a burden on your IT staff. Updating POS terminals can be done quickly and easily. You are no longer required to update each terminal individually and restart the computer several times. Instead, owners of multiple restaurants or small chains can manage all their locations from one computer or mobile device saving you time and resources.

 

  1. Mobility: Cloud-based software makes it easy to add more terminals, mobile POS or additional checkouts — you just configure new sites and equipment for the software, sync them and you’re good to go. They automatically run the same solution, with the same data accessibility, as the other terminals in your restaurant. And once your network is established, you can manage every location from one computer or mobile device, whether it’s an on-site terminal in a back office or your home computer.

 

  1. Remote data access: With cloud-based POS, you can login in from any location at any time to view sales and inventory information, allowing you to keep track of your business throughout the day. Cloud-based POS systems include a variety of reporting options that give you an in-depth look into every shift, hour, day, week, month or year. Running sales reports also help restaurant owners and managers identify the most popular menu items so they can make sure top-selling selections are always available, maximizing profitability and increasing customer satisfaction.

If you are considering upgrading a legacy POS system for your restaurant, learn more about the features of cloud-based software and how these solutions could benefit your business. With their business continuity, mobility, and scalability features — as well as anytime, anywhere access to your POS system and data — cloud-based software can be a smart choice for your next POS system.

Star Micronics Money 20/20 2017 Recap

Star Micronics is grateful to all of those who helped make Money 20/20 a successful event. Here are some highlights from the event.

The Star Micronics team wants to extend a big thank you to our visitors at Money 20/20. We always enjoy the opportunity the show provides for relationship building and connecting with our partners. The intrigue that we saw on our visitors faces is amazing. Showing the attendees all the added features and benefits that Star can provide is always a wonderful experience for us.

  • SM-L 300 + Cradle

The SM-L 300 + Cradle were a popular display.  The effortless way the printer switches from portable to desktop mode with the cradle piqued visitors’ interest. That, added to the fact that the SM-L300 can connect to any iOS device without pairing, makes it the perfect mobile solution for environments that use multiple devices for mobile printing.

 

  • mPOP + peripherals

The mPOP + peripherals pulled in quite a few fans at Money 20/20. The new set of sleek looking, versatile peripherals including 2D barcode scanner, scale, customer display, and external cash drawer, make the mPOP a no-brainer for those looking for a cohesive and ergonomic all-in-one solution.

 

  • cloudPRNT

Star Micronics is always leading, always innovating, and cloudPRNT is a prime example. Booth visitors were able to take cloudPRNT for a test drive on their cell phones, experiencing first-hand the convenience of sending online orders directly to the kitchen receipt printer.

 

  • Star Cloud Services

Star Cloud Services provided another significant point of interest for our booth visitors. With a wide variety of benefits and functionalities, Star Cloud Services was created to ensure that Star Micronics users get the most out of their Star products. Featuring the AllReceipts® digital receipt solution, Micro Receipts and Receipt Flip, visitors were introduced to the latest in mobile receipt management and customer engagement solutions.

  • Elo I-Series + TSP100IIIU

Elo Touch made an excellent partner for Star at Money 20/20, just as our TSP100IIIU is an excellent partner to Elo’s I-Series. Available with optional flip stand that houses the TSP100III, the Elo I-Series Android all-in-one is capable of providing businesses with a complete and ergonomic kiosk solution.

 

  • Sophatar and Star Micronics

A big thank you goes out to Sophatar for their contributions to our booth this year. Sophatar showcased digital display solutions capable of boosting the customer experience by bringing the advantages of the web into a physical space.

Thank you again to those of you who took the time to stop by our booth at Money 20/20 2017 and to our software and hardware partners who participated in the event with us. If you weren’t able to visit our booth at Money 20/20, feel free to contact us to discuss the products we showcased or arrange a demo.

4 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Cinema Kiosk

Discover four ways to get the most out of your cinema kiosk.

Kiosks are integral to the cinema experience, especially for theaters with a small staff. A kiosk can be used to purchase tickets, retrieve tickets bought online, and to place concession orders. These machines are especially important to movie-goers who arrive at the theater with just a few minutes to spare—they can bypass the line to purchase tickets or snacks and still find a seat in the theater before the previews start.

But don’t take our word for it—market research shows that given a choice, people actually prefer the do-it-yourself route.  One published study found that 89 percent of 1,000 people surveyed would “sometimes” or “always” choose a self-service kiosk over a full-service option. These kiosks are typically easy to use and engage cinema-goers during the ordering process.

A self-service kiosk is a win for your customers and your concession stand—these kiosks encourage larger orders by giving customers extra time to look through the menu and discover new items they would like to try.

Is your cinema kiosk reaching its full potential? Consider these four things:

  1. Your Kiosk should support a thermal printer A cinema kiosk should be equipped with a heavy duty thermal printer. The kiosk will need to produce tickets in the fastest way possible, and a thermal printer can do just that. The printer should also offer a jam free system. Having the receipts cut before the customer receives the ticket prevents the kiosk from jamming.

 

  1. Barcode scanner Movie theaters offer their own loyalty programs, but what good is being a member if you can’t scan your card at the cinema kiosk? Some cinema kiosks activate by touch screen or credit card swipe, while others require scanning a loyalty card. Your customers love freebies and accruing points towards free movie tickets, so don’t make them wait on the full-service line to get their rewards.

 

  1. Integrated speakers – A cinema kiosk should also include a set of integrated speakers to talk customers through the ticket buying and checkout process. This is especially important for people who aren’t familiar with self-service kiosks and need some additional direction and patrons who have vision issues and can’t read the screen clearly.

 

  1. Card Payment Acceptance If your full-service lines accept credit card payments, your cinema kiosk needs to accept them too. Not everyone carries cash, so make sure your kiosk is equipped with a card reader and payment processing platform.

 

 

Star Micronics’ kiosk printers give the added benefit of Star Cloud Services (SCS). With SCS the printer has a lot more to offer the seller and consumer. Engage Now is a service that prompts the consumer to rate their experience with the kiosk. The managers also get the ability to check the status of their equipment to make sure everything is running smoothly. There are still a number of tools available when using Star Cloud Services.

Cinema kiosks are the preferred method of ticket ordering, pickup and payment for many theater goers who want to control the process or skip the line because they’re short on time, or they don’t want to wait on line. Ordering snacks and drinks at the kiosk is a great way to generate additional sales, as people have a little extra time to peruse the menu at their own pace. A self-service kiosk serves a very specific purpose, so make sure it’s equipped with the features that will people through quickly so they can enjoy the show.

Stop and See Us at Money 20/20 USA 2017 Booth #1355

 

Star Micronics showcases new innovative solutions at Money 20/20 USA 2017.

Money 20/20 is right around the corner and Star Micronics is ready to showcase some game changing products. We’re excited to be a part of the event, which is scheduled from October 22 to 25 in Las Vegas. Money 20/20 USA is one of the largest global events that showcases payments and financial services innovation for commerce connected through mobile, retail, marketing, data and technology. The Star Micronics team is ready to meet with leaders from every corner of the industry that flock to the event to find new business opportunities and to strengthen partnerships.

Stop by our booth #1355 to take a look at our all-star lineup:

SM-L300 Portable Printer with it’s Cradle

The new cradle for the SM-L300 portable printer allows users to effortlessly move from mobile to desktop mode — and then back to mobile mode. Used with or without a belt clip, the SM-L300 + Cradle boasts a small footprint and modern design that charges the portable printer while docked.

mPOP with it’s Peripherals

The mPOP™ is the first hybrid tablet (point of sale) POS combining cash drawer and printer peripherals with convenient Bluetooth and USB connectivity. Now, you can transform your all-in-one mPOP into a complete POS system with new available peripheral options, including 1D or 2D barcode reader, scale options, a customer-facing line display, and a port for an external cash drawer.

cloudPRNT

cloudPRNT is our innovative technology that will allow users to print to Star printers directly through a cloud service. This provides benefits to retailers and restaurateurs

alike by eliminating the need for additional hardware to send online orders to the printer.

Star Cloud Services

Star Micronics provides additional support through our Star Cloud Services. SCS includes applications like AllReceipts®, customer surveys, Engage NOW, Device Management, Receipt Flip, Micro Receipt and more. The goal of Star Cloud Service is to provide modern Web-based applications using both the legacy and mPOS Star Products already installed in-store, reducing cost to retailers.

All-in-one solution featuring Elo I-Series and TSP100IIIU

The Elo I-Series Android all-in-one is available with an optional mPOS flip stand that rotates from sales associate or cashier to customer for easy signature and payment capture. The stand is designed to house our TSP100IIIU printer, which provides businesses with complete self-service kiosk applications for any environment that calls for a space-saving point of sale terminal.

 

Star Micronics and Sophatar Feature POS Display
This year at Money 20/20 we will be partnering with Sophatar. The digital display company will be combined with Star Micronics to showcase all of our products seamlessly together. They provide a more engaging customer experience by bringing the advantages of the web to a physical space. To learn more about Sophatar head over to their website.

 

We’re looking forward to seeing all of the fantastic sessions and keynote speakers at Money 20/20 USA.

 

We look forward to seeing you at Money 20/20! Booth #1355

 

2016 Highlights!

4 Features to look for in the Ultimate Restaurant Kitchen Printer

Image result for busy kitchen

Choosing the ultimate restaurant kitchen printer doesn’t have to be so intimidating. Follow these four tips and you’ll be golden.

Your restaurant kitchen is a busy work environment where there isn’t a large margin for error—one mistake means spending time and resources remaking dishes, which could cause a lengthy kitchen backup if it happens several times during a busy shift.

If your wait staff is handwriting tickets for the kitchen, you’re asking for trouble. Meal prep workers who can’t read a server’s handwriting have two choices: guess what the ticket says or spend time asking the server, which can create a ripple effect of extra waiting, starting in the kitchen.

The extra seconds spent trying to decipher someone’s chicken scratch—or worse, having to ask them—can add up to extra minutes that people wait for food or drinks, which means additional time at the table and ultimately, longer wait times for people to be seated. More waiting means less table turns, which will cost you money. However, a restaurant kitchen printer can help recoup wasted minutes by cutting down food prep time and resources spent correcting mistakes.

How do you know which restaurant kitchen printer is right for you? Here are four things to consider:

  1. Choose an impact printer – Even the cleanest, most well-run kitchen is full of landmines that can damage electronics, especially printers. Heat, spills, particles and steam can harm a restaurant kitchen printer and cause expensive downtime while the printer is repaired or replaced.

Choose an impact printer with a ruggedized design that can withstand the hazards of a restaurant kitchen. Impact printers are designed so a printhead makes impact with an ink ribbon, transferring the message onto the receipt paper. The type of paper is key in this situation. Using impact paper gives the added benefit of withstanding heat, oil, and other harmful conditions found in the kitchen. Unlike thermal paper, impact paper doesn’t black when it is left in the heat of a kitchen.

 

  1. Internal power supply – Whether you’re operating a spacious kitchen, small kiosk or food truck, choose a restaurant kitchen printer with an internal power supply. An internal power supply eliminates the need for snaking power cords around the kitchen so printers can be placed at different work stations. If space is at a premium in your eatery, an internal power supply can free up several inches of valuable real estate.

 

  1. High-speed throughput – Kitchen backups can quickly snowball into extra waiting, so trim seconds off meal prep times whenever possible. A restaurant kitchen printer should have a high-speed throughput of 13 receipts per minute, which increases staff productivity and efficiency in the kitchen. The printer’s clear, easy-to-read tickets means your staff doesn’t have to play guessing games with the orders –they can print tickets quickly, assemble the dishes faster and ensure every selection comes out correctly the first time. Faster service means more throughput, higher profit margins and bigger tips for your wait staff.

 

  1. Easy paper loading – Choose a restaurant kitchen printer that is designed for easy paper loading. A restaurant kitchen printer will help staff shave minutes off food prep time, but don’t squander that saved time on reloading paper or struggling with paper jams—drop-in and print paper loading capability means staff can get back to work quickly.

Restaurant kitchen printers are an important tool for streamlining kitchen operations. An impact printer that prints quickly and clearly will help staff reduce meal prep times and increase order accuracy. Best of all, a kitchen printer will help everyone earn more money: faster table turns means more tips for wait staff and higher profit margins.

What’s Next for Cannabis Retail?

blog - cannabis retail

Cannabis legalization is not just creating more business opportunities for recreational dispensaries, but for the point of sale industry as well. Star Micronics has found ourselves rapidly gaining popularity among the cannabis point of sale market and are looking forward to what lies ahead.

First, it’s important to consider the fact that the legal cannabis market is growing quickly with no intention to slow down. The legal cannabis market was worth an estimated $7.2 billion in 2016 and is projected to grow at a compound annual rate of 17%. This is more than 8 times the growth rate of the beer and liquor store market in the U.S.

While the cannabis market is growing, there are still issues with marijuana businesses and traditional banking, which means it has mostly been a cash-only industry. While this can serve as an inconvenience for those who frequent recreational cannabis dispensaries, it helps us point of sale folk to keep in the market by providing receipts printers and cash drawers for these businesses. With more states beginning to legalize recreational marijuana use, we can predict that more people will begin to heavily invest in this market, and smaller dispensary businesses will soon be able to fold into larger companies.

In addition to the issues that cannabis businesses face with banking and financial services, recreational marijuana dispensaries are required to practice “seed to sale” tracking compliance. For those unfamiliar with this term, the “seed to sale law” requires every marijuana producing plant to be tracked through each stage of its life, from cultivation to the point of sale.

With this in mind, software developers are working to create point of sale systems that help dispensaries to easily manage their seed to sale tracking, as well as perform other daily functions that your average retailer would need. For this detailed and complicated task, there is simply too much risk of human error for dispensaries to not use a retail management solution. This is where we begin to see the cannabis market booming in the point of sale industry.

So, what can we predict for the future of cannabis retail?

In the recent U.S. election, California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada all passed measures legalizing recreational marijuana. While there are still tax and licensing provisions that will not take effect until January 2018, we can expect a major growth in legal marijuana sales, with California forecast to dominate the market. California, being the oldest medical cannabis state and the largest cannabis consumer population, is predicted to reach $7.6 billion in annual marijuana sales by 2020.

Similar to the online ordering trend among restaurant take-out and delivery services, we may be looking at the future of remote ordering for cannabis sales. California delivery startup, Eaze, has procured more than $25 million in multiple rounds of funding in the hopes of being the largest provider of on-demand cannabis delivery.

With the advances of technology and innovation in legal cannabis sales, Star Micronics is very excited to continue to provide support for this emerging market and see our partners grow along the way.

5 Reasons Retailers are Moving to Web-Based Applications for POS

blog - web-based apps

Web-based applications have changed the IT landscape because they require little upfront investment, update frequently, and businesses typically can use the hardware they already own. This affordable alternative to traditional, on-premises POS software keeps databases and information secure, with around-the-clock access from any location or mobile device with an Internet connection.

Although their applications apply to virtually all markets and industries, Web-based applications have had a particularly large impact on retail point of sale (POS). Consider these five reasons: Can your POS system do this?

1. Effortless Scheduling. A Web-based application means you can access back office functions from anywhere, anytime. This empowers managers to update schedules and view time off or vacation requests quickly and easily from any mobile device. Employees can view their work schedules and request time off through an easy-to-use interface, even when they aren’t in the store.

2. Easy Inventory Access. According to retail advisory firm IHL Group, inventory errors cost retailers $1.75 million every year. The number one reason these errors occur is because of internal process failures, which can be prevented by a Web-based application. Inventory is tracked in real time, instead of updating hourly or daily. Employees can easily see which items are on-hand, in-transit or on-order. This is especially important if you’re managing stock at multiple stores because it allows managers to place an order for all the stores from one location.

3. Order Online, Pick Up in Store. People are seeking out an omnichannel shopping experience so it’s no surprise that the “buy online, pick up in store” is becoming even more popular. It’s the perfect solution for people who want the instant gratification of getting their item the same day, while saving on shipping costs. Web-based application inventory management is updated in real time, so customers can see what’s in stock while they are shopping. It also allows them to select a different location if their item is out of stock, and have it shopped to the closest store for pickup.

4. Offsite Access. Traditional POS systems may require you to be on-site to work on back office functions or review reports, but a Web-based application lets business owners and managers access the system from anywhere with Internet access. Web-based applications store data in the cloud, so it’s open 24/7 for managers to run reports, schedule staff, and manage inventory from home while on a businesses trip, or late at night.

5. Save a Webpage (Like an App) to a Mobile Device Home Screen. Business owners and managers can save a shortcut to their Web portal – like an app – right to their smartphone or tablet so they can log in with just a few clicks. This technology, which brings their entire operation right to their fingertips, is compatible with iPhone® and Android™ OS platforms. Customers can also take advantage of your store’s Web-based application for easy, one-click ordering (if available). Having your store’s webpage available on a customer’s home screen will help ensure your store will always be their first stop.

Increasingly, retailers are opting for Web-based applications due to their ease of use, the expanded capabilities they offer, and the enhanced customer experiences they can help provide. Web-based applications are an affordable alternative to legacy POS systems that can help move your business toward greater efficiency and competitiveness.

Customer Experience Trends for the Future of Retail

VR

Technology in retail has reached an all time high and is continuing to grow in 2017. The Internet of Things (IoT), Virtual Reality (VR), and Augmented Reality (AR) have all began to make their breakthrough into retail technology. It’s needless to say that this technology is changing the customer experience.

IoT in Retail

The Internet of Things simply defined is the “internet working of physical devices, vehicles (also referred to as ‘connected devices’ and ‘smart devices’), buildings, and other items – embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these object to collect and exchange data.”

IoT is everywhere! If you own a smart phone, then you are using IoT on a daily basis. With the new trend of mobile wallets and near field communication (NFC) payments, retailers are beginning to use IoT in their stores to enhance the customer experience. With wearable technology and NFC payments, retailers can provide more payment options for the customer and a smoother transaction process by allowing the customer to pay via smartphone or wearable device such as an Apple Watch.

Moving toward an age of paperless transactions, it’s crucial for retailers to accept mobile payments and offer digital interaction with their shoppers via IoT. Virtual and digital communication and transactions are something that shoppers are going to be looking for in 2017, and it will have a huge impact on the overall customer experience.

VR and AR in Retail

2016 has proved to us that virtual reality and augmented reality will change the way people shop and in turn, transform the customer experience in retail. Shoppers will no longer need to physically travel to a store to experience the way something looks and feels. While VR and AR are definitely related, the two are used very differently in retail technology.

If you are active on Facebook or another social media platform, you may have notices that many people have received a pair of virtual reality goggles during the holiday season (seriously… a lot of people). Overall, these goggles are used to play video games or experience virtual realities like riding a virtual roller coaster or exploring a virtual jungle. In terms of retail technology, virtual reality could possibly be the new way people do their shopping.

How will this change the customer experience? How will this change omnichannel retail?

Think about when you are shopping online, but hesitant to make the purchase because you’re not sure if the pants you are purchasing will fit you, or because you don’t know if the lamp you’re looking at will go well in the living room. With the rise of VR, ecommerce retailers will be able to create a virtual store and connect the shopper with the physical product, without the shopping ever needing to leave their home. Sounds crazy, right?

Now let’s talk about AR. In 2016, Pokémon Go! took the world by storm by introducing one of the first successful augmented reality games for smartphones. We quickly learned how the game could affect retailers, and retailers quickly learned how to take advantage of the game by offering discounts and special promotions to their customers who were playing.

As technology continues to advance and VR and AR becomes ‘the norm’, shoppers will expect a more technologically advanced customer experience. We can already see this trend with the growing adoption of online retailers and mobile payments. Now the question is: what can SMB retailers do to keep up with this advance in technology? How can they continue to keep the customer satisfied?

SMB Retail Technology

While the rise in retail technology will have a huge impact on the overall customer experience, there are ways SMB retailers will be able to better the customer experience for their shoppers in 2017 that won’t require a virtual reality store.

One very simple way SMB retailers can use technology already available to them to ehance the customer experience, is to create an omnichannel shopping experience for their customers. Engaging customers beyond the transaction is key when creating the ultimate shopping experience. This can be done through the retailer’s website, mobile app, etc. According to nChannel, two-thirds of shoppers will check prices on their phone before making a purchase in a brick and mortar retail store. For this reason, SMB retailers need to make sure that they are engaging customers both in-store and online in order to keep their shoppers satisfied.

Enhancing the Customer Experience

In this age of new technology, omnichannel retail, and being able to basically purchase anything you need online or on your smartphone at your convenience, there is an increased pressure being put on SMB retailers to keep their customers satisfied in-store. The important thing to note is that shopping is no longer just about making the purchase, but it is about the entire shopping experience, whether that is a virtual reality store, or superior customer service.

In order for SMB retailers to keep their customers satisfied, they must first understand their audience and their needs. If a retailer’s target audience is a middle or older-aged crowd, creating an app for a virtual store may not be appealing. For this same audience, increasing customer service reps in store or sending mailing coupons might be more efficient. With every audience comes a new strategy for providing the best customer experience.