Technology Shifts & Consumer Trends in Front of 2017

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Amazon Go and the Post Checkout Era Begins

New broke out detailing Amazon’s latest innovate in retail, Amazon Go beta, which opens to the public in 2017. Amazon has built a grocery store equipped with machine learning technology, similar to that in self-driving cars, and is testing out a post checkout, post line waiting era in retail. Here’s the cool Amazon Go video for your enjoyment. Companies like ShelfX and a Swedish entrepreneur have also attempted unmanned grocery stops (before it was cool).

Why is there so much hype surrounding it? Consumers are in and out of the store thanks to Amazon’s “Just Walk Out Shopping” experience. Families and individuals can go into the store, see something on the shelf, and walk out with it while never speaking to an employee (it’s called technology, not shoplifting?).

This means POS users need to start thinking ahead of the curve and preparing themselves for yet another technological advancement. Granted, since the program is in beta, that doesn’t mean things are going to change overnight, but now is a good time to start brainstorming changes so the impact of a new status quo is less severe.

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This new shopping experience requires customers to have an Amazon account, a supported smartphone, and the Amazon Go app installed to shop freely. The outside orange square logo display Amazon and Go in large letters, and on the inside there are four bottom menus that users can press “key”, “receipts”, “about”, and “more”.

I speculate they might release for both Android and iOS. Users can enter the store by tapping on “key” and scanning the QR code that appears on screen to pass through a subway-like terminal. That process than activates the shopper’s virtual cart and customers can begin taking goods. Amazon Go automatically updates the user’s inventory in the app when products are detected taken from our returned to the shelves. Customers don’t need to scan out and when they pass back through the terminal, the app sens a mobile notification alerting that a payment was processed, and a digital receipt is then sent to their device.

NFC Contactless Payments lead the change into the Post Checkout Era

Snapchat Spectacles and the Engaging Brick and Mortar Space

Snapchat, known as Snap, Inc., released a camera equipped pair of sunglasses called Spectacles that might seem familiar to those who bought Google Glass. TechCrunch reports Spectacles allow users to record video tidbits in a socially accepted style. On November 21st 2016, a pop up shop appeared overnight in New York City where app users and curios consumers initially waited as long as three hours in wintery weather to get their hands on a pair. Inside the brick and mortar store was a single vending machine (SnapBot), where customers choose up to two out of three sunglasses, selling for $129.99 each. I was in the city visiting some friends and decided to snag a pair for myself. While I anxiously waited in line, there were a few thing that I noticed about the store. Snap Inc engaged their users and holiday customers by providing exclusive content. Unique snap codes were placed throughout the queue and shoppers in line were able to entertain themselves by scanning them. The staff was equally as engaging by educating their new product users in-store with personalized customer service.

Showrooming Pains and Frustrations

Retailers will continue to struggle against online sales due to a developing showroom trend that is likely to move forward into the new year. Consumers visiting in-store locations are purchasing goods online later at their own convenience after studying the product in-store. I’ve seen people walk into a store, snapping a quick photo and leaving without a purchase. This can be increasingly difficult for retailers and small business owners to keep a healthy relationship with customers while fighting for their attention. At first glance it might seem as though showrooming is becoming a nuisance, but some retailers are using this as an opportunity to innovate. Small businesses can utilize new technology available to study their target market, improve the ecommerce experience, as well as integrating a seamless purchasing system between online and physical

Personalization and Exclusivity

In a retail world where department stores once ruled the market, small unique ships are are able to provide value, unique in-store experiences, and cultivate relationships with their customers, are embracing the momentum shift. Therefore, offering a unique and personalized shopping experience is vital for customer retention, on-site sales, and business growth. The goal is to add a hint of intimacy and customer care, rather than entertaining customers (depending on your objective and brand).

Rob Hom

Marketing Intern

 

3 Critical Payment Trends to Watch This Year

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The past few years have brought rapid evolution and change to the payments industry, with the same growth expected in 2017. Retailers must remain aware of these developments to properly compete with other operations in their vertical market. Here is a close look at three critical payment trends that will prevail this year.

Mobile Wallet Growth

Statistics make a strong case for including increased momentum for mobile wallets on the list of significant payment trends to watch in 2017. This is especially true of mobile wallets that incorporate near field communication (NFC) technology.

  • According to a report by research firm Research and Markets, the global mobile wallet market will experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 35.5% between 2017 and 2021.
  • Technavio, another research firm, has predicted a similar CAGR (more than 35%) for mobile wallets through 2021.
  • A Capital One Wallet Survey conducted by Capital One late last year shows that nearly one-quarter (24%) of U.S. consumers use mobile wallets in some capacity.
  • More proof that the use of mobile wallet technology among consumers is trending up: Of 24% of Capital One survey respondents who claimed to utilize mobile wallet technology, more than 63% have been doing so for less than a year. This demonstrates rapid adoption and use of the technology in 2016, according to Capital One, with a similar pattern expected throughout 2017.

Ongoing technological advanced in NFC devices and heightened security of payment portals rank among catalysts for the consistent growth of mobile payments and its high rank among key payment trends, according to Research and Markets and Technavio. Mobile wallet options such as integration with coupons and tickets are fueling the fire as well.

Payment Security Push

With perpetrators’ attempts as and methods for transaction fraud growing more sophisticated, increased and varied attempts to shore up payment security is one of the hottest payment trends. There is now a major move among U.S. merchants to migrate to point of sale (POS) equipment that accommodates microprocessor chip-enabled credit and debit cars (“chip cards”) under the umbrella of the Europay/Mastercard/Visa (EMV) liability shift that took effect in October of 2015.

  • The Payments Security Task Force, a consortium of payment networks, backs, credit unions, acquirers, retailers, POS device manufacturers, and industry trade groups, estimates that the shift to EMV will “reach 98%” by the end of this year.
  • According to Mastercard, 9 in 10 Americans now user chips cards, a 38 point year-over-year increase from 49% in 2015 to 87% in 2016. Payment trends cited in a recent Mastercard report includes additional increased in chip card usage in 2017.

More mPOS

Mobile point of sale (mPOS) and tablet POS devices are becoming a staple as merchants adopt mobile technology to assist with line-busting and speeding up transactions during peak traffic periods. What’s more, with innovations like Star Micronics’ new mPOP™ accessories, tablet POS devices can be used as a cost effective, fully functioning point of sale system. This versatility makes mPOS a hot ticket item in 2017.

  • According to a study conducted by Boston Retail Partners, almost half (49%) of retailers are using mobile solutions for sales staff. That’s up from less than a third (31%) from last year.

Payment trends other than those discussed here may also take hold in 2017. However, the rise of mobile wallets and mPOS, coupled with a greater emphasis on payment security, merit special attention in the coming months.

Learn more about the mPOP™, Mobile Point of Purchase, here.

The Rise of Experiential, Discount, and Specialty Retail

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In 2016, we have seen major shifts in the retail industry and consumer buying patterns. We’ve seen the largest Internet-based retailer in the world (Amazon) open brick-and-mortar stores, and we have seen “big-box” retailers closing stores. Clark has named just a few:

  • Macy’s plans to close about 15% of its locations amid challenging retail environment.
  • According to the Dallas Morning News, JCPenny CEO Marvin Ellison said the department store chain plans to close some of its roughly 1,000 stores soon.
  • CVS, America’s leading retail pharmacy, plans to close 70 stores early this year.
  • Mall-based retailer, The Limited, closed all of its nearly 250 stores across the country on January 8, but will continue to have an online presence.

Shift in Consumer Buying Patterns

With the closing of many department stores and “big-box” retail stores, we see that discount retailers such as T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and Ross are thriving. Consumers are now realizing that many of the products or goods that they typically shop for in department stores can be found for a cheaper price either online or in discount stores. This shift is being largely influenced by the millennial generation. For retailers who do not fall into the “discount retailer” category, the key to competing is improved store data. This means creating a way to better track customer data in order to provide unique and authentic shopping experiences for each customer.

The Millennial Consumerscan_shop_featured

According to Forbes, there are eighty million millennials in America alone, and they represent about a fourth of the entire population, with $200 billion in annual buying power. This means that the buying patterns of millennials are having a direct impact on the retail industry and brick and mortar stores.

While millennials are commonly targeted as the “self-entitled” and “lazy” generation, it has been found that they are extremely price sensitive. Meaning, millennials will take the time to search for more affordable options (usually online or by using their smartphone) before making a purchase. Based on a survey performed by Accenture, 41% of respondents said they have practiced “showrooming” – the act of examining merchandise at a nearby retail store and then shopping for it online to find the lowest price.

It’s no question that the millennial generation is very unique. Retailers have struggled to understand the buying patterns and the interests of this generation for quite some time now. Unlike the Baby Boomer or Gen X generations, millennials tend to be less influenced by advertising and promotional content, and care more about the authenticity of a brand. Millennials best connect with people over logos. The fact that millennials are less likely to go for the “brand name” over a cheaper option, is largely impacting the way retailers must market themselves and their brand. The recent closing of Macy’s and JCPenny stores speaks volumes when compared to the popularity these stores held with previous generations.

Specialty Retail Steps Up

Specialty retailers are businesses that focus on specific product categories. It isn’t the product they sell that determines if a company is a specialty store, but rather the breadth of their product offering.

As we see more and more large retail stores closing, we see specialty retail continue to thrive. Brick and mortar retail is becoming less about shopping and more about the customer experience. With the rise of retail technology such as IoT, virtual reality and augmented reality in retail, consumers are entering brick and mortar stores with the expectation that they will walk away with more than just their purchase, but with a valuable and unique shopping experience.

With the generation that values experiences over items now holding such high buying power, retailers have to make an adjustment to their previous selling strategy. Retailers are beginning to take advantage of IoT and artificial intelligence to create a more personalized shopping experience. Specialty retail is thriving because it has been much easier for SMB and specialty retailers to create these personalized experiences, because they are more likely to have repeat customers, making it possible to establish a certain level of customer loyalty. “Big-box” retail stores have a more difficult time creating a unique customer experience, simply because their audience is too large, and too diverse to maintain a valuable relationship with the customer.

For retailers to survive in this age of discount and digital shopping, it is essential that retailers do not just sell goods, but that they sell an experience.

Is Your Restaurant Ready for the Growing Online Ordering Trend?

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Are you looking for a new way to grow your restaurant business? Consider online ordering. According to QSR Web, digital ordering is growing 300 percent faster than dine-in traffic, and analysts project in a few years, more restaurant sales will come from takeout, delivery, and other forms of off-premises dining, than from customers who dine-in.

Restaurant competition is fierce and profit margins are tight. The majority of independently-owned restaurants that open today will not survive beyond a few years, and according to an Ohio State University study, more than 60 percent will fail in the first year.

A Cornell University study revealed restaurant survival is based on finding ways to differentiate your business from the competition and being agile enough to successfully respond to consumer trends.

Don’t become a statistic. Offering online ordering is a feature your customers are looking for, and it also elevates your digital presence, which can help raise awareness about what makes your restaurant and your brand unique and appealing.

There are three options for adding online ordering services:

  • Sign up with a third-party online order network. There are a variety of options for online ordering networks you can work with depending on your location. Investigate costs – some will charge a percentage of each order and others charge a flat fee for being listed on their websites.
  • Sign up for the online ordering service of your current POS solution (if available). This option provides the added benefit of integrating online sales with your finance report, but functionality of the online ordering application itself may be limited.
  • Integrate your own online ordering system on your own website. You can establish online ordering through your own website or app. This option locks a customer into your brand when they are ready to place orders and can build customer loyalty.

The process of receiving orders from a third-part ordering site and getting them to the kitchen can still be a pain point for some restaurants. Restaurants usually receive orders via email on a tablet in the restaurant – or on several tablets if they work with more than one third-party network. During a shift, one or more employees may be assigned to communicate the orders to the kitchen and enter them into the point of sale (POS) system. The lack of integration between online ordering sites and the POS system means the process still requires labor hours and errors can still occur when orders are transferred.

Consider the gains in efficiency, productivity, and customer satisfaction for your restaurant if you could download an app that would send your online orders directly to the kitchen printer where your staff could start food prep immediately and ensure orders are ready at the appropriate times. Technology solutions are available to help your restaurant bridge the gap between online orders and the kitchen.

Maximizing online order processing efficiency will enable you to truly benefit from adding this service to your business, allowing you to address this major consumer trend, reach a wider pool of potential customers, and fully develop this revenue stream.

Learn how you can easily integrate online ordering in your restaurant with Star’s TSP650IIcloudPRNT cloud printer.

Download our full eBook here: Star_Online-Ordering_eBook

Electronic NFC Payments Continually Increase in Popularity

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Who is using it?

Millennials are embracing the use of their phones and mobile near field communication (NFC) technology at the checkout lane. Now is the time for small business owners to accept that reality and harvest the benefits by adapting their point of sale system.

Picture this. A consumer is in a hurry to grab a quick bite to eat on their way to a meeting. While driving through town, the consumer sees a local restaurant and decides it would be a good place to pick up lunch. Getting back on the road with as little time disruption as possible is important. After a quick meal prepared by the merchant, the consumer soon realizes he left his wallet in the car, but notices that the restaurant accepts mobile payments. Without hesitating, the consumer pulls out his phone at the point of sale and uses it to pay for his meal. After a speedy meal and transaction, both the merchant and consumer are happy with the exchange.

Consumers and shoppers are always looking for the smallest queue. NFC technology effectively cuts back the wait time since people with smaller purchases can complete their purchase faster. There’s no more waiting a half an hour just to buy a single item. Thankfully, there’s also no more searching through purses (or man purses because… it’s 2016) for oversized wallets filled with tons of credit cards or cash. With the advent of technologies like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay, and Android Pay, wallets are succumbing to the Internet of Thing (IoT), a past time that consumers are likely not to miss.

Where are they being used?

contactless-lead-1355413251According to a Business Insider article, there are approximately 2.5 million point of sale systems equipped with NFC readers that are being used in the United States alone and Apple Pay is looking at a lot of growth. Mobile payment systems are being used in local retail stores, restaurants, for public transportation, and inside convenience stores when consumers are making a quick or small purchase. As long as the point of sale hardware or credit card reader displays an NFC logo, that means Apple Pay and other mobile payments are compatible at that retail location.

 

Barclays is now leading the finance industry with newly announced ATMs. The new machines offer cardholders contactless access to their accounts via mobile key points at the ATM, according to multiple news sources. These new machines utilize the same kind of near field communication technology, and prompts user authorization to allow the debit card stored on their device to be used for banking.

Why are they using it?

In 2014, PayPal disrupted the payments industry where users could pay across platforms with a single touch, without the hassle of entering usernames and passwords. A year earlier, companies like Venmo began the downplay of entering credit card numbers on small screens. Innovative technology continually changes our world, and millennials are adapting by using these services to help create a smooth initial transaction at checkout. PayPal and Venmo revolutionized the way younger consumers interact with their finances, and larger tech companies notice the switch in consumer behavior and react by scaling use of mobile payments.

In addition to the mobile payment phenomenon, millennials are now using more coupons than previous generations and they are accessing these on their mobile device. Imagine allowing customers to not only use their phone for coupons at the point of sale, but for payment as well. The two go hand-and-hand because with every mobile payment, there is an opportunity for the merchant to access the customer digital world by offering digital receipts and coupons, ultimately driving more return customers.

Small businesses can believe in the post-cash payment era because it all comes down to speed, ease, and simplicity. Using a phone to pay for goods provides a better solution for consumers who don’t like to carry cash or consistently forget their wallet, and it provides a faster and easier workflow for the retailer who wants to keep their lines moving.

Learn more about Star’s digital receipts and coupon solutions at www.starcloudservices.com.

Rob Hom

Marketing Intern

Cash, Card, or Phone?

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Our phones have already replaced our cameras, our iPods (or MP3s), and our computers. Now, they are beginning to replace our wallets. We are seeing more and more consumers reaching for their mobile phone at the point of sale instead of their wallet. It’s no surprise that this recent adoption of mobile payments is going to majorly change the way people shop.

The number one thing driving consumers toward mobile pay options and mobile wallets is simply the convenience of the payment. 45% of millennials said that they would be willing to connect their payment info to a wearable device in order to make fast, hassle-free payments, according to Adweek. If there is one thing that consumers today love, it’s for their shopping experience to be as quick and painless as possible. We know this because consumers, especially the millennial generation, prefers their shopping experience to be online. Seriously, what’s better than doing all your shopping from the comfort of your own living room? But, we are finding that brick and mortar stores are making a comeback.

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According to TimeTrade research, 85% of consumers say they prefer to shop in physical stores. However, there is still a convenience in the shopping experience that consumers are looking for. This comes at the point of sale.

Giving customers the option of their preferred payment method is important, because it can make or break the entire shopping experience. How many times have you had your credit card out and ready to pay only to hear “sorry, cash only”? According to Business Insider, about 45% of millennials (ages 18-34) have made an NFC payment, and 35% of adults 35 or older have done so. When a retailer cannot accept the customer’s preferred payment method, the entire shopping experience becomes frustrating and inconvenient for the shopper. We must accept that we are now moving toward an age where shoppers will be standing at the point of sale with their mobile device out and ready to pay.

It’s now the responsibility of the point of sale industry to make these mobile payments possible and easy to implement for SMB retailers.

From a point of sale standpoint, we already see ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) working to make their POS applications compatible with mobile payments. Some, such as Square, have even developed their own customized payment terminals to accept any type of mobile payment along with chip-enabled credit cards. By moving toward mobile payments as the norm, we are left wondering what that means for the future of point of sale.

This could easily lead to a greater move toward digital receipts. When retailers are implementing mobile payment options, it is important for them to keep in mind the idea of the mobile wallet not just for payment, but for the digital receipt as well. While many mobile payment platforms offer digital receipt options, if retailers want to use those digital receipts as an opportunity to engage with their customers, going with an outside digital receipt provider might be the best option.

The bottom line is that cash and card payments will never fully disappear. As the adoption of mobile payments continues to grow, we will find a growing demand for more brick and mortar retailers to accept these type of payments.

Learn more about Star Cloud Services digital receipt solutions at www.starcloudservices.com.

The Benefits of EMV

Following the October 1, 2015 deadline created by U.S. credit card issuers MasterCard, Visa, Discover, and American Express, the liability of EMV compliant payment processing systems has shifted in the U.S. Prior to this shift, one of two parties would be held responsible in the case of fraudulent credit card transactions – the payment processor or the issuing bank. Now, whichever party is the least EMV compliant in a fraudulent credit card transaction  – the merchant or the card issuing bank – will be liable for the consumer losses.

While business owners and shoppers tend to see the shift as a negative, it turns out that there are many overlooked benefits to the EMV shift for both businesses and consumers.

As mentioned, the Oct. 1, 2015 deadline is strongly encouraging businesses to switch to EMV compliant payment processing systems in order to avoid being held liable for fraudulent credit card transactions. While switching to a new EMV compliant POS system may be expensive, it can potentially save businesses from losing hundreds to thousands of dollars in credit card fraud. What’s more, this switch gives business owners the opportunity to not only become EMV compliant but to consider switching to a more modern and mobile POS system.

Tablet-based POS is becoming more prevalent in businesses, especially small businesses. The reason being is that tablet-based POS is usually inexpensive and can scale or expand your business. Tablet POS is also a sleek and attractive option for small business owners, allowing them to keep a modern check-out and save precious counter space at the point of transaction. The benefit of upgrading your traditional cash register or POS to a mobile or tablet POS system, is that most mPOS systems are already EMV compliant, making the shift to EMV as smooth and inexpensive as possible.

Now, let’s talk about some of the benefits of EMV for shoppers.

Since the shift to EMV compliant payment processing, there has been an obvious push-back from shoppers all over the U.S. This is mostly due to the fact that dipping the EMV chip of your credit card takes significantly longer than the simple swipe of a magnetic stripe reader. While this can be a nuisance, the EMV chip is a major benefit for consumer shoppers as well.

The reason you have to wait an extra 5 to 10 seconds for the chip reader to process your payment is because each transaction with your EMV card is a unique one. When dipping your card into the chip reader, the terminal performs many stages of complex processing to create a unique transaction each time your EMV card is used for payments. This requires dozens of pieces of data to be read in order to create this unique transaction, resulting in a slightly longer wait time. But the benefit is, that if the card information gets copied and attempted to be used for another transaction, the information would not be usable, and the card would just be denied.

To learn more about the EMV shift and mobile payment solutions, check out Star Micronics eBook – mPOS: How its Revolutionizing Payments.

 

Processing Shipment with Enhanced Label Printing

With the mobile POS industry rapidly growing with new technology and continuous innovation on the horizon, manufacturing and warehouse facilities, along with the retail industry are discovering new ways to improve productivity and profitability.

It is essential for the shipping and receiving industry to properly print labels on-the-go as their employees are moving quickly within a warehouse environment. By printing labels on-the-go, employees will have an increase in efficiency and better control of production. As for retailers, in order to track items accurately to the stockroom from point of sale transactions, inventory associates will need a portable printer that allows flexibility in printing and applying barcodes instantaneously for inventory management.

 

Enhanced Label Printing Star Micronics SM-T400i

Mobile printers can be an asset in eliminating the distance that workers travel from a single station just to acquire their labels. As a result, Star Micronics has label options for their SM-T400i, rugged four inch (112mm) portable Bluetooth printer. Supporting iOS, Android and Windows operating systems, the portable receipt and label printer is also Apple MFi certified, which can be use with the iPod Touch®, iPhone® and iPad®. With a rugged design and a wide 104mm printable area, the SM-T400i is perfect for outdoor applications, field service, and warehouse operations.

To learn more about Star Micronics SM-T400i portable Bluetooth printer, please click HERE.

Going Mobile with a Web-Based Strategy

Web-based software is software you use over the internet with a web browser. Web-based software is used every day by people all over the world. POS software providers see the growing demand and are meeting that demand by creating web-based solutions for their customers.

Why are people using web-based POS?

  • The key advantage to web-based software is that all your data is centralized and accessible over the web from any device on any operating platform at any time. You can get to it from anywhere at any time. Safe, secure, and password protected, of course.
  • Another advantage is that unlike traditional software that requires you to download and install updates yourself, web-based software is updated automatically. Whenever you use web-based software you’re always using the latest and greatest version. The only thing you have to check is making sure your browser is up to date to support the web-based software you are using.
  • Ultimately, when you use web-based software your office is everywhere. At work, at home, a hotel, at a client’s office, even on your mobile phone. Your data is accessible anywhere with internet access.

To support businesses using any number of web-based applications such as point of sale for retail or hospitality, Star Micronics created its WebPRNT technology.  WebPRNT is Star’s innovative solution enabling device-agnostic receipt printing technology that supports HTTP requests used in web-based applications. WebPRNT utilizes a library of commands based on JavaScript/HTML format that allows Web applications to print on a Star printer without the need of installing a driver. Rather, the print commands are embedded and integrated within the web-based software.

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Instead of making developers use printer specific line mode print commands, WebPRNT makes the integration process more intuitive for developers by allowing the use of XML tags that are commonly used in web development and even native applications or WebPRNT’s ready-made Javascript library of commands. The time saved in development directly translates into a more rapid deployment. Also, since WebPRNT is integrated in the web-based software, it is device agnostic and can be used for multiple operating platforms. Star’s WebPRNT help developers streamline the development process which maximizes value and cost savings. To learn more about WebPRNT please click here to visit Star’s Technology Page.