Retailers Embracing Mobile Check-Out

Apple store

Will retail sales clerks be roving the aisles this holiday season, ready to ring up your purchase with an iPad? Don't count on it, but a new study suggests retailers are interested in the Apple tablet's potential as a handheld register.

"Retailers have longed for moderately priced handheld devices for their sales associates and store managers to enhance the consumer experience," according to the report by research and consulting firm IHL Group working with RetailConnections, which operates retail industry events. With the debut of the $500 iPad and other devices, some retailers are looking to eliminate point-of-sale (POS) or checkout locations in stores altogether.

Staff at Apple's own stores carry iPod touch devices outfitted with a hard plastic case for scanning barcodes and swiping credit cards. They also have a stylus attached for customers to sign for credit charges. In my experience, it definitely beats standing in a long line to check out, especially during the holidays.



Barnes & Noble, Victoria's Secret and Urban Outfitters are among other companies that have moved to equip in-store salespeople with handheld devices for speeding up the check-out process. Nearly 20% of specialty retailers plan to replace traditional POS with mobile check-out in the next two years.

The study also found retailers are warming to adoption of the iPhone among managers. While only 19% of retailers today support executives' use of the Apple device for work, that proportion is expected to triple to 60% in the next 12 months. Similarly, iPad adoption is forecast to jump from 5% to 47% in the next year.

A survey last month of 200 companies in the U.S. and the U.K. by Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. found that 74% allow workers to use devices other than BlackBerrys.

On the consumer side, IHL Group found both the iPhone and Android-based phones taking center stage in the smartphone world. More than 56% of smartphone users are seriously considering an iPhone and 44% an Android device for their next phone. By contrast, only 24% are seriously looking at getting a BlackBerry, and only 10% a Windows smartphone.

"The iPhone is quickly replacing the BlackBerry in the mindshare of consumers and the executive office for many retailers," noted Greg Buzek, president of IHL.

Among mobile-commerce findings, the study said 35% of smartphone users have received or redeemed a coupon received via text message and 41% have checked competitive prices while in a retail store using Amazon, Red Laser, or another comparison shopping tool.

And more than half (54%) of retailers surveyed indicated they'll be able to scan customer coupons directly at the point-of-sale from a user's mobile phone screen. Toys "R" Us, for instance, announced today that its stores nationwide now have the ability to scan mobile coupons and e-gifts at check-out.

The IHL/RetailConnections findings were based on a survey of 570 consumers and 66 retailers.

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