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By Kevin Price
Now that tablets and smartphones have become the de facto standard for consumers of all walks of life, savvy retailers, restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses are starting to add mobile solutions to their businesses — and they're boosting the customer experience in the process.
A 2012 Mobile POS Market Survey conducted by IHL corroborates the trend toward mobile POS, citing that mobile POS devices will account for 13.1 percent of traditional POS shipments by 2015. We already are seeing this trend tie into the following scenario: A businesswoman checks into an airport, passes through the security checkpoint and boards the plane without ever presenting a paper ticket. Instead, she presents her smartphone, which has a barcode on the screen that confirms all her flight details. We're also seeing smartphones used to present digital coupons, to scan QR codes on products that a person wants to further research, and even to pay for items. Applications like these make it reasonable to conclude that some traditional kiosk applications are shifting toward a mobile solution set that utilizes smartphones, tablets and other devices.
There are multiple reasons behind the mobile computing explosion. Screen resolutions have improved and mobile processors continue to get faster and faster all while hardware costs continue to drop. Equally important is the fact that wireless and cellular networks have become more reliable and support greater bandwidth. Also, the myriad low cost applications available in the Amazon, Apple, and Android marketplaces make it easy to turn just about any mobile device into a barcode scanner and even a mobile POS solution. So how do you know when a kiosk or mobile solution is right for you?
Mobile and Kiosk Key Considerations
When it comes to selecting a mobile solution, there's no one-size-fits-all solution for every business. The following are a few key considerations to help point you in the right direction:
1. Do you need to print something? Keep in mind that just because you have access to a mobile solution, some customers may still want or prefer paper receipts. While you could utilize a mobile printer, applications that require high volume or specialized printing capabilities may be best suited for a kiosk set up.
2. What does your software support? In some cases, the software you're already using will support certain mobile devices. Before introducing an additional software vendor into your IT mix, find out whether your existing software vendor supports the tablets and/or kiosks you're considering.
3. Does your application require WiFi? In addition to purchasing mobile handhelds or tablets, peripherals such as credit card readers and software, consider your wireless network. Understand that you must make an adequate investment into your wireless network to guarantee coverage; otherwise you could be stuck with unreliable connectivity, wireless dead spots, or inadequate security.
4. What are the cost considerations? This is where you need to look at not just the initial cost of the solution, but gain an understanding of which solution will provide you with the best return on your investment. Piloting a few of your top choices can prove to be invaluable down the road.
5. Consider the user interface. This is especially important if you're implementing a solution that your customers will use themselves. What's the best way to create a great customer experience? Use a platform that's similar to the popular smartphone interfaces your customers are already using.
Kevin Price is the CEO of AccuCode Inc., which specializes in mobile computing, wireless networking and automated data collection technology.
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