Make us your home page

Mobile registers, body scanners, digital wallets on retail horizon for 2013

A few times this holiday season, I did the unspeakable at a store, and I know I'm not alone. I went to buy something but changed my mind because the line was too long.

At Sears, I aborted purchasing a sweater because the 10 people ahead of me had enough stuff for shopping carts. At Build-A-Bear Workshop, a stuffed snowman, upon closer review, wasn't worth the wait.

It would have happened again at Bath & Body Works had I not heard a voice from the back asking if anyone was paying with a debit or credit card. "Me! Me!" I screamed, waving my Pink Sugarplum sanitizing hand gel.

When it comes to cashing out, more retailers are going mobile. We've seen it at Apple stores, where sales associates use handheld devices to ring up transactions and traditional registers don't exist.

Get ready to see even more of it in 2013.

Retailers are shifting toward mobile points of sale for a variety of reasons, said Gary Lombardo, head of marketing at Demandware, a company that provides e-commerce solutions for retailers. Mobile registers free floor space for more merchandise and let stores add checkout staff when they start hearing heavy sighs from the line. They also get salespeople out on the floor to interact with customers and personalize the shopping experience from start to finish.

Urban Outfitters made a big splash this fall when it announced it had ordered its last new cash register and was going to Apple devices in its stores. Nordstrom and JCPenney have also embraced mobile technology to eliminate lines.

Of course, stores will always need some type of register for accepting cash. (Apple has money drawers tucked under display tables.) And some customers might not want their receipts emailed. But it sure streamlines the process when the clerk who helped you on the floor also transacts the sale.

Other retail trends for the upcoming year?

Smaller, more digitally oriented stores: To reduce inventory and square-footage costs, many stores are creating "concept" stores that offer the same merchandise, but in a smaller footprint.

"You'll walk into a store and instead of seeing racks and racks of dresses, you'll see one, perhaps two, and next to it will be the ability to access the rest of the inventory online," Lombardo said.

Store associates will carry iPads to help customers select the size and color and place their orders.

Even more extreme will be body scanners to take measurements for accurate sizing. Instead of dressing rooms, customers will use a scanner to determine if a pair of pants will fit, and the store will save the information for future online orders.

I'm not sure I want Wet Seal knowing my measurements, but I like the idea of ordering clothing online without the fear of it not fitting — and having to return it on my own dime.

Digital wallets: This has been talked about for a while, but got a boost with Apple's recent launch of the Passbook, a mobile application that allows users to stockpile loyalty cards, gift cards, coupons and airline tickets.

Starbucks, Walgreens and other retailers have had good success with it, making cashless wallets the natural next step, Lombardo said. Rather than carry around a wad of cash and credit cards, shoppers will be able to enter the information into their "e-wallets" and pay with "e-cash."

Smarter mobile shopping: Retailers who improved their mobile websites for smartphone users will start taking it a step further. This year we'll see more "in-store mode" for mobile sites that detect when a shopper enters a store. The sites will have specific information about the store, including searches for particular products or sales.

Want the hamper on special for $9.99? Head to aisle five. Leave the store, and it switches back to regular street mode.

Mobile registers, body scanners, digital wallets on retail horizon for 2013 12/31/12 [Last modified: Monday, December 31, 2012 9:37pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming


    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]
  2. A sports rout on Wall Street


    NEW YORK — Sporting goods retailers can't shake their losing streak.

  3. Grocery chain Aldi hosting hiring event in Brandon Aug. 24


    BRANDON — German grocery chain Aldi is holding a hiring event for its Brandon store Aug. 24. It is looking to fill store associate, shift manager and manager trainee positions.

  4. Lightning owner Jeff Vinik backs film company pursuing global blockbusters


    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik's latest investment might be coming to a theater near you.

    Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning owner, invested in a new movie company looking to appeal to a global audience. | [Times file photo]
  5. Trigaux: Look to new Inc. 5000 rankings for Tampa Bay's future heavyweights


    There's a whole lotta fast-growing private companies here in Tampa Bay. Odds are good you have not heard of most of them.


    Kyle Taylor, CEO and founder of The Penny Hoarder, fills a glass for his employees this past Wednesday as the young St. Petersburg personal advice business celebrates its landing at No. 25 on the 2017 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing private companies in the country. Taylor, still in his 20s, wins kudos from executive editor Alexis Grant for keeping the firm's culture innovative. The business ranked No. 32 last year. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]