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High fashion joins the tablet revolution

​The designer's London flagship is one of many retail outlets to dump cash registers in favor of iPads
First published on January 30, 2015

 

When Victoria Beckham opened her first retail outlet in London's Mayfair district in September, it wasn't just the cutting-edge fashion and concrete sliding door that caught shoppers' imaginations. She had also embraced the mobile revolution: in place of bulky cash registers were sleek iPads.

"We're not going to have any ugly tills anywhere," she explained. "Payment is with an iPad, so we can go to the customer on whatever floor she's on."

Beckham is by no means alone in opting for the new-tech option. Tablets, both iPads and Android-based devices, have been taking the retail world by storm ever since EPOS (electronic point of sale) software was made available for them. Apple Stores have done away with cash registers, relying on mobile devices instead, as has fashion chain Urban Outfitters.

Less training required
Tablets' attraction lies in the fact that they are easy to install, require minimal staff training and are almost infinitely scalable - from one to 1,000 terminals, according to one supplier.

What's more, they allow shop assistants to roam the store, taking the payment transaction to the customer rather than the other way around.

In terms of security, tablets can be set up so they are trackable if lost or stolen, and data can be backed up in the cloud. Business owners can even view their sales dashboard remotely from any smartphone with a linked app.

Victoria Beckham is not the pioneer of the mobile revolution in Britain's retail outlets, however. That honor lies with Aurora Fashions, parent company of UK retail chains Oasis, Coast and Warehouse.

When Oasis first introduced iPads in 2011, managing director Liz E​vans said: "Using iPads is a fun and more practical way of shopping. People don't have to queue and can buy anywhere on the shop floor. They can also look things up online and take pictures of themselves when trying on clothes. We want to make shopping fun and innovative."

She added: "One day we envisage a supermarket self-checkout-type system in fashion retail."

Beyond fashion, to food
Such a system would enable retailers to save money on employment costs, and the hospitality sector is already exploiting this advantage of tablet tills. In Austin, Texas, a restaurant called Lucky Robot allows its customers to order using tablets, so waiters only need to get involved when it comes to delivering food and drink to tables.

Other eateries use tablets to display menus on the grounds that they can display more information than traditional printed versions and are much easier to update.

The mobile till is also an invaluable innovation for businesses on the move. Christina Ruiz started her San Francisco fashion retail operation, Top Shelf Boutique, by selling from a 24-foot rolling "fashion truck," using a tablet payment platform for transactions.

And all the signs are that mobile payment terminals will soon become the norm. At a time when brick-and-mortar retailing is under pressure from its online counterpart, the future lies in bringing the benefits of the web in store.

These benefits have been known for some time. "The fact is, people still like to go shopping," Steve Thomas, CTO of retail IT specialists BT Expedite, wrote in a blog in 2012. "The difference now is that, when they do, they expect to get all the benefits they'd get online - access to a full range of products, real-time stock availability, instant access to product information and price comparisons, no queues, quick checkout and multiple delivery options.

"Mobile technology can give customers all of this in-store, while at the same time improving customer service and providing retailers with new ways to sell."

TAGGED IN tablets; mobile commerce; retail; mobile payments; shopping