IoT Blog
IoT Blog

Wireless Point of Sale Systems Are the Untethered Future of Retail Technology

There’s no such thing as a brick-and-mortar store anymore. Or, rather, no store can be only brick-and-mortar. Connected technology is now a key part of the retail experience, whether you’re a boutique gift store or a multinational consumer products manufacturer. Connectivity saves money, gives you better control of inventory, and—by arming employees with more data—improves and humanizes the customer experience. But stores implementing wireless solutions also need a guaranteed connection, as any outage can quickly spiral into financial disaster. 

When retail stores have network downtime, the cost can average $4700 a minute. And even occasional slowdowns can add up, resulting in tens of thousands of dollars of lost revenue per year. With 33% of retail businesses reporting monthly slowdowns and downtime, this is no small matter.

These retailers need more than great primary providers. They need strong backups to ensure that core-function systems like point of sale (POS) trackers continue to stay online. Especially for retail chains scaling up—spread over wide regions and dependent on seamless logistics between warehouse and store—powerful connectivity can be a life-saver. 

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With a 99.9%-uptime guaranteed service level agreement (SLA), Sierra Wireless provides this connectivity to some of the United States’ largest retailers, helping transform companies that are trying to keep up with a quickly changing retail market. 

Point of Sale Systems and the Need for Connectivity
Companies with operations spread across many regions have complicated logistics in order to link manufacturing and distribution centers with retail storefronts. Inventory has to be shipped in a way that guarantees stores always have what they need but aren’t sitting on a surplus of goods. And when a customer orders a product that has to be shipped, any location must be able to follow through and deliver it in a timely manner.

Modern Point of Sales (POS) systems can manage sales, inventory, and delivery. The problem, of course, is that the system relies on connectivity and is vulnerable to downtime. When a company’s whole business model is based around data-driven customer service and connected logistics, loss of connectivity is more than an inconvenience. It undercuts the foundations of the business itself. And terrestrial data systems can be unreliable. If there is a cut fiber, a short, or any issue with the cables (even in a redundant ecosystem), the entire network can go down.

Wireless Backup and the Virtue of Redundancy in Retail
Retail stores need a data backup plan that maintains connectivity no matter what—and a service level agreement to guarantee it. Sierra Wireless is the only company to offer a 99.9% SLA, thanks to its patented Maestro smart antenna system . 

By adapting to each store’s unique RF environment, Sierra Wireless’ system is able to provide the fastest data rates, highest availability, and lowest latency across fixed 3G and 4G cellular broadband networks, in whatever area the store happens to be in. Whether a suburban strip mall or a standalone exurban big box, every location has transmission challenges. Sierra Wireless’ technology can seamlessly adjust to all of them. 

A wireless backup plan means that stores not only avoid downtime but—by using a metered rate—they pay only for usage. It’s peace of mind without breaking the bank. 

Wireless Data as a Primary System

Of course, there are a number of reasons to rely on a wireless, rate-based system for primary use. It can be a valuable tool for retail stores during initial construction—before all the cables are laid and while systems are being tested. And the system flexibility also makes it ideal for other aspects of a changing retail market. 

Take the pop-up store trend: even a temporary location will need connectivity. It still has to be plugged into the main warehousing and inventory network. But using the possibly unreliable network that comes with a temporary location means stores could be significantly less productive during their short lifespans. Having a flexible wireless system that is rate-based, easy to install, and available only for the days or weeks that you need it enables a much smoother operation.

By adapting to varying challenges in the RF environment, wireless systems can also be a good option for retailers in airport storefronts, carts at outdoor fests, kiosks in crowded malls, food trucks, or other traditionally difficult locations.

Wireless Connectivity Creates the Human Touch in a Changing Retail Market
Sixty malls across the US are on the brink of closing. Macy’s is shuttering forty stores. Meanwhile, online retail grossed nearly $400 billion in 2016. 

Connectivity is key to competition. Stores have to be more personal, friendlier, and offer a better experience than consumers can find online. Websites like Amazon algorithmically understand what people want to buy, but brick-and-mortar stores can do the same—and do it with a warm, human touch. 

Seamless backup allows retailers to embrace technology without worrying about what will happen if that technology fails, paving the way for innovations like:

  • Easy employee access to data. Imagine if every worker on the floor had a reliable tablet that allowed them to answer any customer question instantly. The only improvement would be a system that pulled up the customer’s existing preferences so that the employee could personalize the interaction. And that might soon be possible with…
  • App-based loyalty and location programs. When a customer walks into a store, their phone can use app-based push notifications to alert them to relevant sales based on purchase history. But the app can also be connected to the cloud, giving employees access to this data so that they can learn about a customer’s preferences and shopping habits before approaching them.
  • Analytics. What did the customer buy? What did they look at? Where did they stop? These same apps can generate customer data by using purchasing patterns and individual and aggregate heat maps. This data can then be used to improve your store’s layout—and your customers’ overall shopping experience. 

Whether a retailer is scaling up and building new locations across the world, necessitating POS logistics that maximize profit, or competing with online retailers in niche markets, they need consistent connectivity. The changing face of retail and the pressures of online competition demand speed and flexibility, and any downtime is a lost opportunity. 

At Sierra Wireless, our primary, backup, and temporary services are helping retail stores compete in this challenging new environment. Start with Sierra to learn more about how our innovative solutions can help your business stay connected.