"Brick-and-mortar retailers need to respond to the new world of retail"
Interview with Jörg F. Hölterhoff, Business Unit Director, Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions Germany
Omnichannel was also one of the main topics at the EuroShop 2014. In this interview, Jörg F. Hölterhoff, Business Unit Director for Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions Germany, talks about the new challenges in the checkout area and the importance of mobile solutions. He introduces the latest products with which Toshiba supports retailers in omnichannel commerce.
Mr. Hölterhoff, what new demands arise in omnichannel commerce, particularly in the checkout area?
Jörg F. Hölterhoff: Brick-and-mortar retailers need to respond to the new world of retail, which arose from digital media, not wanting to continue losing ground compared to online retail. One very important subject in all this is omnichannel, meaning the connection between the online and offline world. This is a key element retailers need to deal with to respond to the current changes in the retail sector. “Mobile” and “self services” are equally important topics, which of course also take us straight to the checkout area.
The retailer of course needs to make the new functionalities available at the checkout. If the customer has purchased a product online today and wants to return it at the store, the POS system needs to be able to call up the transaction in terms of hard-and software. Of course, you continue to have the normal checkout function as well. The store associates however also need to be able to call up information about online transactions, when we are dealing with an omnichannel environment.
How can this information best be placed at the store personnel’s disposal?
Hölterhoff: We believe this is best done with a second application at the checkout, which runs as a second open window on the display. This is why we added TCxWave to our portfolio, which represents a checkout solution with a larger display that can show a larger number of functions than on a smaller screen. Of course, this offers the chance to access a whole number of additional information directly at the checkout. CRM features especially lend themselves to this: what did the customer purchase in the past, is he/she a regular customer etc. This information helps associates to offer the customer a service that meets his/her needs.
In retail, you often still see that two devices, namely a cash register and a computer are being used for this. At this new, more intelligent, larger and design-oriented checkout, the various applications can be combined. In doing so, we are not just providing the retailer with clear access to all pertinent information. We deliver an intelligent system that can also be integrated into the store design as a design element.
What role do mobile solutions play in today‘s omnichannel world from the customer’s point of view?
Hölterhoff: Customers frequently like to use mobile devices these days, not least because they quickly and easily achieve the goal of purchasing the desired product. This presents the retailer with the challenge of offering customers the same services they know from e-commerce. This doesn’t just include comprehensive access to information, but also a fast and convenient way of payment – with exactly the same payment method the customer would like to use. This is a challenge for technology and staff of course.
However, today every retailer should realize that a customer, who needs to wait more than a few minutes at the checkout during peak times, could just as well purchase these items online during this time. And when such experiences with long checkout times add up, the customer is probably going to do precisely that in the future instead of coming into the store. In this instance, the retailer can counteract by making self-service stations at the checkout available.
At EuroShop, we present a checkout app called TCxAmplify for the Smartphone with which the customer is able to already scan his/her purchases when he/she puts the items into the shopping cart. This is obviously particularly interesting for food retailers. At the checkout or the payment terminal, only the app data is then being read and the customer can directly pay without first having to move the products across the belt. This helps the retailer to increase checkout speeds by integrating the customer more actively into the checkout process. The retailer is also able to use personnel resources more efficiently, because there is no need to staff multiple checkouts all the time to prevent lines.
How can retailers benefit by using mobile solutions to combine the different channels?
Hölterhoff: These days, mobile solutions are particularly important of course and are increasingly requested by retailers. This is why Toshiba introduced a tablet-based solution with TCxFlight at the EuroShop. Mobile devices have already become widely accepted for “domestic use“ and also offer many advantages for store personnel at their work. With its optional docking station, our tablet solution is not just meant as a device to access information, but it can also replace a regular checkout counter in this configuration. This also gives retailers the chance of course to increase checkout capacity for a short time during highly frequented times. Such mobile and flexible solutions help retailers to meet omnichannel challenges.
What current solutions does Toshiba show in this area at EuroShop 2014?
Hölterhoff: Last year, Toshiba already introduced the TCxGravity solution for omnichannel commerce, which is currently also being implemented by several major customers in the U.S. We are now also offering this solution in Germany. We should also mention that as a company, we have placed our focus more on classical hardware solutions in recent years.
However, we are presently also boosting activities in the software area. As an omnichannel solution, TCxGravity is suited for many different scenarios. Customers can begin their purchase digitally and then complete it at the store, but can also return online products in the store or vice versa. TcxGravity makes all of these features possible as a complete solution without having to newly combine various software modules and features. The easy use of the many different options that omnichannel provides for customers is the core of TCxGravity.
Interview: Daniel Stöter; EuroShop First publication at iXtenso.com