The retail industry is going through a transformation. To successfully compete in today’s digital world and win today’s connected shoppers, we’ve now entered the age of unified commerce, requiring a truly seamless and personal customer experience and a modern store architecture to enable this.
To drive this transformation, overall retail IT spend is on the rise, and a significant investment area is centered on in-store architecture. According to EKN Research’s 2015 Retail Point-of-Sale Blueprint Study, 75 percent of retailers are aware that their point-of-sale (POS) systems are not in line with future retail needs, and 6 out of 10 retailers are planning to upgrade or replace in the next two years.
To achieve a customer-focused approach, today’s POS has a lot of weight on its shoulders.
It needs to be truly integrated into a dynamic, unified system. It needs to enable a complete view of each shopper to proactively understand and enhance the buying experience. It needs to provide a single view of order/inventory tracking and payment information, and support the many different payment options available to consumers today.
Achieving these goals requires the in-store architecture to be comprehensive and flexible. As Brendan O’Meara, our senior director of worldwide retail recently said, “it’s imperative to address the realities of network latency, security, manageability, and offline capability while simultaneously taking advantage of the agility and power of a mobile-first, cloud-first world.”
According to the EKN study, 4 out of 10 retailers will replace their traditional POS systems with a tablet, mobile or a hybrid of a fixed/mobile POS over the next 24 months. These mobile devices, equipped with modern POS, assisted-selling and clientelling capabilities, will seamlessly connect to peripherals like credit card readers and barcode scanners when sales associates are in the proximity of the peripheral stations.
We will also see many retailers like supermarkets and drugstores—with high volumes of POS transactions and need for high transaction speeds—continue to use a workstation directly connected to retail peripherals, but one that uses a modern operating system and POS application.
In the above diagram, the Modern Store Architecture supports different POS devices that have various form factors, operating with or without offline databases, and gives the option for devices to connect directly with peripherals or via the use of a peripheral station or network.
In our Microsoft booth at NRF 2016, we showcased a similar scenario, shown below, highlighting a sales associate scenario with a Windows Lumia Phone and a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 seamlessly connecting to a peripheral station through an Internet of Things hub.
The hybrid cloud advantage
We are also seeing a rise in hybrid cloud models as retailers race to drive better in-store operational efficiencies and drive down costs to compete with ecommerce. In the above technology architecture, a managed hybrid cloud infrastructure that stays at the edge of retail—inside the store environment—provides a low cost, on-premises private cloud across multiple store locations.
With Microsoft’s “edge cloud” initiative, all can be managed, secured and supported remotely via a web portal powered by the Windows Azure Pack, delivering a seamless, role-based experience to either a retailer’s IT department or a managed service provider.
In this architecture, Azure Active Directory (AD) is used for identity management and configuration and can be synchronized with either an existing or new AD deployment on-premises. With Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility Suite, retailers are able to do identity management, mobile device management and data protection for their modern POS environment.
With the help of Xamarin’s mobile application development platform, both retailers and our partners will be able to develop mobile apps using C# and deliver fully native mobile app experiences to all major device platforms—including iOS, Android and Windows. And identity and role management capabilities give store managers and sales associates access to all necessary applications like mobile POS, assisted selling, coaching and training, KPI dashboards and customer insights through a universal screen.
The future is now
As Microsoft we are committed to helping our retail customers through their digital transformation.
The Microsoft Modern Store Architecture is uniquely designed to address the retail industry’s real world challenges in a single, comprehensive architecture, enabling retailers to capitalize on the power and agility of the cloud to drive their businesses profitably into a better digital future.
LinkedIn: Pinar Salk