Technology Advances in Retail: Improving Margins using Wireless Networks


Retail applications for mobility

In the general enterprise market, wireless LANs are being adopted primarily as part of the networking infrastructure,
to support standard desktop applications such as email, web browsing, file server access, and other conventional
enterprise applications. In the retail industry, wireless LANs are deployed to support much more specific and
innovative applications, with a focus on either improving existing processes or adding new ones.

Mobile point-of-sale

Point-of-Sale (POS) is the physical location where goods are sold to customers. Traditionally, this was a counter
where a cash register was located. Customers would line up in front of the counter and wait for their turn. Sales
counters are a fixed size, however, and can support a fixed number of people. Increasing the size of the sales
counter is not possible, so customers are forced to endure long lines during congested periods such as holidays.
Studies show that as many as one in ten customers will abandon the line while waiting, leaving the store without
making a purchase. Long lines also engender ill will from customers, making them less likely to return to a store in
the future. Wireless LAN technology can help in two major ways:
• Fully mobile point-of-sale stations can be set up using handheld computers, scanners, and printers with
integrated credit card readers. During high-volume sales periods, salespeople outfitted with these mobile POS
terminals can be positioned throughout a store at small tables. For customers paying by credit card, the full
transaction can be completed and a store receipt printed where it is convenient for the customer. Clearly, strong
security is a requirement from the network when credit card transactions are involved. A later section in this
white paper will discuss security requirements in much more detail.
• Mobile “line busting” personnel can move through checkout lines with handheld computers to accelerate the
checkout process. The sales staff can use their own judgment in processing each transaction. For credit card
customers with a small amount of merchandise, the entire transaction may be completed while the customer is
still in line. For other customers, merchandise can be scanned with a barcode scanner and a ticket printed with
prices and a master barcode on it. While waiting in line, the customer has the chance to review prices printed
on the ticket. Upon reaching the checkout counter, the ticket is scanned, the total amount is recalled from a backend system, and the transaction is completed without the checkout clerk needing to process eachitem individually.
Traditional cash registers and desktop scanners can also be attached to backend systems via wireless LAN. This
benefits retailers with both reduced cabling costs and increased flexibility in store reconfiguration. With wirelessconnected
equipment, checkout stations can be moved anywhere without a need to hire cabling contractors to run new network cabling



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