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January 14, 2014

CompuCom Poll Finds Consumers Wary of Mobile Point-of-Sale (POS) Prompts

Typically a poll or survey that relies on an anecdotal approach to gathering responses as opposed to statistically accepted sampling would not be newsworthy.  However, a recent website poll by Dallas, TX-based CompuCom, an IT infrastructure services company with approximately 11,500 associates supporting more than 3.8 million end users in North America, is an exception. 

The reason this warrants attention is the subject, and the fact that it really is food for thought for everyone in the mobile services space.  The 307 responses from the poll conducted via the company’s website from November 16, 2013 – December 17, 2013, found significant end user distrust of having point-of-sale (POS) prompts appear on their personal devices.  The words used were that such prompts were “Big Brother-ish and intrusive.” 

An indicator of a consumer backlash against mobile device hogging and privacy violations

Let’s start with the question that sparks interest and the answers. The CompuCom's poll participants were asked their feelings about POS prompts when they were in-store. The results were:

  • 63 percent Big Brother-ish/Intrusive
  • 37 percent Helpful and Cool

As noted, the small response size and data collection methodology make reading too much into the results problematic. However, this is a very interesting question.  It would be nice to see the results if it were asked of a large sample that has greater statistical validity based on things like, age, location, gender, etc.  

The reasons for a bigger look is clearly those in the location-based services (particularly those in the geo-fencing space where special customer and customized offers can be limited by physical geography and time) and the mobile payments space, may have some important customer education to do.  

As CompuCom explains, personal devices have enabled new types of products and services. This includes the emerging mobile POS where retailers send location-based info to consumers at the point of purchase. The value for the retailer is that associates can answer questions in-store in real-time.  Customers can use mobile POS to obtain a customized in-store experience which includes such things as digital receipts, comparative pricing, and soon standardized digital payments.

 “Consumers need to remember that they are in control when it comes to POS technology and that it can be a benefit, not a nuisance, if they know how to use it and decide to what extent they’ll ‘let it in,’” said John Little, VP and GM of Retail Sales, Service Sales Management, CompuCom. “For retailers, there are smart ways to take advantage of the technology, by striking a balance and not overburdening consumers, respecting their preferences and letting them opt in to alerts. As security issues around POS are addressed, retailers – and consumers – will continue to adopt the technology in greater numbers and with greater levels of comfort.”

Noted Little, “POS technology is advancing rapidly as consumers continue to embrace their mobile devices to help them shop. For example, there is now sonic technology that’s blended with your mobile device signal to image and identify you, and tell a retailer when you enter their store and exactly what product you’re standing in front of. This triggers an application that queries a database of your purchasing history to deliver you a relevant discount, on the spot. It can even send an alert to a store associate so they know what type of assistance to offer. This technology is gaining a stronghold, with more retailers looking at using it.”

The enthusiasm for the value proposition of the technology by CompuCom is not surprising.  It happens to work with several top retailers to help them secure and manage the technical infrastructure and applications that enable these retailers to deliver personalized, on-demand shopping experiences.

As someone who does not like to shop and is always looking for a way to cut the time spent doing it, but not sacrifice on getting the maximum value out of the experience, I resonate with the consumer value proposition mobile POS can deliver to me.  Indeed, so long as this is an opt-in capability, I welcome its coming.  Plus, the value to retailers for enhancing the customer experience and the value of their in-store staff as real-time physical touch points is undeniable. 

Are we ready for this emerging more personalized but better surveiled retail experience?  Like I said, the results of the CompuCom poll should not be taken as anything more than a call to action to find out more about whether there is real consumer backlash or this was an anomaly.  The question about levels of trust and the need for more education, certainly have become a lot more relevant in the past few days courtesy of the problems at Target and Neiman-Marcus.  

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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