Cash registers may not be ringing at the mall, but for a few days this week beleaguered retailers could live in a fantasy world where not only would customers line up to buy again, but sales clerks could use a slick touchscreen to upsell them even more goods, right from the register.
The Point of Sale system unveiled at the National Retail Federation confab in New York (and shown in the video above, created by Fast Company videographer Michael Shick) is a futuristic device that would have been right at home at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas. It was designed by a team at frog design’s San Francisco office for Intel as a “show car,” similar to the concept cars you might see at the Detroit Auto Show, says Katie Dill, the project’s manager. “They wanted something that would be a show-stopper,” she says. But a real manufacturer will have to step up before you’re likely to see it at the Gap.
The goal of the exercise was to combine the recommendation engines of online with real-time, real-life personal persuasion to generate added revenue. This device would “equip salespeople to make smarter suggestions and be more efficient, since they wouldn’t have to run all over,” says Dill.
When a customer swipes a loyalty card, his or her purchase history would come up on the vertical screen. As the salesperson rings up the merchandise, additional suggestions appear, acting as a sort of kiosk-cum-billboard. All this is opt-in, says Dill, so that if you don’t want the folks in line behind you to know that you’re buying an assortment of frisky panties and a push-up bra, the information stays confidential. What happens at the register, stays at the register.
The kiosk is equipped for payment by cellphone, a nifty feature that automatically sends receipts and coupons to your phone or email. No more lost receipts!
Powered by Intel’s Core2 Duo mobile processor, the system would, conceivably, use 70% less power than existing registers. Retailers need not leave their systems on all night, as they do now, since they can simply boot-up each morning instead. All these energy savings could eventually help off-set the system’s premium price.
Still, this doesn’t answer the more compelling question: if you build it, will they come? Even the slickest gadgetry is unlikely to lure consumers for whom the joy of shopping has lost its luster. But look for some of these features to wend their way into next-gen registers when it’s finally safe to go back to the mall.