As we look back on the year 2012, several trends emerged which promise to change the outlook for retailers and small- to medium-sized business owners. As the year winds down, we see the familiar year in review lists and obligatory slideshows of celebrities and public figures who have passed away. The same concepts can be applied in our field and especially in this year, itself marked by major changes in the market as well as the passing away of other players. We’ll share a few of our predictions for stories and trends that we think will be remembered in the year 2012 as well as some trends we think haven’t quite caught on or are losing traction. We would love to year your thoughts on what stories and developments from this year will be important moving forward as well as what you think became history in 2012.
Mobile point of sale technology is definitely the most important and perhaps most repeated story of 2012, with retail technology shrinking nationwide in both in footprint and investment costs. Now that small businesses are capable of running on a microscopic scale all from iPads tricked out with a couple additional bells and whistles, the retail game has become much more accessible to the little guy. Small bakeries, coffee shops, specialty stores, boutiques, galleries, and craft shops can operate with very little overhead and on equipment the young, hip clientele (and their grandparents!) already know how to operate. As consumers become more accustomed to swiping and paying on iPads and other mobile devices as portable payment terminals, the technology will continue to saturate the market. We predict this will also bring prices down and make the market more competitive for producers of this technology and more accessible to interested business owners.
Another trend that operates hand-in-hand with mobile point of sale technology is mobile payments and the increasingly cashless retail market. Now that NFC swipes at gas pumps and cash registers are more visible and less foreign to shoppers, retailers are continuing to drive consumers to loyalty programs and discount clubs accessible only to wireless-ready consumers. Square and Google Wallet, along with Isis and a few other major players in the mobile payments game, really took off this year. We think 2013 will mark a continued shift toward mobile payments and an increasingly cashless society.
In 2012 we bid farewell to the days of bulky, difficult-to-operate cash registers and slow databases with complicated inventory. Retail technology is on the rise, and we might as well also bid a fond sayonara to the days of consumers accepting long waits and obsolete equipment. As consumers are continuously wired with the power of the Internet purse, online giants like retailers continue to compete with brick-and-mortar stores. If it’s going to be a disorganized mess down at the big box retailer, wouldn’t it be easier to order the week’s necessities with a few swipes and taps, easy price comparisons, and free shipping? Gone this year are the days of consumers who trust you when you say you’ve got the best price; now they can be sure – in real time – from the palms of their smartphone-wielding hands.
So let’s send 2012 off with a bang and hopefully ride the tide of a long and not overwhelmingly fruitful holiday retail season past the doldrums of January and February. 2013 will be the most mobile yet, and we look forward to the increasingly powerful technologies that will debut to make the point of sale experience more fruitful for retailers and shoppers. What do you think were the biggest stories of 2012? What lies ahead for 2013?