Buy A Couch...On The Couch...In The Store
In almost every category, we have all noticed a shift from brick-and-mortar retail to an all-encompassing digital experience. We buy electronics, toys for our pets, and even clothes. Digital solutions still come up short occasionally though. How does that couch feel when you lie down on it? Does that chair feel comfortable when you sit in it? We can read countless reviews, but sometimes we want to see the product in-person prior to purchasing. Coming to a retail store shouldn’t feel like an arduous process. One furniture retailer decided to try and improve upon the traditional brick-and-mortar experience by leveraging technology to deliver a more-pleasant experience to its valued customers. By developing a mobile point of sale solution, I enabled employees and customers to come together anywhere in the store to build their dream room. Instead of stepping away to a terminal to add inventory to an order, employees could keep customers engaged with a target goal streamlining the sales process.
Putting The Power In Employees' Hands
Our approach to the project was simple – we wanted to help empower employees to easily engage customers anywhere in the showroom. The solution was to migrate their entire order processing and point of sale to their mobile devices. By serving our mobile point of sale as a progressive web application with the help of device support through Ionic, we gave employees the ability to access their entire inventory and order processing right from their personal devices. In addition, tablets were provided throughout the store for an enhanced experience. Employees simply logged in with their store credentials while connected to an in-store wireless network.
As previously mentioned, the application was served up in the form of a progressive web application built out with Ionic V3. We selected Ionic due to its baked-in Cordova support. While we found the progressive web application satisfactory, we wanted to ensure we gave ourselves the ability to compile and execute in a WebView instance with hardware access. Application V2 discussions indicated the use of a barcode scanner, so device hardware access was critical. Our front-end team worked to consume RESTful endpoints served up from a PHP middleware coupled to an AS/400 back end.
Improving B2E Experience
While the primary driving factor for developing this application was to bring customers, a pleasant side effect was improving the user experience of the legacy order processing system. Employees were previously stuck executing orders and searching inventory on AS/400 terminals. Due to rigid AS/400 procedures, the client found it nearly impossible to update and modernize application flows. By implementing a stateful middleware, we enabled the ability of providing an entirely refreshed experience for employees. Deeply nested functionality was now a click away. Employees worked through orders and searched inventory in ways which aligned with their current business goals. User experience should be considered with utmost importance in any user-facing digital experience.