In today’s rapidly changing technology landscape, retailers need solutions that are future-proof. Today’s technology may not fit tomorrow’s needs, so flexibility in design is essential. Solutions need to be extensible and configurable to enable retail organizations to provide only the features that make sense for their strategic initiatives, but also the ability to extend the solution when new technologies are introduced or existing technologies become more fully integrated.

For example, over the last decade, e-mail has become the preferred method of communication with customers, but more recently, there has been a noticeable shift in favor of SMS. Perhaps in the future, customers will allow their personal sales associates to communicate with them through social media or mobile apps that haven’t even been invented yet as a preferred method.

The ideal mobile solutions provide the flexibility to introduce these new, not-yet-developed, capabilities with a minimal investment on the part of a retailer. Ultimately, retailers must plan for obsolescence, but do so with a foundation that is capable of adapting to the landscape of the future.

With the typical purchase timeline for enterprise software spanning over many months, it can appear to be challenging to make the right choices for the future that will continue to evolve over time. With that in mind, here are the top three trends to consider when implementing a retail mobility strategy:

Omni-Channel Retail

With the proliferation of web stores and emergence of other new channels, retailers have been attempting to consolidate data across channels, as well as to integrate systems with each other in order to provide a seamless experience for customers no matter where they choose to shop.

These initiatives have focused on customer services and experiences including providing returns in the store for on-line merchandise, real-time offers, promotions, or product recommendations based on cross-channel shopping, and many more. In-store mobility must therefore be capable of leveraging these ongoing efforts in order to enhance this omni-channel experience. It’s no longer sufficient for mobile point of sale to act as a line busting tool: the best return on investment comes from technology that enhances the customer experience at every opportunity.

Deployment and Integration

In an effort to provide the lowest total cost of ownership, many retailers have begun to move their technology into the cloud. These hosted environments can provide tremendous value, but they can also introduce additional challenges in accessing data across domains and physical locations, as well as a heightened focus on security and data availability.

According to Gartner research, retailers cite application integration as the top challenge they’ll face over the next 3 years. Because of the many systems that may need to interact together, the ideal solution is often a hybrid deployment, capable of hosting some aspects of the solution, while controlling other elements on premise. Unfortunately, few legacy systems provide this flexibility today.

Devices and Operating Systems

While the Apple products have gained a foothold in retail over the last few years, nobody can know for sure if this is the platform of the future. In fact, major players in retail hardware are feverishly developing competitive solutions, which will not run the proprietary Apple iOS operating system. For instance, Toshiba, HP, Motorola, Samsung and others are all delivering excellent solutions to compete with Apple in retail. Retailers are faced with the unfortunate reality that the entire suite of solutions they wish to deploy may not be on a common platform.

For example, the legacy POS vendor may have introduced a mobile element to their existing solution – but this may not be on the same platform as another solution such as an omni-channel product locator. Not to mention, the ideal solution should provide a near identical experience to the associate, regardless of hardware platform. The associate should be able to use an application at the POS workstation, and then access the same experience on their iPad or Android tablet, without having to relearn screen layouts and button configuration.