Surface in Retail A modern, high-tech shopping experience isn’t for big companies only. Smaller businesses can take advantage of new technology and innovation to offer their customers a more fun, engaging shopping experience—and better empower their employees at the point of sale.

At Microsoft*, I’ve seen many smaller retailers use a variety of creative ways to modernize their shopping experience, including tablets that help store associates better romance products and services, apps that connect them with their customers online, and in-store shopping experiences enhanced with powerful yet cost-efficient point-of-sale devices.

For example, when our customer Rooms To Go wanted to improve customer service on its showroom floor, it deployed a touch-enabled app called MiRTG on tablets for its sales associates. Using MiRTG, store associates could physically stay with customers throughout the shopping process instead of leaving them waiting while they went to retrieve information from locked-down workstations at kiosks. Rooms To Go has seen first-hand how more mobile and attentive service drives sales, increases productivity, and improves the customer experience.

Smart, strategic uses of in-store technology gives retailers an opportunity to engage customers in new ways, and build greater loyalty. We see a big opportunity for smaller retailers in this area, and below I’ve highlighted a few key scenarios that can help increase customer service and sales. Let’s dive in.

Integrated Cross-Channel Presence

Today’s customers expect a consistent retail experience whether they are physically shopping in a store, browsing online at a desktop computer, or using a mobile device. Because of this, merchants need to think of how to create an integrated experience across these three channels.

Imagine a world where your sales associates can access a customer’s online shopping cart when he or she walks into the store; or where they can quickly tap into the customer’s buying history to better understand his or her preferences and make recommendations; or where they can help customers contrast and compare items from a mobile device.

With these and other scenarios, the retail experience of the future will take personalization to the next level. With our partners, we’ve built apps that connect the shopping experience across online, mobile, and in-store.  We offer devices that help store associates provide better customer service, and using data and the Internet of Things, we enable small retailers to bring insights from online shopping to the in-store experience.

Modern Point of Sales Solutions

As the shopping experience becomes more modern, so does the point of sale (POS). Modern POS solutions are becoming both more powerful and more accessible, allowing a greater variety of retailers to better understand their customers and provide more customized services.

Microsoft recently joined forces with PayPal to bring PayPal Here, a modern POS solution, exclusively to Microsoft Surface. PayPal Here for Surface is a complete POS solution designed to increase productivity and improve customer experiences for small business owners, independent retailers, and sole proprietors. Because Microsoft Surface has the power of a full PC in a mobile design, SMB retailers can use one device for both POS and business operations, rather than having to transfer data from the tablet they use for POS to the PC they use for business management. You can read more about the new app for Windows 8.1, new accessories, and a software development kit (SDK) now available for developers here.

The Habit Restaurants, a rapidly growing business specializing in burgers, sandwiches, and other fresh, made-to-order fare, provides an excellent example of how a business can implement a modern POS solution to increase productivity and overall customer satisfaction. The Habit chose to deploy Windows 8 touch tablets equipped with the latest Intel® Atom™ processors to run its POS on in order to enhance the customer experience by shortening wait times for receiving food orders at food trucks and restaurant locations. As a result, the company increased employee mobility and reduced wait times for customers by 30 to 40 percent. This is a big deal during lunch hour, and it gave the restaurant chain a competitive edge, setting a new record for drive-through sales.

It’s a great time to leverage new technologies to get ahead. The best part is that these technology solutions are available today.

* Disclosure: this company has a client relationship with or its affiliated entities.