at The Home Depot's "First Phone"
The Home Depot now has over 30,000 mobile
POS devices in use at nearly 2,000 of its stores. Dubbed
the "First Phone" these phones are actually a
combination smartphone and walkie-talkie that allows
associates to bring customer service into the aisles on
a real-time basis.
First Phone's combine inventory
management, analytics functions, a VOIP telephone, a
store walkie-talkie, and label printing with POS. The
Home Depot's deployment of the handheld devices
represents the largest mobile POS rollout in retailing.
The company has spent $64 million to get the program up
and running and according to a recent conference call
for investors the effort is proving to be a success.
"This device gives the associate real-time data on
sales, gross margin and inventory," said Marvin Ellison,
executive vice president of U.S. stores for the chain.
It "simplifies the in-stock process, which is big for
us." Most customers will see First Phone's in action
when they are used as a mobile cash register. Each
device has an attachment to that processes credit and
debit cards, allowing purchases away from the checkout
registers. Ellison reported that over one million
customer checkout transactions have taken place on the
"First Phone' may be an apt name for
the project since some initial reviews by staff show
that this first initiative may require some refinement.
With mobile technology moving so rapidly some of the
hardware and software that The Home Depot based the
First Phone on already may be outdated. That said, the
mobile POS devices are a big improvement over 'Mobile
Cart' its previous in-store inventory technology that
required staff to push a computer around that was placed
on a cart.
First Phones are based on a version of
Motorola's MC75 product which is marketed as an
Enterprise Digital Assistant. The Home Depot IT team
built out a common application framework using the .NET
Compact Framework, using the devices' WLAN capability to
communicate with its stores' servers via Web services.
Further customization was needed to make applications
integrate with the company communications systems, core
POS system and data warehouse.
The company credits the First Phone
with helping its store staff increase the hours they
dedicate to customer-facing activities vs. tasking
activities. Senior management has a target of a 60:40
ratio (labor involved in customer-facing activity/labor
involved in tasking activity) and is relying on mobile
technologies to help them reach that target by 2013.