When I posted about the immediate future of retail (and how retailers need to empower employees) , I focused primarily on the impact that the mobile, social consumer would have on brick and mortar businesses. After getting back from the Shop.org conference I realized that retailers are going to need to empower their employees with the same devices that customers have, only with a focus on the business.

Sales associates will have iPhones & Android phones that can scan QR codes and barcodes on behalf of the customer; when they don’t have their own. Once they have product information in the phone, they can then share that product with the customer’s friends on Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare. Maybe a mechanism that allows your friends to vote on what you should buy. Mobile influencers do this already by just sharing photos but with the barcode/QR code, retailers insure the information that’s shared is thorough. This behavior is now being referred to as social commerce.

The best scanning applications I’ve found are Optiscan for QR codes and RedLaser for barcodes. RedLaser recently announced that they will scan for both but not sure how good it is. Optiscan is amazing. Each sales person will need to have quality applications loaded on their mobile device, especially for scanning. For the sharing products socially the employee will need to allow the user to login/share. Great way to build rapport.

Along with mobile devices, store managers will have iPads to promote product engagement; “see this blouse with something we only sell online”. It could also be used for real time inventory device. But doesn’t the point of sale (POS) do that? Well . . . the iPad (and the iPhone) are going to become the POS. Square is already winning retailer support (video below) and I expect this to continue. (Real time inventory is going to be the real challenge.) With the store filled with many individual POSeseseseses, (or is it posi?) transactions get even more personal, more social.

Of course Foursquare will play into this as well. Alerts will be sent to store managers when someone checks into their store. From that point, a store manager will get sense of customer loyalty and how best to serve 4sq users and not just the mayor.

It’s only a matter of time before stores turn into hotbeds of interactivity, with information being pushed to the web/applications and digital information flowing into the brick and mortar. Looking forward to this collision!