Making mobile POS work seamlessly for merchants of all sizes is a daunting job, one best tackled by partnering with multiple specialists, says Paul Rasori.
A recent IHL report projects significant growth in the tablet point-of-sale market through 2019, upwards of a 27% compound annual growth rate. To those of us working in this space the past few years, this number comes as no surprise. In fact, I believe the growth will be even higher.
In recent years, point-of-sale systems have undergone a rapid rate of evolution, driven almost solely by consumer demand and consumer technology use. Today, a POS system doesn’t simply ring up a sale. POS solutions run the business, integrating back-end accounting, employee management, customer relationship data, and marketing.
Consumer demand for anywhere, anytime commerce has been the impetus for this evolution. That demand is driven by the almost ubiquitous use of smart phones and tablets as the cloud enables more and more advanced applications.
The market is ripe for adoption of tablet POS, particularly tablet POS used in a fixed environment. The same study from IHL noted that, when looking across a wide range of industry sizes from small to enterprise level, a full 75% of retailers are planning to implement some form of mobile POS (mPOS). And many who have already done so, as noted in the study, aren’t simply implanting mPOS as a mobile solution. Rather, they are adopting a tablet in place of an ECR or traditional POS system.
Traditional, fixed POS systems have endured for so long because A) they are reliable; and B) they are easy to sell, setup, and deploy. With these systems, a reseller knows that once the sale is made, the terminal will be quickly shipped and arrive fully configured at the merchant’s location. Plug it in and you’re done. To reach its full market potential, tablet POS must be able to meet these same parameters.
But, while one thing you can always be certain of in the payments industry is change, another is that there is no silver bullet. This has never been more apparent than in mPOS, as the industry adopts consumer technologies for POS purposes. Viable tablet POS solutions—solutions that meet needs across the retail marketplace—take many different pieces coming together.
First, one of the most compelling business cases for a tablet-based solution is that it is inherently future-proofed. With the ability to easily update or replace a tablet, along with the availability of multitudes of cloud-based POS software solutions, merchants can have all the power of an advanced POS system in a space-saving and cost-effective design.
A look into any app store makes one thing apparent: there are already hundreds, if not thousands, of independent software developers creating feature-rich, powerful POS applications designed from the ground up to be used on smart phones and tablets.
Further, among these developers, specialization is becoming more and more common to meet vertical market needs. At industry trade shows over the past year, I’ve met independent software vendors (ISVs) developing software for markets as specific as dry cleaners, tobacco shops, and yogurt franchises. These applications may be developed on iOS, Android, or Windows, or any combination of the three.
Successful tablet POS also will provide simplicity and speed to market. As is evident by the fact that many “mPOS” users are not leveraging the mobile aspect of the system, POS software running on a tablet is not enough for most merchants. A complete system needs key peripherals—printers, scanners, cash drawers, and more.
With all of these options and choices, creating a complete tablet POS system can feel like putting a puzzle together. Faced with such a large number of products and software services, the task can seem complicated and overwhelming, leaving many to believe the reward may not be worth the effort, or that there is not an option that will meet their specific needs.
A Better Way
Here is where partnerships make a difference. There are already many top-notch companies with experience and expertise in each of these areas: software developers mastering the complexities of providing customizable software; payment processors with products to meet retailers’ needs; payment-device manufacturers ready to meet the changing landscape as EMV conversion looms and demand grows for near-field communication (NFC).
With PowaPOS, our vision was to eliminate the friction that has kept tablet-based POS from reaching its market potential. While we could have developed our own, proprietary software and locked in a single payment processor or payment device, a good look at the marketplace told us that there is a better way.
As the demand for both bundled services and tablet-based payments continues to grow, an open model that is built on successful industry partnerships not only allows value-added resellers (VARs) and ISVs to provide their customers with the best solution for the wealth of rich POS software applications out there. It also dramatically simplifies and expedites the migration to EMV and NFC in the U.S., leaving VARs and ISVs free to concentrate on core POS functionality while keeping the complexities of payment enablement in the hands of industry experts.
Bundled solutions created through partnerships also provides freedom of choice for the merchant to use its existing payment processor, and delivers a plug-and-pay solution that can be deployed in days.
The connected consumer will continue to drive the way merchants interact with their customers. With consumer technology opening up a world of technological possibilities in point-of-sale, POS equipment and software will have to become less proprietary, more open, and more interchangeable. With the right partnerships, tablet POS can meet these needs.
—Paul Rasori is executive vice president for product and marketing at PowaPOS.