What Will Boost Your POS Keyboard Sales?
Trends in the point of sale (POS) keyboard market, including new standards and added keyboard features, are positively affecting VARs' ability to sell. React now to changes in the market and increase service to boost your keyboard sales.
Enhanced features, as well as changes in the market, are impacting point of sale (POS) keyboard sales, say two vendors. "POS keyboards today include more features at lower cost. VARs have a wider variety of keyboards to choose from," says Richard Yamaguchi, marketing manager for POSIFLEX (Union City, CA). POSIFLEX manufactures point of sale (POS) terminals and peripherals, including keyboards. The privately held company has offices worldwide and annual gross sales in excess of $150 million.
"End users are driving the trends in the POS keyboard market. They want applications that reduce costs and increase efficiencies. Keyboard features must meet the needs of these applications," says Mike Harvey, marketing manager at Cherry Electrical (Pleasant Prairie, WI). The privately held company manufactures a full line of keyboards, with annual gross sales of approximately $450 million. Cherry has 4,400 employees in offices worldwide.
Trends Affecting Keyboard Sales
Yamaguchi notes three trends affecting POS keyboard sales:
Proliferation of less-expensive keyboards - POS keyboards are being manufactured at lower cost and are also being imported. "The quality of a lower priced keyboard may not be the same as a more expensive model. The basic features, however, may be the same," says Yamaguchi. He advises VARs to check for ISO 9001- or 9002-certification from the manufacturer on any POS keyboard they purchase. "The certification verifies that the keyboard is built to quality standards," says Yamaguchi.
Touch screen sales increasing - Like it or not, touch screens are taking some of the market share away from POS keyboards. Touch screens are commonly used in hospitality and are moving into retail, especially in retail kiosks. Yamaguchi notes, however, that POS keyboards will never totally be replaced. Touch screens are more expensive than keyboards. This makes them a less cost-effective option for smaller retailers and independent restaurant owners, for example.
- Development of wireless keyboards - One "future" trend Yamaguchi notes is the development of wireless POS keyboards. "Wireless keyboards can be programmed remotely and allow for a more flexible POS system," says Yamaguchi. He predicts that these keyboards, along with voice-activated terminals, will be big in future POS systems. Users would simply speak to voice-activated terminals to reprogram them, as well as to operate them.
According to Harvey, three additional trends are impacting the keyboard market. He suggests VARs pay close attention to the following:
Biometrics - Keyboards are now available with built-in biometric devices for added security and employee time and attendance. "These are more commonly used in office settings, but are also being used in retail," says Harvey. This type of keyboard requires users to have their fingerprints read using a built-in reader in order to access terminals.
Built-in smart card readers - Harvey says applications for smart cards are increasing. One example is the use of smart cards on college campuses. Students can use their smart cards to buy books, register for classes, access computers and check out library materials. Keyboards, commonly used in libraries and for registering students, could easily include smart card readers for this type of application.
Keyboards with both built-in biometric devices and smart card readers provide additional access control and security, notes Harvey. For example, students using a smart card could verify their identity using their fingerprint.
Conforming to standards - The OPOS (object linking and embedding [OLE] for retail point of sale) and JPOS (Java version of OPOS) are two standards Harvey says he is watching closely. These POS standards are intended to make open system components from various vendors compatible with each other. This includes both POS hardware and software.
According to Harvey, POS keyboard manufacturers are working toward these standards. Soon, all OPOS-compliant keyboards will be plug and play with other OPOS-compliant terminals, peripherals and software. JPOS-compliant keyboards would likewise be compatible with other JPOS-compliant terminals, peripherals and software.
The USB (universal serial bus) interface is also expected to impact the keyboard market. USB is one way peripherals are cabled to a PC. Newer PCs already incorporate the USB port. An additional USB hub enables up to 127 peripheral devices to connect to one USB port on a PC. USB keyboards, however, are more expensive than other POS keyboards. "The economies of scale are affecting price," says Harvey. Keyboard manufacturers still purchase millions of PS2 connectors for "regular" keyboards. They are purchasing only thousands of the USB connectors for newer keyboards incorporating USB.
Service Will Drive Margins Higher
Both Harvey and Yamaguchi agree that VARs will increase profits on POS keyboard sales by increasing their value-added services. "Sometimes service is more important than the keyboard itself. You can have a great keyboard, but without good service, it may not matter," says Yamaguchi.
"Services include reconfiguring the keyboard, adding special keycaps, bundling the keyboard with other products and customer training," says Harvey. VARs should look for services they can charge for, he adds. Newer keyboards with built-in readers or biometrics may only offer higher margins for the short term. "To survive in the market, you must add value," says Harvey.