Guest Column | May 30, 2013

5 Common Mobile POS Mistakes

By Frank Riso, Senior Director, Global Lead Retail, Motorola Solutions

Shoppers should be able to buy their purchases how, when and where they want. Are retailers prepared to accept any type of payment anywhere in the store? They can be with mobile point of sale (MPOS). But there are a few things to consider if you want to ensure the success of an MPOS implementation. Beware of these five pitfalls: 

  1. Confusing MPOS with line busting - MPOS allows customers to pay for purchases anywhere in the store. Following the same procedures as the traditional POS system, store associates use a mobile device to scan a customer’s purchases and accept payment. When “line busting,” associates carry out all the steps of MPOS, except payment. Items are scanned and the transaction is suspended until the shopper reaches a traditional POS station where payment completes the transaction. Why would you even want to start a transaction on the store floor but finish at a register? While there are many uses, consider an electronics or appliance store. The order may be placed on the floor and sent to the back, where the product can be pulled. Meanwhile, the customer can go to the register to discuss warranties, service/repair and complete the transaction, turning waiting time into a sales opportunity and freeing up associates to help more customers.
  2. Thinking that MPOS is for credit card payments only – The number of payment options continues to increase and with a well-planned MPOS system, retailers will be able to accept them all. For traditional payment methods, a magnetic stripe reader (MSR) on the mobile device will enable reading of both credit and debit cards. For cash, there are a few options, including connecting via wireless to a cash drawer that may be shared or assigned to a specific associate. A good MPOS implementation needs to address other forms of payment as well, such as near field communications (NFC) so that customers can use their smartphones and tap cards to pay for their purchases and electronic benefits transfer (EBT) for food stamp customers. And now is the time to prepare for October 2015, when the United States will adopt Eurocard, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) Chip and PIN payments, which are currently in use in many other countries.
  3. Not knowing the number of items in a typical transaction - The rule of thumb is that 10 items or less can be easily managed in a typical MPOS transaction. More than 10 items can cause the store staff to make mistakes by forgetting items or scanning an item multiple times. The number of items is also a concern when it comes to bagging or wrapping purchases made during an MPOS transaction.  Associates may be able to easily carry small bags with them or allow the customer to leave the store without bagging the purchase. With a larger number, the associate would need to bring the customer to a cash wrap. Lastly, the MPOS solution must know if electronic alert surveillance (EAS) tags are used by the retailer since these tags will need to be deactivated before the end of the transaction.  Line busting will work best for complex transactions that include a lot of items, bagging of fragile goods and the removal of EAS tags.
  4. Missing bar codes - Prior to the implementation of the MPOS solution, every item in every department of the store should be checked to ensure that all merchandise has a bar code.  If items remain for sale without a bar code, it will slow down the process and deter the store staff from using the MPOS devices. You would think that every item in a store has a bar code, but that is not always the case.  In some stores, you may find catch weight items such as meat or deli items that will need a bar code and the random weight bar codes must also be verified to work with the MPOS solution.  If catch weight items are sold such as loose candy, produce and bulk items, either a self-service scale can be used or line busting can account for all the other items in the basket, with the catch weight items being rung up by a traditional cashier.
  5. Forgetting the receipt - There are many states and locations that legally require a printed receipt so either a portable printer or a shared printer is necessary.  MPOS cashiers may carry a wirelessly-enabled portable printer that can be attached to a belt or worn around the neck. A stationary printer can also be used and shared by multiple MPOS cashiers so that once the transaction is completed; the receipt is printed at the selected printer. Another option is to enable digital receipts that can be sent to a customer’s email address. This is also a great way to collect customer email addresses for future promotions – just be sure to comply with opt-in/opt-out regulations.

MPOS solutions are very popular today with consumer electronics stores, specialty apparel stores, department stores, and even in do-it-yourself (DIY) stores. Transactions that include cash, some EBTs and random weight items may be best handled with line busting or by a traditional cashier.  VARs need to serve as a trusted advisor and communicate when and where the right solution is best utilized.