By Brian Albright, Business Solutions Magazine
Mobile POS, QR Codes can differentiate receipt printer solutions.
Although the economy continues to sputter, 2012 opened with fairly strong retail sales, which helped release more of the pent-up demand for new POS systems among retailers. That’s been good news for POS and receipt printer VARs. But as retail customers begin upgrading their receipt printer fleet, how can POS VARs stand out in a crowded field?
The first step is to actually learn how to use all of the capabilities found in the receipt printer. New printers offer a number of options, including color, coupon printing, loyalty program information, and promotions. Enabling these functions can help increase customer loyalty and drive incremental revenue for the retailer. “To do this, ideally you want a higher-speed printer to avoid slowing down the transaction and impacting customer perceptions,” says Adam Ortlieb, associate director of marketing at Seiko Instruments.
Another emerging key capability is the incorporation of quick response (QR) codes in printed receipts. According to research from Multichannel Merchant, use of QR codes among retailers has reached 47%, primarily via marketing collateral, direct mail, and print catalogs. “We all know how prevalent the QR codes are now in marketing,” says Kyle Turner, general manager for CognitiveTPG. “Integrating them into the receipt for surveys, coupons, or additional marketing can have significant benefits to the retailer.”
Those benefits potentially include a higher rate of response, since customers can scan the code at the register to take advantage of QR-based promotions. Combined with coupons and loyalty program data, QR codes can help turn the receipt into a more robust customer interaction touchpoint.
Mobility Shakes Up Receipt Printing
Receipt printer hardware is still small to help deal with shrinking space at the check-out. Front access controls for under-the-counter installation are a must. In hospitality and other applications, some customers are looking for receipts printed on adhesive paper that can be used as temporary labels.
Eco-friendly printers also are increasingly popular. The printers not only give retailers some “green” credibility, but also they reduce receipt paper and power consumption. The return on investment for these printers, however, may be more ideological than financial. “From a purely economic stance, it is important to evaluate the cost of replacing current hardware compared to the cost savings from the paper and energy consumption savings,” Turner says. “The decision to sell or adopt an ecofriendly printer is not market driven as much as it is defined by the philosophy of the company and its beliefs.”
Mobility is having the biggest impact on the receipt printer space, according to the vendors interviewed for this story. Both mobile devices (like smartphones) and mobile printers can be deployed or leveraged in a variety of combinations. Retailers may allow their customers to purchase items using their own smartphones and print receipts using stationary or mobile printers; mobile POS devices may also be used in combination with various receipt printer configurations.
There are also carrying case, cart, and wireless power solutions, which can present some support challenges for manufacturers and VARs, and potentially confuse retailers. However, “for customers who want to go mobile, existing stationary receipt printers can be configured to print receipts through a wireless network, saving the retailer’s investment in equipment that has
already been purchased,” says Christophe Naasz, director of marketing at Star Micronics.
As for mobile receipt printers, they should be evaluated within the context of the complete mobile solution. Not every printer is going to be compatible with every mobile device; some don’t support printing at all. “With the proliferation of iOS and Android devices being used as point of sale systems, VARs need POS peripherals that can seamlessly integrate,” Naasz says. “Before purchasing and deciding on a complete solution, peripheral devices need to be tested with the tablet or smartphone they intend to use to make sure they are compatible.”
VARs can tap their own specialized application knowledge to help guide retailers through mobile POS and receipt printing deployments, offering themselves as a consultative resource to assess feasibility and potential business benefits. “And then it comes down to offering the right mix of options,” Ortlieb says. “Just as a simple example, you might want servers using mobile POS to make them more efficient, but you would still likely want stationary receipt printers behind the bar and in the kitchen.”
For resellers promoting mobility solutions in POS, there are a number of ROI points to consider, including improved efficiency through line-busting solutions, and increased customer service. Another that isn’t mentioned frequently is security, particularly in scenarios where employees must take a customer’s credit card for swiping at a different location, as in a restaurant.
“With the increased risk and worry of credit card fraud, applications like tableside ordering and payment processing are growing in popularity,” Naasz says. “Customers want to know that their identity is safe. With mobile receipt printers, not only can their card be swiped in front of them, but they can also instantly receive their receipt tableside.”
Resellers should still keep in mind that mobile payment and POS solutions are part of a developing market. Any investment in new solutions has to be made with the knowledge that their customers may only now be investigating whether mobile is a fit for them. “Mobile POS applications are without a doubt growing fast, but it is important to understand that while implementation may seem widespread, these applications still make up only a small segment in the industry,” Turner says.