By Brian Albright, Business Solutions magazine.
As merchants and customers in a wide range of verticals search for ways to improve customer service and speed cash flow, mobile point of sale (POS) systems have become a common sight in restaurant and quick service retail applications, as well as in the airline industry and at stadiums and other venues. Field service and sales applications in verticals like plumbing, landscaping, maintenance, and cable and telecommunications have also deployed mobile POS technology.
"These professions have benefited by being able to ‘close the sale' when in front of the customer while also saving the time, hassle, and expense of collecting a check payment afterward," says Greg Hammermaster, president of Sage Payment Solutions. "Some service professionals had gone to the expense of buying a mobile credit card terminal to carry with them; so implementing mobile POS capabilities on their phone can save hundreds of dollars a year."
Integrated POS solutions for mobile applications are opening up new opportunities for VARs and integrators to expand their offerings for existing and new clients. "VARs can improve their sales by becoming the ‘go-to-expert' about mobile security and ways to use mobile technology as a value-added feature," says Marianne Rocco, director of marketing and communications at Merchant Warehouse. "If customers need a POS upgrade, a mobile solution can be a good start to the conversation."
One of the most significant trends in the mobile POS space has been the emergence of Apple as a strong competitor via the iPad and iPhone. "Over the last decade the technology industry has failed miserably to provide an effective and affordable tablet computing solution," says Michael Paycher, president of SoftTouch. "Apple is largely credited with overcoming the shortfalls of the traditional Windows-based tablet PC through their operating system specifically designed for touch-based ergonomics."
Google's Android platform also has made inroads in this market. "The Android platform that is prevalent on many smartphones and tablets allows developers to integrate the mobile payment solutions very quickly and bring them to market expediently," says Alex Doan, director of information technology at PayFirst Solutions.
Emerging operating systems platforms have led to fragmentation of the mobile POS market, which has made it more challenging to provide a consistent customer experience. Deploying these applications is also more complex, because of the variety of mobile devices (and OS options) that may be involved in an installation.
Regardless of the operating system, a mobile POS solution has to be secure, and must meet the requirements of the Payment Card Industry (PCI) data security standards. Security of credit card information is a critical concern for both merchants and their customers. Although PCI has only offered limited guidance on mobile POS solutions, ensuring that a merchant's wireless network is properly secured and that data is encrypted will prevent data breaches and mitigate any compliance issues.
Beyond security, VARs have to be sensitive to the operational changes that can be necessary to successfully implement mobile POS. Moving the checkout process away from the counter may require a number of process controls; you simply can't replicate the desktop workflow on a mobile device.
Keep the end user experience in mind while providing tight integration with the existing POS infrastructure and a robust mobile device management solution. Staff training is also critical. "Simply making mobile POS available won't inspire behavior changes in store personnel," Vlugt says. "Training should take place to learn how to use equipment and how this new way of consultative selling improves the experience for both the consumer and the store associate."