By Brian Albright, Business Solutions Magazine
Mobile POS platforms will enhance the shopping experience and complement traditional POS.
The point of sale (POS) market is undergoing a number of changes, most significantly the emergence of new POS platforms including Linux-based systems and mobile POS devices. For POS resellers, it will be important to position themselves to take advantage of these new solutions even though the opportunities they present are still emerging.
Linux-based platforms, for example, can provide a lower-cost route to solution development by allowing developers to avoid licensing fees. “The value of a software solution provider that develops as much of the total solution as possible is that they can provide the retailer with enhancements and customization faster and more efficiently,” says Ed Rivas, business development manager for Toshiba America Business Solutions. The trick is convincing customers to move away from more familiar platforms that provide easier integration with existing back-office solutions.
Mobile POS, meanwhile, is playing a larger role in food service and some retail applications. Currently, there are competing solutions based on Android, Apple’s iOS, and Microsoft Windows Embedded Compact 7.
“Mobile POS is a growing industry, but one that we do not see replacing traditional all-in-one POS solutions,” says Bill Brennan, senior director, reseller channel, at Panasonic. “Instead, we see mobile POS and the nontraditional OS operating systems it runs on, complementing all-in-one POS. Mobile POS devices, such as tablet computers, can help businesses improve customer service via line-busting.”
New POS Solutions Must Be Customer-Focused
Regardless of the platform, merchants want POS solutions that get the attention of customers and provide them with the necessary information to make a purchasing decision in the store. Mobile POS systems play a role, along with in-store displays and other components. “Customers like to be treated as individuals, and proactive solutions that recognize customers, leverage their purchase history, bolster their store loyalty benefits, and help ensure the share of wallet being spent today requires a concerted effort by the retailer,” Rivas says. “Instead of IT being the focal point for technology, retailers are incorporating marketing, merchandising, and operations into the decision-making process.”
Using mobile solutions to enhance the customer experience can pay dividends for retailers, so POS VARs should consider a variety of potential mobility options that are both secure and easy to use. “Retailers are looking to technology to enhance the customer experience by providing personal and quick mobile sales,” Brennan says. “The Android operating system on a tablet offers employees a user-friendly interface and security options. These operating systems are inherently less likely to get malware or viruses, as most of these are targeted to the Windows platform.”
How do you differentiate in this emerging market? According to Alex Nelson, CEO of J2 Retail Systems, the key is to offer end-to-end solutions. “Act as a consultant to the customer on all their IT needs,” Nelson says. “Select a partner with a proven reliability track record. Offer customers Intel-embedded products that come with a seven-year promise of fulfillment with consistent product, should it be a multiyear rollout. It all comes down to service, service, service.”
Urge customers to deploy an all-in-one POS terminal solution that features a modular structure that allows flexible installation and easy maintenance without purchasing any additional equipment or mounts. According to the vendors interviewed for this piece, all-in-one terminals should be purpose-built for extreme environments for a long-life cycle, helping lower total cost of ownership (TCO), increase productivity, and limit downtime. Finally, as energy costs continue to rise, POS VARs should also highlight POS systems that offer ultra-low power consumption.
Wrap additional offerings around the POS, including security, payment processing, PCI compliance consulting, mobile solutions for line busting, and digital signage. Digital menu boards can be integrated with the POS to provide calorie counts and prices, security cameras can be integrated with the POS, and systems can even be set up to provide automated greetings and alerts linked to specific areas of a store that require attention.
Digital signage, in particular, can provide significant opportunities for incremental sales. “Using POS data analytics, retailers can update content regarding new items, product promotions based on customer preferences, and inventory imbalances,” Brennan says.
Localization and customization are also critical, says Rivas. “An example is with loyalty programs that generate promotions based upon the shopper’s personal experience,” he says. “The teenage customer does not need to be bothered with promotions for business attire. Instead, by giving the retailer the ability to tailor promotions and giving the teenager incentives to the brand name products that he/she had purchased in the past, the retailer is more attuned to that specific shopper’s desires.”
Offer New Services, Security Integration
For VARs looking for additional opportunities for follow-on revenue and ways to help increase their customer touch points, other types of related services will appeal to clients. “Offer large users a remote monitoring product to look at the health of their POS estate and the software stack they have deployed,” Nelson says. “Conduct wireless surveys to identify and contain problems within the premises, especially if the VAR is deploying mobile technology.”
Another area VARs may be missing out on is integration between the POS and security system. “When connected, security systems and POS terminals provide a variety of benefits to retailers in areas including human resources, purchasing, marketing, risk management, and finance,” Brennan says. “The integration allows retailers to analyze their business with advanced reporting features, view every transaction at the register, and monitor employee behavior. Additionally, security systems can also help retailers protect themselves from fraudulent claims and reduce shrinkage. From a marketing perspective, security systems combined with anonymous video analytics can help manage promotional campaigns.”
Kiosks, digital displays, and store-based smart phone applications are becoming more popular outside the U.S., but there is interest domestically. “With a focus on the customer experience and allowing shoppers more independence through access to information, these solutions maximize purchasing power and provide faster mobility throughout the store,” Rivas says. “These solutions will also emphasize the importance of communicating and guiding individual shoppers to the items that they are looking to purchase, along with the associated items that the retailer thinks will maximize the store experience.”
Don’t let new technology and new platform options distract you or your clients from ensuring the POS is robust and meets the business requirements. Even with new technology in place, VARs have to stick to the basics of customer service to maintain their POS accounts. “Once again, become a consultant to your end user,” Nelson says. “You are, in many cases, more trained in your software and hardware offerings than a purchasing agent. Know your customers’ IT staff, and identify and solve their problems or needs.”