The Green Sheet Online Edition
May 25, 2009 • Issue 09:05:02
The POS trifecta
Looking for the trifecta in today's POS technology? Think wireless mobility, multitasking and integrated solutions. All three are being implemented throughout the industry.
So does this mean traditional POS devices will eventually be phased out? Not likely. But as banking and payment processing become increasingly mobile, payment professionals can pull ahead in the merchant acquiring race by capitalizing on these three emerging technologies.
In today's society, where convenience, speed and security compliance have made mobility more attractive, products like Apple Inc.'s iPhone and Amazon.com Inc.'s Kindle joined the digital parade of devices that are accelerating the acceptance of downloadable content like books and music. Smart phone technology makes managing our lives and businesses from any location possible - and as a result we have become less tethered to our homes and offices.
Merchants want the same portability and ease of use for their payment processing. They want the convenience of card present acceptance wherever they happen to be working, and they desire solutions with the security and lower rates of portable credit card readers. Here are a few examples:
- Mobile credit card terminals: A staple for seasonal merchants who sell fireworks, produce, and arts and crafts, these rugged, high-performance terminals can handle extreme weather conditions and high transaction volumes. Additionally, many handheld devices in the market today can process checks, debit, credit and gift cards that adhere to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard.
- Smart phones: Smart phones are a fashionable accessory for professional consultants and merchant employees working in the field. These micro solutions can fit neatly into a briefcase or toolbox or can be clipped onto a belt. When paired with card reader and printer peripherals, smart phones enable swiped rates and printed receipts at job sites, tradeshows or anywhere that traditional terminals are impractical.
- Netbooks: Downsized PCs are the latest look in computer technology. Their main advantages are long battery life and portability. Simply add a mag stripe reader, air card and wireless data plan, and these small computers can process payments while you're on the go. You can choose from an array of compatible printers that have the capability to create full-size invoice copies or smaller thermal credit card receipts.
This behavior is used to order pizza, webcast a live event, text your friend when you are running late, transfer funds, process credit card payments and even place calls - all at basically the same time.
The smart phone may be an extreme example of having the multitasking capability in a handheld device, but it shows how consumers and business owners have downsized from desktop computers and large, flat screen monitors to smaller hardware platforms that perform more applications while using less power.
The trend toward technology consolidation means older devices that are limited to one function (traditional credit card terminals, for example) are becoming obsolete. It's not just that phones have become smarter: Today's next-generation POS devices do more than process credit cards.
Multi-application terminals let ancillary programs coexist with other payment applications in the same terminal without interfering with credit card processing functions. All it takes is a partial download to accommodate these value-added services. Here are some examples:
- Gift and loyalty: As consumers have become increasingly brand-loyal in their shopping habits, merchants have embraced the notion of gift, loyalty and bounce-back coupon programs to enrich and extend their relationships with customers.
- ID verification: We protect our service establishment customers from selling alcohol, cigarettes and mature magazines to minors. Identification verification solutions can be added to credit card terminals and cash management systems. They can read a mag stripe on a driver's license or key in such information for immediate verification, protecting merchants from fines and possible legal actions.
- Health insurance verification: A busy medical or dental practice can easily verify the insurance status of its patients. Claims processing and eligibility applications that key in or read the mag stripe on an insurance card save time and money by immediately verifying eligibility and co-pay information.
How can single-use countertop POS devices stay in the game in an increasingly complex and technologically demanding workplace and world? They can remain useful when they are incorporated into larger, enterprise-wide operations.
Business owners who use traditional countertop devices could benefit from a customized mix of products and technology to manage other forms of payments. This would eliminate double entry and tedious end-of-shift reconciliation procedures. Following are a few examples:
- Accounting software applications: Accounting software programs have automated basic accounting procedures for businesses of all sizes. Many merchants who rely on these programs to manage day-to-day operations appreciate the ability to integrate credit card processing directly into accounting software. Check with your processor for certified payment applications that can be installed directly into these accounting programs.
- Secure Web portal: In an always-on global society, the need for fast response time has been replaced by the need for real-time solutions.
Access to a processor's or gateway's back-end for management of payment transactions is not a luxury anymore. It's a requirement, especially for those who are proactive about risk management and need to view activity from virtual terminals used by mobile workers, terminals in remote locations, or those deployed for ticket sales and special events.
- The portable business model: Taking your business wherever you go is the model of choice for most entrepreneurs in the 21st Century. Two iconic symbols of today's portable, integrated business platforms are the smart phone and the netbook.
They have broken the mold of business technology, freed us from the confines of office enclaves and given us wings: state-of-the-art POS capabilities, new value-added services and fresh revenue streams.
Place your bets
There is no limit to where we can go with the trifecta of mobile, multitasking and integrated technology. It's a safe bet that these three trends will continue to win, place and show in the competitive world of merchant acquiring.
Dale S. Laszig is a writer and payments industry executive with a diversified background in sales and marketing. Her company, DSL Direct LLC, helps industry professionals and business owners leverage electronic transaction technology. She can be reached at 973-930-0331 or email@example.com.
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