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The Green Sheet Online Edition

September 24, 2012 • Issue 12:09:02

Prepare for the mPOS wave

By Rick Berry
ABC Mobile Pay Inc.

I routinely encounter restaurant owners - particularly of quick-service eateries - who have begun thinking about moving to a mobile payment solution for their customers. Yet they still hesitate. The most common reason for their reluctance to adopt this new payment mode is the perception of additional cost.

And indeed, if things were like they used to be - when it used to cost thousands of dollars per station to set up - it really would be out of reach for most owners of one-store restaurants. Yet the equation has changed. Those of us who are immersed in this technology every day know it so well that we sometimes forget how many of our potential customers are just beginning to realize what is possible.

What is beginning to drive change is the widespread use of tablets. Devices like the iPad are starting to show up everywhere in restaurants and bars. And once the owners see their advantages and truly understand what they can do for their businesses, they are ready to make a change.

Many have found that mobile POS (mPOS) systems are efficient time-savers that can also add a "coolness" factor to restaurants that use them. How much is that worth in sales?

More than a device

A good system is not just a cash register and payment processor. It is also an integrated end-to-end system that efficiently manages the entire work flow between the front-end POS system feature set and the back-end web-based management site.

The system can integrate with enterprise resource planning (ERP) or accounting and bookkeeping software modules. Some examples include Intuit Inc.'s QuickBooks, Sage Group PLCs Sage 100 ERP (formerly known as MAS 90), and SAP America's ERP and accounting packages.

This may sound like a lot of techno-speak, but I want to emphasize that mobile payment systems do more than just ring up sales. They can integrate with your entire back-office work flow and information flow.

Are your merchants still wondering if mPOS is for them? Let's review the primary reasons merchants should consider adding these systems to their payment capabilities. Mobile POS can help merchants in six ways:

    1. By reducing traditional fees: A traditional POS system can cost a merchant anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000. But groundbreaking software-as-a-service provisioning models enable a dramatically quick return on investment by way of affordable monthly fees. This completely rewrites the book on mobile payments by eliminating costly fees for upfront licensing, monthly service and support, and training.

    2. By providing unique customer experiences: Mobile devices such as iPads can do what a typical POS system cannot. They can show what you've got with the touch of a finger. They can offer complete menus, which can include photos or video of the products, along with calorie content and more.

    Merchants can display their full catalogs of merchandise showing available styles, sizes and colors. Systems can also be programmed to suggest upsells: appetizers, desserts and side dishes. And studies show that upselling works.

    3. By capturing sales lost to long lines: Having mobility with a POS device allows for salespeople and waitpersons to make sales on the spot. Rather than forcing patrons who are ready to pay to wait for a staffer, they can pay quickly with a pay-at-the-table device, or a self-serve kiosk or pay station, providing quicker table turns.

    Instead of directing shoppers to carry armloads of merchandise to checkout stands that are already busy with lines of impatient customers, retail clerks can immediately capture impulse-buying decisions. Mobile devices can increase sales that would otherwise be lost due to customers' impatience or their lack of time to brave long checkout lines.

    4. By improving customer service: Merchants can keep their employees where they are needed most - in the dining room or on the sales floor. Shoppers now have resources at their fingertips, with mobile apps allowing them to compare products, prices and reviews.

    By having employees available to interact whenever needed rather than standing slump-shouldered behind the register or otherwise unavailable, merchants can more quickly assist their customers, keeping them from leaving the store dissatisfied.

    Customer service is the pivotal watchword in all customer-centric retail businesses. Merchants must provide service that differentiates their businesses from their competitors. They will provide their customers interesting and unique buying experiences by using state-of-the-art mobile technology that keeps them coming back.

    5. By simplifying and speeding training: All employees need training before they are thrown into the sales ring with hungry lions. Devices such as iPads make this unusually easy due to the intuitive manner in which they operate.

    With a touch, a swipe and a tap, employees are prompted or directed to the next step, which simplifies and speeds training. Most employees already own cell phones or smart phones and know how to operate computers, so training is easy. A merchant's staffers are already operating the same or similar devices.

    6. By going green: Merchants can save trees every time they email receipts to their customers instead of printing out paper receipts, many of which are discarded. Customers in the electronic age are eager to go green, which is tied to their preference for social media.

They have also come to expect the option of emailed or texted receipts. By exemplifying a concern for the environment and operating in a paperless manner, mobile-savvy businesses gain respect and loyalty. By running cutting-edge businesses and providing unforgettable service while trying their best to go green, merchants will gain good word-of-mouth. Their customers will be spreading the word, especially on social media.

mPOS in action

A cutting edge example of mPOS in action is the new iPad app that Jakks Pacific Inc. developed for Target Corp. The solution is in the process of being tested at specific Target stores throughout the nation.

The app allows customers to make shopping lists, get product information and check pricing. And when they are at Target, the app directs them through the store using Target's mascot dog with the red target around its eye.

Shoppers can continue to add items to the list and compare products by scanning stock-keeping unit bar codes into the app with the iPad's camera. The app also includes games and coupon offers to make the shopping experience fun for the family.

The app can also be used by Target employees to track shelf space, manage and restock inventory, and design aisle layout plans quickly and easily. That's just one mPOS example. So many more are here and being developed.

The mobile commerce wave is building. If you get out in front with the right products and advice about how to implement mobile payments, you will help your merchants and restaurateurs catch the wave and get one exciting ride from it. I've discussed a portion of what the burgeoning mobile payments sphere has to offer; it's up to you to study the most promising options that are emerging and choose the most suitable ones for your clients.

Merchants who don't act in time will find themselves paddling hard to catch up to their competitors. Because the switch to mobile POS is coming. Indeed, it's almost here. end of article

Rick Berry is the President of ABC Mobile Pay Inc., a Valencia, Calif.-based company specializing in providing affordable software-as-a-service POS solutions. Rick can be reached at rick@abcmobilepay.com.

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