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The Green Sheet Online Edition

June 10, 2013 • Issue 13:06:01

Technology integration revolution at the POS

By Rick Berry
ABC Mobile Pay

At our new address in Port Hueneme, Calif., where my wife and I recently bought a home, we received a newsletter. Because the newsletter was addressed to our cat Blue, I was curious and began to read the messages that were being delivered.

The mailing was from PetSmart, a chain of pet supply stores where we shop for our cats and dog. PetSmart offers almost every conceivable product and service you could need for your pets - from food and toys to litter and medicines, including adoption services, animal training, animal grooming and more.

A convenient kiosk

It was 12 months ago, perhaps even closer to 18 months ago, that my wife and I were checking out at PetSmart, having acquired two new kittens. We had adopted them (we actually bought them for about $75 each after fees, etc.) several weeks before, and we had come back to buy toys, food and collars (a pink one for the female and a blue one for the male).

We were about to ask the cashier if the store had tags when we saw a self-service, collar-tag kiosk/dispenser between the checkout and the exit. We leisurely followed the easy instructions and selected the type, shape, size and color of each tag. After inserting our payment card, we were prompted to select the type and size of text we wanted laser-inscribed on each tag, both front and back. We chose to have the cats' names, our new address and our phone numbers on the front and back of the tags.

Then we watched in fascination as the laser zipped back and forth to etch the colored aluminum tags with the information we had provided. The entire process was quick and easy. We smiled at each other as we exited the store with everything in hand that we needed to provide for and keep track of our newest family members.

Integration benefits

Not until I received the mailer did I fully understand how effective an integrated system can be for merchants when done properly. Not only does an integrated system save or make money by providing inventory control and management, reports, and mobile payment (mPOS) capability - but it also does much more.

Integration can generate an invaluable loyalty in your customers when you utilize a system-wide approach to data capture and marketing. For instance, when we used the self-serve kiosk, little did we expect to receive a cool little newsletter addressed to our cat a year and a half later, in which we were offered a genuine savings with discounts on items that we regularly purchase from PetSmart. How refreshing.

This is what consumers are looking for, and when they're in brick-and-mortar stores, customers are pulling out their smartphones to check prices and sometimes buy online. Often, customers go online before a store visit, and smart merchants are melding the customer buying experience into a cross-channel shopping experience anchored with mobile technology.

This integration of in-store, online and mobile shopping makes it a much more convenient shopping experience, which consumers are beginning to expect and demand - provided that shopping experience is quick, easy and convenient.

Customer convenience

For instance, I often receive promotions on my receipts from Starbucks to go online and take a survey for which I'm offered a free drink or a discount. I never take advantage of the promotion because of the time and effort involved in the survey and redemption process. It requires me to go to the computer, bring up the site and enter a code provided, etc.

In contrast, several weeks ago, I was starving for a couple of Jack-In-The-Box tacos with "secret sauce," and I had a few minutes to spend while I ate them inside. Both in-store and on the POS receipt were offers of two free tacos if I merely completed a quick survey via quick response (QR) code.

I decided to give it a try. I scanned the QR code with my smartphone, quickly completed an easy survey and received a code for two free tacos via my phone. I was to present the code for redemption on my next visit. I never did redeem my two free tacos; however, that's the subject for another discussion. The point is that if it's convenient, quick and easily accessed on whatever mobile device the consumer is carrying, then customer engagement is dramatically increased and sales climb.

Helpful technology

Integration of the online presence, the brick-and-mortar POS system and the mobile ecosystem isn't as daunting as it may seem to many merchants because of readily available technology in the form of applications and software as a service.

Sales increase once a merchant's POS system enables data capture, such as the buying history. Offers are zeroed in on the customers so that discounts are offered on items they use. They are priced to motivate customers to make purchases, spurring sales that wouldn't have been realized without the promotion.

Here's the rub: most ISOs are unable to provide the technical knowledge, expertise and support required to affordably execute system-wide integration. The very idea is in its nascent stage; there's no path to follow, nor much that could be successfully modeled yet.

The average merchant services provider can adequately provide, install and support the old clickety-clack electronic terminals used to swipe and process credit card transactions. Those devices aren't much more than cash registers; they require minimal maintenance and support.

A rep merely has to plug a cord into a phone line, plug another cord into the power source, and that's it. The occasional problem is usually routed to the acquirer's processing platform, where tech personnel with varying degrees of expertise handle the inquiry.

Intrepid trailblazers

Very few ISOs and merchant service providers are capable of providing reliable customer service and tech support for a true POS system. I can count on one hand the number of ISOs that are able to successfully provide a traditional POS system with a touch-screen monitor/computer, cash drawer, receipt printers, and scanners, etc. - let alone successfully support them.

However, there are some trailblazers with vision, so some easy and fairly affordable solutions are available, as well as some complicated and very pricey options. A few ISOs have seen the light within the last few years and have realized dramatic success after developing traditional POS systems.

But there's much more to it than a mere POS when it comes to complete integration. Combining the online, brick-and-mortar and mobile presence into one productive, smooth and seamless customer buying experience requires much more than providing and supporting a POS.

Knowledgeable providers

A specific knowledge base with certain technical expertise is required in order to provide complete integration with the POS, mobile, social media, loyalty programs, digital signage, marketing, inventory control, accounting and reports. At the moment, several competent providers have the expertise to integrate the necessary technology.

One technology-driven company that comes to mind provides integrated solutions specifically focused on the ISO and payments space resellers, who in turn bring the integrated solutions to their merchants.

By avoiding the rate and fees sales pitch, ISOs can provide true value to merchants while increasing profit margins and decreasing attrition rates.

Another provider has been in the POS business for over 100 years and has a focus on the self-serve and the self-checkout space. Although not necessarily a technology integration company, it does offer quality cloud-based POS solutions with mobile integration. The company markets to resellers and merchants alike.

Customer retention

The average life span for the typical merchant account is from about six months to perhaps two years. An integrated POS system increases that life span dramatically. It also achieves a significant decrease in the merchant attrition rate because of the real value provided.

Because the level of service is increased, customer satisfaction levels and customer loyalty also increase, along with ISO sales volume and profits.

Many restaurant and retail business owners now recognize that by providing an integrated and unique buying experience to their customers across all channels, they will generate good will and customer loyalty.

However, more importantly, merchants who quickly integrate technology that provides this cross-channel buying experience will assuredly capture market share while increasing sales and profits. ISOs that position themselves to provide and support this integration will see growth and revenue beyond their expectations. end of article

Rick Berry is the Chief Executive Officer of American Bank Card Processing Inc./ABC Processing/ABC Mobile Pay, a POS solution and mobile POS (mPOS) technology provider located at 25060 Avenue Stanford, Suite 170, Valencia, CA 91355. Rick can be reached by email at rick@abcmobilepay.com or by phone at 661-259-2185. For more information, visit www.abcmobilepay.com.

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