By Michael Gavin
For decades, midsize and large merchants have made significant investments in feature-rich legacy POS systems that deliver critical business management tools and services.
Unfortunately, the majority of smaller merchants had to be satisfied with electronic cash registers and manual or home-grown setups due to the costs of big branded systems: upfront investments of $3,000 to $50,000, combined with user-based licensing and annual maintenance fees.
Over the past decade, the tech industry at large witnessed a move away from business software modules toward software-as-a-service (SaaS), which is on-demand software that provides robust services and is delivered to businesses from the cloud. On-demand cloud services are accessed through the web and typically priced economically for users of any size, from small companies to large enterprises. Popular services are provided by Salesforce.com, Constant Contact Inc. and Intuit Inc., among others.
In the POS world, we're witnessing a parallel technology trend, with a wave of new entries flooding the marketplace. Often referred to as mobile POS (mPOS) or tablet POS, these new on-demand services, or POS SaaS, offer a range of value-adds on a standard-issue mobile device, transforming a traditional Apple or Android tablet into a fully functional POS system.
The features and functionality of these mPOS systems extend far beyond the ability to simply accept a credit or debit card payment on a smartphone or tablet. They deliver full suites of business management tools, including customer relationship management, inventory tracking, employee management, payment processing and acceptance, invoice creation, customer engagement, integrated loyalty and reward programs, and data analytics - all in the cloud, delivered via standard tablet devices.
Today, small merchants have the opportunity through mPOS to access application-based technology that offers both front- and back-end management tools. That is just what leading developers like Registroid LLC, e-Nabler Corp. (seller of eMobilePOS) and GoPago Inc. are delivering.
Using existing development platforms, such as Apple's iOS or Android, and standard tablet devices, developers are delivering robust POS systems for as little as $1,000, with little or no upfront costs. Most charge a minimal monthly fee and offer automatic, instant software upgrades. Some extend the value of their systems by integrating accounting, coupon and gift-card generation, triggered automated emails, and mobile payment acceptance.
If mPOS follows other cloud service models, this is just the beginning: expect significant improvements and enhancements over time.
Small business owners should examine these mPOS systems, seeking the one that best meets their specific business needs for day-to-day management and for extending their value proposition to prospects and customers. Much of the conversation today centers around data, personalization and enhancing customer experience.
Mobile POS provides the perfect platform to improve business efficiency and enhance customer engagement, driving incremental opportunities and revenue to the bottom line.
For midsize and large businesses that may be using legacy POS systems, mPOS is worth investigating. But it may not be for everyone. While some industry leaders predict that tablet systems will cannibalize 13 percent of legacy POS systems in the coming years, legacy systems will continue, especially within vertical industries and at enterprise merchants.
In fact, many leading providers of legacy systems are integrating mobile technology to extend existing systems for mobile checkout and in-aisle engagement or to open up new vertical opportunities.
Just as they would with any business investment, merchants should research several vendors to ensure their choice provides flexibility and expansion opportunity in the future. Merchants already using a POS system should fully understand the migration process and assess the risks and rewards of transitioning to mPOS.
In the end, these technologies significantly expand business opportunities for small merchants, as well as for the independent agents and value-added resellers that service them. Affordable solutions will prove valuable, delivering a clear return on investment and contributing to the bottom line.
As Merchant Warehouse Senior Vice President, Sales, Michael Gavin is responsible for day-to-day management of the company's direct sales, as well as leadership of all sales activities within the company's agent channel. He has served as a key leader within the organization since joining the company in late 2000. Merchant Warehouse's Genius Customer Engagement Platform is a single, intuitive platform that integrates every transaction technology, loyalty program and more. Contact Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the company, visit http://merchantwarehouse.com.
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