The Green Sheet Online Edition
November 11, 2013 • Issue 13:11:01
Is Clover the POS of the future?
At the 2013 Money2020 conference held in Las Vegas in early October, First Data Corp. and POS system manufacturer Clover Network Inc. unveiled a new kind of POS system that is an open marketplace in itself. The Clover Station is an Android-based tablet system that provides merchants access to Clover's own online app store, where merchants can download apps to their stations that are specialized for specific vertical markets.
Leonard Speiser, President and co-founder of Silicon Valley-based Clover, said the Open Clover App MarketPlace is divided into sections for different types of retailers, such as wineries or fitness complexes. Merchant facing apps that track inventory and payment flows for one type of business sit aside customer-facing apps designed to generate deeper engagement between that same type of business and customers.
Speiser gave an app designed to engage bar customers as one example. "This developer built an app where it shows all of these microbrews on tap, and then it shows the keg level," he said. "Every time there's a sale rung up on the register, it drops the level of the keg. And it shows it going from green to yellow to red. And that allows that customer at that bar to know when that microbrew is about to be kicked, and there's going to be a new one in the system."
Speiser said wine shops still rely on inefficient email blasts that are unable to target specific customers. So another app plugs into a wine shop's customer database and sends the purchaser of a cabernet a message when a new cabernet is coming out.
Apps built upon the core
Clover doesn't develop apps; the marketplace is designed for developers who develop apps for specific markets. "We can't understand every industry," Speiser said. "What we've done is we've built the core pieces."
Clover also allows developers to control what they charge for their apps. "We want the developers to set pricing because we want those developers to make enough money o fund themselves to build the world's best applications in every vertical," Speiser said.
Clover's marketplace is therefore also a platform for developers to market custom apps directly to the businesses that have an interest in those apps, without having to pound the pavement. "For the first time, people will genuinely be able to build whole businesses around the SMB [small to midsize business] market, without getting killed on the sales side," Speiser said.
Clover, which was bought by First Data in 2012 and now operates as an autonomously run subsidiary of the merchant acquiring giant, fills a gaping need for merchants, he stated. Just as standard countertop POS terminals will disappear in five years because they have little functionality beyond the payment mechanism, the more forward thinking mobile POS strategies, such as the Square Inc. dongle and app combination, are still too standardized to be of much use to SMBs, according to Speiser.
He said even in the heart of Silicon Valley, where merchants are constantly inundated with new tech gadgets, only one in 60 businesses operate a tablet POS solution, with the majority still running "old school" cash registers and standard POS terminals. "And the reason for this is that the current solutions for these businesses, the newer things that have been coming out, they don't address the needs of those businesses," he added.
Apt for ISOs, MLSs
The Clover Station may represent a powerful merchant retention tool for ISOs and merchant level salespeople. Speiser said First Data does not intend to make money on placing the hardware, but rather use the Clover Station to "renew that relationship and put the structure in place to have a really good interaction."
No price point has been set for Clover Station because First Data's distribution partners will make that determination. But Speiser compared its cost to what is charged for a cash register and basic POS terminal. "The real opportunity here is to open up 20 new revenue streams and also 20 new ways for a merchant to actually solve their business needs," he said.
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