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A Thing

Making the case for modern upgrades

By David Talach

POS success for less

The operator of a mall food court wanted to add POS systems at each counter due to growing demand by shoppers. Even if he could get somebody to run lines, which he couldn't, the monthly telephone costs for 10 countertop systems would have been painful. His solution: Wi-Fi-based POS systems communicating to a router attached to his existing DSL broadband line in the back office. Additional monthly communications costs: zero.

There's nothing as frustrating to ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) than competing against equipment that's almost two decades old.

Think about it: VeriFone's Tranz 330 was introduced back in 1987, and the Tranz 380 followed in 1991. Yet those old systems continue to chug along, reliably handling the basic payment transaction needs of many a merchant.

So how do you convince merchants to upgrade what to them seems like a commodity process that's working just fine? Educate merchants about the changing face of the industry and benefits they can realize from newer technology.

Terminals built 15 years ago, though often still reliable, can't keep up with the modern face of payment acceptance. Security standards, new communication alternatives and customer demand for value-added applications such as gift cards are powerful reasons for merchants to make a change.

Educate merchants on how new solutions can improve productivity, lower transaction costs, help implement loyalty-building customer programs and even enable merchants to share in some revenue-generating applications. It will also put hard commission dollars in your pocket from new terminal sales.

Here's a quick cheat sheet, with anecdotes, to help you inform merchants about benefits, market drivers and industry mandates that should have them salivating for a new POS system.

Merchant benefits

  • Today's systems are more reliable and more robust, resulting in less downtime and fewer lost sales. The result is that merchants are able to move people through checkout more quickly, which creates increased sales and less likelihood that somebody waiting in line will give up and walk away. (How many times have you seen a clerk who was unable to get a card read on an older system try wrapping the card in a plastic grocery bag and then give up, key in the card number and thereby gain a higher transaction cost?)

  • Today's systems are far more user friendly than older systems. Larger screens are more readable, and ATM-style keyboards are simpler to understand and easier to use. Better designed menus are more intuitive. The result is that it's easier to teach store clerks how to use today's systems, and they become more productive more quickly.

  • The integrated elegance of today's systems means reduced complexity. Integrated thermal printers are faster and more reliable. You can offer a sleek, all-in-one device that combines terminal, printer and PIN pad. Fewer cables reduce countertop clutter. And stylish design enhances the image of the merchant. (I can't even begin to count the times that I've seen store clerks have to wiggle loose cables on old POS machines to try to get the darn things working right. Even worse is the frequency with which paper jams on old impact printers clog up the sales process.)

  • Reduced processing costs directly impact the bottom line. The ability to easily add online debit capabilities means that merchants can offer PIN debit transactions to the increasing numbers of consumers who require it, while at the same time reduce interchange fees for electronic payment. Merchants can also add check conversion and check guarantee services to reduce check processing costs and eliminate write-offs.

  • Gift cards and other prepaid card options generate revenue that no merchant should leave on the table. Consumers apparently love this type of payment option, and it creates additional sales, which mean additional profits. Today's multi-application systems easily accommodate gift card, prepaid phone card activation, mobile top up and more.

(I'm embarrassed to say how many gift cards I purchased last holiday season to shorten my shopping pain and ensure a more pleased recipient.)

Market drivers

  • The world of payments is changing rapidly, and merchants need to adapt at minimum costs. Providing a merchant with a modular system that can be quickly and painlessly adapted to meet changing consumer demands or take advantage of new opportunities is a major plus. (See accompanying sidebar for a POS success story.)

  • Banks are rapidly rolling out contactless smartcards and even debit cards. Once consumers become conditioned to not handing over cards and not signing receipts, this technology could proliferate as quickly as pay at the pump did.

    Being able to quickly add a contactless reader to an existing system provides merchant customers with investment protection and eliminates the possibility that they'll lose the loyalty of customers who require this type of payment option.

  • Today's merchant has a wide range of communication options available including dial, DSL, cable modem and cellular. The best deal this year may not be the best deal next year, so the ability to swap out a dial module for an Ethernet or CDMA or GPRS provides merchants with the ability to migrate when they need to without having to buy a new POS system.

  • Advances in wireless/portable technology now permit bringing the payment device to the table or car in restaurant environments, or even to the customer's door for many types of delivery and home services. Bringing the point of service to the customer speeds up transactions, increases customer loyalty and allows merchants to reap the benefits of lower interchange PIN debit costs. Industry mandates

  • There's a cost for not being up to date with card association mandates: transaction downgrades. It's tough for merchants to pay transaction fees anyway, but having to pay a higher rate because systems are not compliant with current requirements adds insult to injury.

  • Security concerns ratchet up every time another card breach situation hits the front pages. Congress and government agencies are increasingly bearing down on the card Associations, and we should all be prepared for enactment of more stringent Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard regulations.

Today, Level 1, 2 and 3 merchants are required to obtain certifications. Level 4 merchants (which, for many of you, are much of your customer base) can already be required to obtain PCI certifications by their acquirer, so it's probably just a matter of time before this becomes mandatory. Older devices are not capable of being upgraded to obtain compliance.

  • EMV (Europay International, MasterCard International and Visa International's smart card standards) mandates haven't hit America yet, but the rest of the world is quickly marching in that direction. Asia, Europe and Latin America are all well embarked toward EMV adoption. Canada has also begun that move. Can the United States continue to hold out? Or will industry here turn to microprocessor-based card technology?

There are myriad reasons to move merchants beyond old payment systems. Education and persistence, along with insight into your customers' businesses, are needed to make the case for upgrading to newer technology.

David Talach is VeriFone's Global Product Manager of Wireless & Portables. He plays a key role in analyzing wireless industry trends and defining, designing and delivering wireless products to meet merchants' current and emerging requirements. E-mail him at .

Article published in issue number 060401

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