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The rise of mobile point of sale solutions

Published April 28, 2022

Businesses of all kinds including restaurants, retailers and financial services are adopting mobile point of sale to improve the customer experience.

Mobility is the key word for modern businesses of all kinds. The ability for staff to go to where their customers are and to expand beyond the boundaries of brick and mortar stores are opening new opportunities and giving businesses a chance to provide a faster, more convenient service. Critical to this is the adoption of an advanced Mobile POS system (mPOS) which can liberate staff, improve customer service and generate revenue.

The mobile POS market already exceeded $20bn in 2020 and is expected to grow by a further 18% year on year between 2021 and 2027, according to data from GM Insights. The report predicts industry shipments to exceed 50 million units by 2027. This market growth can be attributed to increasing penetration of the EMV chip card technology which facilitated contactless payments with customers. 

The market has been accelerated by the arrival of COVID-19. Restrictions on movement and the way in which restaurants and other businesses could operate encouraged many to rethink the way in which they dealt with customers. Table service became the norm even for drinks, with mobile point of sale devices becoming critical in allowing staff to move from one table to the other taking orders and payment.

It was an external development which moved an existing trend towards digitization and mobile solutions further. While businesses had been making the move before, some were reticent either due to a natural suspicion of new technology or inertia. Today, the signs are clear – mobile POS systems are here to stay and are going to become an increasingly important part of the landscape.

Around three quarters of business owners say they plan to implement mobile POS and a study from Juniper research suggests these will account for 25% of all POS sale transactions by 2023.

Mobile POS devices come in various forms. They can be wireless handsets which look somewhat similar in design to more traditional ePOS handsets. Many businesses will have wireless devices which can work just as well when carried around or when used at a counter. They will essentially mimic all the elements of a traditional ePOS station with the ability to take payments either contactless, or by inserting or swiping the card.

Mobile POS apps are also becoming more popular which can effectively transform a smartphone or tablet into a mobile POS system. This involves downloading software onto the device which allows it to take payments. These will be cheaper and more flexible which makes them perfect for small businesses, start-ups or mobile stalls, but they can be limited in that many of them may only be usable for contactless payments.

They can come with additional accessories to address some limitations including:

  • Printers: Most customers will be happy with email receipts, but restaurants will still need the ability to offer paper printouts. For this reason, POS devices may have printers incorporated into the design or added as separate devices.
  • Swipe machines: If chip and pin or contactless payment does not work for any reason it can be useful to have a swipe machine on standby. This adds to the options of taking payment and can avoid difficult situations. 
  • Barcode scanners: If a business needs items scanned, it can buy add-ons which allow barcode scanning. It is possible to get technology which does this automatically, but most POS software on mobile devices will also offer this ability through its camera. 
  • Stands and cash drawers: In some cases, businesses may want their mPOS system to be used in a conventional manner. In this way, portable cash drawers and scanners can be used like traditional checkouts. This is useful for mobile events or for adding new payment stations in different parts of a restaurant.

Which accessories businesses choose, will depend on their own situation and requirements but it is always a good idea to have as many payment options as possible. Customers are increasingly digitally savvy and comfortable with new technologies, but this will not apply to everyone. Some for example may not have a card capable of contactless payments. Others may prefer cash. They must be catered for to avoid lost business.

What are the benefits?

That said, there are considerable benefits for mPOS systems.

  • Smaller, lighter and cheaper: Firstly, they are smaller and save space. Mobile POS systems generally cost less than traditional handsets which make them a good tool for smaller businesses and start-ups. They are smaller in size which means they take up much less space than their more traditional counterparts. This is useful for small businesses and restaurants where space at the countertop can be at a premium.
  • Touch screens: They often come with touch screen technology which is more intuitive and easier to use. Customers are used to touchscreens with their own devices and will be happier interacting in this way rather than with physical keypads.
  • Real time reporting: Mobile POS systems can provide real-time reports which provide more up to date information on sales and stocking levels. 
  • Security: Data is not stored on the device giving customers more reassurance of security. When sales are recorded, they are encrypted and go straight to the business’ central systems.
  • Ongoing support: Mobile POS systems and apps often come with additional customer support through in-person and live chats. This makes it easier for staff to resolve certain issues right there on the ground.

Most importantly, the mobile POS system can improve the customer experience. This is due to the lack of queues and the ability to interact with their customers right there where they are. For bars and restaurants, the ability to offer table service adds convenience to the experience – so much so that measures which were introduced to cope with the pandemic are, in many cases, being kept on permanently. Additional features can include emailing receipts to the customer which streamlines the transaction, giving people a much more fulfilling and convenient experience all-round.

Mobile POS systems represent a natural continuation of an ongoing trend to make service more intuitive, flexible and convenient. It adds choice for customers in the way they interact with businesses and the technologies they use. It reduces queues at the traditional point of sale and allows for a faster and more streamlined service.

The ability to take mobile devices out into the store or restaurant can also lead to increased revenue. For example, in shops staff are moving around the store with tablets containing POS apps, taking service to customers. It removes one possible point at which sales can be lost – namely the moment when customers must make the decision to move from the shop floor to the payment terminal and gives sales agents the ability to upsell to customers, delivering a more personalised experience and expanding the sales opportunities.

What POS device is right for me?

The benefits, therefore, are clear and more and more businesses are adding them to their service offerings. However, they do not come without issues and the sheer number of different POS systems available mean that businesses can find themselves faced with a bewildering array of choices. Without the right planning and consideration, implementing this technology can be difficult. Mistakes here could lead to a host of problems which hinder rather than benefit your business. For this reason, it can be useful to get help from qualified experts who can assess your business and recommend the right implementation for you.

The first thing to consider is to make sure you have the infrastructure in place to make sure you can support the system. Most will operate using the internet, so it stands to reason that you’ll need to have excellent Wi-Fi coverage. The traffic being passed over these networks and the adoption of solutions such as orders from the table are creating a dramatic acceleration in data capacity requirements of businesses.

Fortunately, internet speeds have developed to match. In a short space of time, businesses have gone from super-fast broadband to ultra-fast broadband with speeds of 1,000 mbps and more. Extra speed comes at an increased cost which may be prohibitive, but it is worth considering how quickly digital transformation is taking hold.

Look at where we have come over the past couple years and think about how things might change in the near future. Having more capacity than you need gives your business the ability to scale up capabilities to ensure it is constantly satisfying the latest needs of their customers.

To be on the safe side, it may also be important to have redundancy measures in case internet coverage fails. Many smaller and remote businesses in which coverage may not be as reliable are choosing several Wi-Fi networks to ensure they always have an option in case coverage for one network goes down.

For mobile operations which extend well beyond the borders of a bricks and mortar store, having effective and reliable mobile internet coverage will be vital to ensure ongoing and reliable coverage.

However many networks you have and whatever redundancy measures you put in place, it will also be useful to ensure you have a reliable offline mode. This means that even if the worst happens – such as a power outage or interruption of all internet coverage – you can continue to serve customers. Devices will store all relevant information transferring it to central systems when needed.

The need for backup also highlights the benefit of cloud services. Cloud based enterprise management systems are becoming increasingly popular and allow businesses to capture information from all parts of their business and bring it into a centralized location. This allows them to generate more insights into their operations, but it also allows for offsite backup. In case of any problems in your store, all your information will be held securely.

The cloud brings obvious considerations of security. The development of mobile solutions inevitably makes data more mobile and therefore at risk. Any business will have to ensure the personal data of customers is transferred securely and that measures are in place to mitigate any breaches which do occur. Digital due diligence will be a vital element when engaging with customers. 

Existing technology can become an additional complication. Costs can escalate very quickly if you aren’t able to integrate a mPOS system with your existing hardware. If you need to purchase a new phone or other equipment to use it, the costs can mount up quickly, not to mention the additional disruption which comes from having to upgrade from existing systems.

Cost and usability

Last but least, you should consider the cost of the system. Each mPOS system will come with its own features and payment terms. Some may include high charges on each transfer. Others will charge monthly fees and other costs which may not be immediately apparent.

Your individual industry might also play a role in your selection. Every industry is different in its nature and requirements. Some mobile point of sale providers will deliberately position themselves to target individual industries such as the restaurant sector.

While you might be in a position to get away with a generic mPOS system, a solution which comes with industry specific features and can be tailored closely around your needs will be more valuable. As a business you need to feel sure you have a system which will provide everything you need. This includes the ability to accept all payment types. At a minimum, the system should be EMV compliant, but it will also benefit from the ability to take NFC payments such as wallets, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google among others. Some restaurants are even adding the capability to accept cryptocurrencies. 

As well as these more digitally advanced methods, businesses will also need to consider their less digitally enabled customers. Not everyone is happy with digital payments or contactless payment methods. Some will still want traditional options such as cash. Keeping these customers happy will avoid lost revenue through excluding a large cross section of your customers.

Mobile point of sale solutions have already developed considerably and are likely to do much more in the future. They offer a huge range of benefits, but they need to be implemented in the right way. Planning ahead and making sure all requirements have been accounted for will be vital in making sure your solution works for your needs. 

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