Is Mobile POS Making Cash Registers A Thing of the Past?

At one time, the checkout process was fairly straightforward. Any retailer intending to accept payment from a customer was required to purchase a point of sale system. But the cash register concept is evolving as technology shifts, with businesses learning that they can put point of sale (POS) systems in place using equipment they already own.

Mobile POS systems are rapidly taking over the market, with 28 percent of American retailers planning to implement the technology by the end of this year, according to IHL Group. These systems are offering businesses more flexibility than ever before, changing the industry in a way not seen before.

But there are pros and cons to mobile POS systems, as retailers are learning. Before making the switch, it’s important that businesses learn as much as possible about these systems to determine whether they fit their own unique set of needs.

Pros of Mobile POS

  • Easy deployment. Many retailers have found that mobile POS hardware has an easy, quick setup that they can handle themselves. Mobile POS systems usually include an iPad with a card reader, a cash drawer, and a receipt printer. The iPad works as a terminal, utilizing software developed specifically for that business’s industry. A food truck would have a different POS setup than a fashion retailer, for instance. This software is the major factor that differentiates one POS solution from another.
  • Shorter lines. After Nordstrom implemented mobile POS systems, the company saw a 15.3 percent increase in sales. Both the average selling price and the number of items sold saw a boost between 2010 and 2011–the year POS was implemented. Nordstrom followed retailers like Apple in allowing sales staff to roam the sales floor with mobile devices that could not only check customers out, but access the company’s inventory to locate items that could be shipped to the store. As a result, if a customer finds an item he or she likes but the store doesn’t have that customer’s size, Nordstrom can order the item online. Companies who use mobile POS devices can also help prevent shopping cart abandonment by allowing shoppers to skip the lines.
  • Flexibility. Using only the card reader and iPad, staff now has the flexibility to move throughout the store and beyond. A store having a sidewalk sale, for instance, could arm employees with a tablet to allow them to process sales directly on the sidewalk. Receipts can be e-mailed to customers once the transaction is complete. Portability also means mobile POS systems can be taken on the road, allowing retailers to process sales at conferences and trade shows or local fairs and festivals.

Cons of Mobile POS

  • Connection issues. Anyone who has ever used technology to connect to the Internet knows interruptions can happen. Whether due to a temporary outage or problems with the router or modem connecting the business wirelessly, when a business relies on a failproof wireless or 4G connection, even the shortest outage can mean a loss of business.
  • Security. The top concern of any retailer is security. As credit cards are being processed on a daily basis, businesses are primarily interested in the safety of customer data. Customers are concerned, as well, as they still deal with the transition from fixed POS systems to card readers attached to mobile devices. Some are reluctant to allow someone to swipe a card through a reader that isn’t set up as part of a traditional cash register-type system, especially if that reader is being used away from a traditional storefront, as happens at conferences. Businesses have to work through these early trust issues to help build consumer confidence.
  • Disorganization. While having sales personnel drifting through the store, bearing mobile devices with card readers, might work on an average business day, when customer levels peak, a traditional line still works best. At this point, businesses might wish they’d invested in more stationary POS systems. For best results, small businesses should have enough POS systems to handle the busiest days of the year, with several additional mobile devices for use on average days.

If your small business is considering opting for a mobile POS solution, there are several highly-rated systems available. If you’re solely interested in implementing mobile payments, a card reader like Square or PayPal Here may do the trick. But if you need a full POS system, an iPad-based solution is most likely what you need. ShopKeep POS includes inventory and reporting capabilities, while Silver Point of Sale adds on marketing and customer engagement. With so many options available, small businesses have the luxury to find the best option at the lowest price available.

Businesses are beginning to realize that mobile POS isn’t perfect. But the technology is revolutionizing the industry, with more businesses than ever choosing to make the switch. As the technology becomes more prevalent, solutions providers will inevitably find ways to address businesses’ concerns once and for all.

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Stephanie Faris

Stephanie is a freelance writer and young adult/middle grade novelist, who worked in information systems for more than a decade. Her first book, 30 Days of No Gossip, will be released by Simon and Schuster in spring 2014. She lives in Nashville with her husband.

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