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I have just been to the Apple Store with my daughter as she wanted to replace her broken smartphone. Can you guess what the person working there used to take a picture of the damage, bring up my customer data, take the credit card payment, and send the invoice to me by e-mail? He didn't use a camera, or a pen, or a traditional cash register, or a printer. That's right. He did it all on an iPad.
US retailer Urban Outfitters announced late last year that it had ordered its last ever cash register. The clothing chain declared it would start equipping sales staff with iPads instead. Many other retailers have also announced plans to phase out cash registers, including JCPenney, Aeropostale, Sam’s Club and Nordstrom. Others are likely to follow. Retailers have good reasons to eliminate cash registers says Gary Lombardo, Head of Marketing at Demandware. In fact, he believes that, at the current pace, mobile devices could replace cash registers in just a few years. Is this the end of PoS as we know it?
The Beginning of the End
Point-of-Sale (also known as 'Point of Service' or just ‘POS’) devices such as touch-screen displays, barcode scanners, receipts printers, scales and pole displays are slowly being forced out of the retail environment by the wide presence and capabilities of smartphones and tablets. The rise of online and mobile commerce has led retailers and POS technology providers to rethink how to best serve consumers.
Integration is one avenue. Due the potentially advantageous ROI and the worldwide exposure mobile platforms can provide, US developer and distributor POSmatic has come up with Onsight Point of Sale Software. Onsight offer SMEs a one-stop integrated solution to processing secure payments from “electronic signature capture pads, debit and credit card payments, web-enabled platforms, and smart interfaces.” Accepting mobile payments is rising in importance with retailers feeling the pinch of recession or simple loss of walk-in customers into their physical stores.
Apple devices are another option. Urban Outfitter’s CIO, Calvin Hollinger, said during a webcastpresentation in September 2012, that “iPads cost about 1/5th as much as a cash register, and can be used for so much.” Additional benefits of using iPads for retail transactions, according to Business Insider, include customer interaction, as they can enter their name, address and even telephone number and e-mail address easily and comfortably on an iPad. What’s more, “an iPad on a swivel that’s not in use can quickly be taken off, with that space being used for packing or more merchandise or anything else” says the article’s author Joe Weisenthal.
Dynamic Payment Processing
Mobile Strategy Partner’s David Eads argues new problems associated with managing multichannel shopping and measuring performance can be solved using mobile devices. Rather than upgrade POS equipment to serve mobile payments and NFC technology, Eads says smartphones and tablets offer a more dynamic way of handling all types of payment and monitoring sales across a range of channels.
IT company (and POS developer) Oracle’s David Dorf was (understandably) cautious about calling time on the point of sale as we know it. In a blog post from last year, Dorf wrote that, “in some situations, for some retailers there might be an opportunity to ditch the traditional POS, but for the majority of retailers that’s just not practical. Self-checkout is a great addition to POS and so is mobile checkout,” he argues. “But they add capabilities to POS, not replace it. Centralized architectures, even those based in the cloud, are quite viable as long as there’s resiliency in the registers.”
Whether PoS is enhanced by mobile devices such as smartophones and tablets, or replaced altogether, what is sure is that our shopping experience is set to change forever with the advent of mobile commerce.
Do you agree with that vision? Share your thoughts below.