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5 considerations for retailers to deploy mobile POS systems

Mobile point-of-sale is a hot topic in retail, especially now that it is not just Apple stores that have effective tools enabling them to complete transactions on the shop floor.

Ever since Apple first introduced its system, other retailers have been searching for their own solutions.

With several viable options now on the market, deploying the best system requires a clear understanding of your existing back-end system and then screening mobile point-of-sale systems against your specific needs.

In its recent report, “Next Generation Point of Sale Systems and Retail Technology,” ABI Research predicted that spending in this area will increase from $14.8 billion in 2009 to nearly $21 billion in 2014.

Savvy retailers are looking for technology that can improve the customer experience, and they are looking for it now.

Both retailers and consumers have a tremendous interest in transacting quickly on the retail floor, but there are a number of critical factors that must be addressed for the deployment to succeed.

Here are five considerations that retailers should explore when seeking the right mobile POS system.

1. System elements: Hardware, software feature set and integration into a back-end system
In recent months, the market has seen the introduction of many payment-taking systems.

At first glance, these cool hardware tools seem to be just what the market has been waiting for.

And while they do make payment-taking possible where before it had not been – for example, the kid who cuts your lawn can now be paid by credit card – they are not viable for the majority of retailers because they do not offer any kind of bar code scanning or tie into business workflows.

To be effective, a mobile application must tie into your back-end system for non-sales processes.

Without tying into inventory management, reporting, costing and purchasing, and without integration with accounting and marketing, these tools introduce more problems rather than streamlining processes.

What hardware is associated with the solution? Some offer a free or low-cost option, but functionality is often limited.

Other options often require so much expensive hardware that they are out of reach for regular retailers and solely in the domain of big box stores.

2. Cost
Until very recently, those looking to deploy mobile POS were usually looking at expensive and high-end custom software.

These systems typically included barcode and payment processing but, in the main, did not tie into retail packages. This required retailers to pay for custom development, often with a price tag in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

To build one’s own system relied on additional custom development to update the system as the ecosystem and technology changes. Again, this can be very expensive.

Small retail stores might think they can get away with just payment processing, but that is a risky move.
Be skeptical of a free or extremely low-cost solution that purports to meet all of your needs.

Either you have not done enough research to have an accurate view of your needs, or you will have some neat hardware on your hands that does not do everything you thought it would and need it to.

3. Security
It is imperative that whatever system you deploy includes a level of encryption that meets internal standards.

Mobile POS systems have been criticized in the past for introducing security threats to the equation when sensitive data is manipulated and stored on the mobile device.

Credit-card processing should not be done on the mobile unit, nor should it store data.

Rather, sensitive data should be processed live on the server over a recognized security protocol such as SSL.

4. Performance on the shop floor
The true success of the system will be measured by how effectively it is used on the shop floor. As a result, it must be easy to train your people on the system.

It must also, for the same reason, offer a quick transaction speed. What use is eliminating checkout bottle necks if you are just creating them elsewhere in your store?

5. Vendor: Future proofing, strong support
With some handheld units, software systems cannot be updated, meaning that six months from now, you have got some expensive paperweights on your hands because the software has failed to keep pace with the ever-changing requirements of the retail sector.

Make sure you are purchasing a system that can be updated.

Read the fine print – you may get firmware updates, but no software updates. This will not be tenable over the long term.

Future-proof your system right from the start. With an application approach, vendors can provide limitless updates as free downloads.

As with any technology purchase, it is wise to invest in a solution from a vendor with a strong support offering. That way, if you need help, you can get it easily.

Dax Dasilva is CEO of Xsilva Systems, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Reach him at [email protected].