Imagine realizing all the benefits of a traditional hardwired POS terminal without the terminal. That’s the promise of mobile POS systems that convert smartphones and tablets into virtual cash registers. As tempting as it may be for retailers to envision a software-only POS solution, they will still need some mobile POS machine hardware to complement their cloud-based POS software.
Saving money on hardware expenses is a top reason why retailers choose mobile POS, but the setup can’t sacrifice the features and functionality that customers, store employees, and retail managers have come to rely on in a POS system. Matching your business’s mobile POS machine hardware with its cloud-based software requires carefully balancing your POS needs with your POS budget.
Assembling the Components of a Mobile POS Solution
Mobile POS combines the convenience of payment apps running on smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices with the power, security, and efficiency of cloud-based data management and storage. While many restaurants and retailers combine mobile POS with a conventional hardwired POS solution, a growing number of establishments are choosing to use their mobile POS systems exclusively.
Mobile POS systems have three primary components:
- The mobile devices on which the cloud-based POS app runs.
- The POS app and associated cloud elements for secure data storage and access.
- The mobile POS peripherals that are required to complete the sales transactions; these include credit card readers, barcode scanners, and receipt printers.
The POS peripherals typically connect to the apps running on the mobile devices wirelessly via Bluetooth, WiFi, or cell network; they can also be linked via Ethernet, USB, Lightning, or other wired connection to the smartphone or tablet. Many mobile-focused retailers are able to save on hardware costs by providing customers with receipts via email or text, for example. At the same time, a mobile POS solution is able to scale up to add new capabilities as the business grows.
Must-Have Features of a Mobile POS System
A primary benefit of mobile POS for retailers is the ability to create a custom POS solution that provides the functionality the business needs today, while adding features as markets and customer preferences change and the business itself evolves. These are among the most in-demand capabilities in a mobile POS solution:
- Accept customer payments from any location without having to pay high startup or ongoing hardware and software fees.
- Complete all types of POS transactions via the mobile app, including returns, refunds, and receipts, and automatically integrate remote and brick-and-mortar sales data.
- Streamline recordkeeping and administrative costs by providing customers with receipts via text or email.
- Provide customers with product catalogs or menus containing as many as 100 items that they can access via the store’s custom app or website.
- Calculate three types of taxes automatically: applied tax (percentage applied after subtotal); inclusive tax (percentage applied before the subtotal); and flat tax (applied per item).
- Apply discounts and service charges at the order level based on the customer’s purchase history or the type of service provided, such as delivery fees or automatic gratuities.
- View sales data for the mobile operation and the store’s brick-and-mortar location from any location and at any time, including sales per employee and sales by day, week, or month.
- Allow customers to pay using digital wallets such as Apple Pay and Google Pay, as well as via all types of credit and debit cards, including EMV and Near Field Communication (NFC).
- Accept multiple payment sources for a single order to allow customers to split bills (split tender), whether part cash and part credit card, or bills split by percentage up to 99.
- Customize the appearance of your store’s POS app by adding images and design elements that apply the store’s brand to the app’s look and feel to give customers a unique shopping experience.
Aspects to Consider When Choosing Mobile POS Machine Hardware
POS hardware options continue to expand to offer retailers a wide selection of mobile POS machine hardware to choose from. The variety of POS hardware also makes deciding on the best devices for your business more complicated. These are among the cutting-edge POS hardware products available to retailers:
- Tablet-based registers not only free up space on the shop floor, they also benefit customers by speeding checkouts and accommodating their choice of payment methods. Employees can use the tablets to check inventory to determine whether a product is available in the size, model, and color the customer requires. Customers also benefit from the tablet’s “endless aisle shopping experience.” Simultaneously, the system captures valuable data about your customers’ preferences and shopping habits.
- Portable card readers make it easy to accept payment by credit or debit card (including contactless payments), digital wallet, or digital currencies. The space-saving devices can be linked to a tablet- or phone-based POS app wirelessly or via a cable connection. The entire sales transaction can be completed wherever the customer is, which improves the shopping experience tremendously.
- Barcode readers and receipt printers are available in portable versions that are unobtrusive yet as functional as their full-size counterparts. They also feature a variety of options for connecting to tablet registers and traditional POS terminals. This helps make employees more productive by allowing them to process inventory more quickly and accurately.
When a retailer prepares for a POS system upgrade, it’s natural that the dynamic features and low cost of cloud-based POS software become their initial focus. Yet the trend toward mobility in retail shows no signs of waning, which places more attention on the need to match those POS software innovations with the new breed of mobile POS machine hardware. The combination of powerful and affordable software with mobile POS machine hardware prepares retailers to meet their customers more than half way and to adapt quickly to industry and market trends.
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