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A Smarter Way To Do Retail

In the late-2000s mobile phone technology underwent a revolution. In 2008, 83% of people still owned a basic feature phone that was used almost exclusively for text messages and phone calls. [1] A relatively short ten years later, and 78% had bought a smartphone that allowed them to surf the internet, play games, watch video, and far more. The concept that a mobile phone that would only have one use – that being as a phone – is totally alien to today’s consumer.  Smartphones market themselves as much on the quality of their camera as they do on the quality of their calls.

That same revolution is now beginning to play out in Point of Sale (POS) technology. The vast majority of POS terminals sold to merchants today are quite traditional– their one function is to operate as a PIN entry device. Displays on these terminals tend to be small and simple, only what is required to see the sale price and input a PIN number.

However, smartphone technology is now starting to be applied to POS machines to overhaul how they are used by merchants. The aim is to make the POS terminal far more versatile and – ultimately – to make them an essential piece of hardware for any business that accepts consumer payments. This revolution from ‘dumb’ to smart devices presents retailers with three main advantages.

Firstly, there is the range of services a smart terminal can provide. Smart POS terminals use essentially the same interface as the smartphone you carry in your pocket, and hosts a range of apps to offer a breadth of functionality. There are apps that allow merchants to receive and reconcile basic payments, but also ones that allow them to manage and issue refunds, accept and issue gift cards and vouchers, issue refunds, process tips for service staff, and to manage your inventory and stock control. There are apps that track both in-store and online sales, meaning that omnichannel retailers can view all of their sales in one place and on one platform.  On terminals with particularly large screens, even marketing apps can be run.

The myPOS smart terminal runs the android operating system and comes pre-installed with six free apps that cover all standard payment functions and a constantly-growing number of specialised industry or country-specific business apps. An advantage of being on the open Android platform is that new apps are being created constantly by innovative third party developers that serve new and emerging merchant needs. This means that devices are future-proofed against changes in merchant practices, as new apps can be developed for every vertical on the market. The operating system and software are updated online, and overall these devices have a far more added value than traditional terminals.

Secondly, operational costs are significantly reduced by having a range of functions delivered by one device.  Rather than having a separate terminal, sales register, back office computer, and stock management system, everything can be managed on one handheld terminal. The merchant can make his own selection of apps which can help them save time and give better service to their customers. The smart POS terminal can also be individually personalised in the same way like any other smartphone by installing the chosen set of applications.

Having everything in one place is particularly helpful for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) that may have several processes managed by a single person. Take, for example, a small café owner who both sells meals in store and also homemade produce that consumers can buy and take home with them. On one terminal, they can accept payment for the meal, for the produce, and view and manage their stock needs.

Increasingly, non-payment apps are also being used on POS devices to get even greater benefit from having everything in one place. There are taxi firms in Europe already that have developed ride-hailing apps to work on their smart terminal, and this trend of coalescing services is only set to continue as people seek convenience in their lives.

Thirdly, smart POS terminals offer greater business intelligence and insight. For retailers, collecting data about their customers and sales is crucial to success. By gathering sales data, merchants can look for trends, identify best sellers, and better plan their offer to customers. Apps already exist for smart terminals that automatically pull together sales records and reconciliations, seasonal records, and insight into stocking. Having these reports pulled by dedicated apps ultimately gives SMEs more knowledge, saves them time in collating and analysing it themselves, and allows them to spend more time doing what they do best, whether that is running a food stall or driving a taxi.

Overall, popularity of smart POS terminals are on the rise. We launched our smart terminal in 2017, and just one full year on and one in ten of all terminals we sell are smart devices. Given this trend, and what we are hearing from customers, our prediction is that by 2020 this figure will rise between 30-50%. If we’re right, this would be an even faster revolution than we saw in consumer smartphone technology. When it comes to adoption of this payment technology it’s not a case of when, but how fast.

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