Modern Retail

Turning Point of Sale Into Point of Service

Point of service

Cash registers have been around since the late 1800’s. They’ve come a long way since the early models used in retail outlets with ornate brass designs, to the sophisticated touch screen and scanning terminals we are more familiar with today.  

There’s no doubt that modern point of sale (POS) systems, which combine a monitor, barcode scanner, credit or debit card reader, receipt printer and cash drawer fulfil multiple functions. They speed up checkout for customers and deliver a central point at which information about products and services can be sought. 

But what has not changed much is the static nature of the POS.  Usually to be found at the back of a retail outlet, manned by stationary sales staff, and, when the store is busy, characterised by a lengthy queue.

There has been an increase in the use of scanning technology which allows sales assistants on the shop floor to access apps on tablets or mobile devices to check if customer choices are in stock, but they are not usually equipped to provide other functions, least of all payment. 

Abandon queue to pay

It’s time to change the status quo. Customers want a good experience, whether they are shopping online or in-store and wasting time queueing to pay is not a good experience, particularly at the moment, when queueing with other people can also be unhealthy. We should be aiming for a more accessible, flexible solution that allows a sales person to accept payment, or any other key service at any location in the store using a mobile terminal. 

We’re not too far away from this, but it does require the introduction of a new generation of payment terminals. Instead of being integrated with the cash till, they will be independent, android or proprietary-based and able to process card payments. These new systems will enable ERP system providers to develop apps that can be run on these terminals, so the check-out will not only transfer payment but register the sale correctly into the stock record. The focus will be providing the customer with a better experience, and an easy-to-use, intuitive device for the shop assistant that is packed with useful features. In other words, they will no longer be a point of sale terminal, but instead a point of service device.

What we are also likely to see with this new breed of solution is that they will be more flexible about how customers pay. We have become accustomed to quickly using our credit and debit cards and particularly in the past year, doing this contactlessly, or by using NFC or mobile payment methods. The new point of service terminals will be introduced with innovative hardware and software, so we can expect payments through PayPal, or even the ability to arrange payment instalments that better suit our lifestyles. The onus will be on enhancing the experience for the customer and in so doing, building long-term brand loyalty. 

The international picture

The other consideration for the future is how payment terminals can support overseas payment mechanisms. We live in a global community which, not-withstanding the fluctuating restrictions due to the pandemic – encourages widespread travel and easy purchasing for tourists. But the reality is that even whilst some payment terminals in Europe will support Alipay — along with WeChat the most popular payment platform across Asia – it doesn’t exactly replicate the process that Asian customers are used to with easy swiping of their individual QR code. Retailers want to be able to accept all payment methods, including those of customers from overseas without forcing them to do anything differently. It ensures a frictionless sales process and will potentially generate more sales. 

Finally, mobile point of service terminals could include apps. Currently, the terminal is pure cost to the retailer, it provides no other function than to process payments, but if mobile devices could provide other services or products, it will quickly become a revenue generator. We should be thinking about terminals that allow customers to purchase digital services such as iTunes or Spotify. In a mobile phone store, for example, the device could sell pre-paid smart cards that can be directly downloaded at the point of purchase to the customer’s smartphone. In some European countries the device could also process tax-free digital vouchers, enabling customers to automatically make their tax-free purchases in-store. 

The shift to point of service

Given all these advantages, in particular the ability to enhance the customer’s in-store experience, we can expect to see a shift over the next couple of years away from static POS to the more flexible point of service approach. Development is being done in the background to introduce these devices to match the rapid evolution of payment platforms and techniques. Before too long queues at the till may be a thing of the past…we can only hope.

By Ralf Gladis, CEO, Computop

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