Originally published on Business Solutions Magazine.
Scouring the Internet you can easily find an overabundance of vendors making a case for the mobile POS system. Some even cite that 36 percent of all POS (point of sale) systems will make way for the new technology. However, what we do not hear about is how many of those devices will businesses return, because the mobile POS proved inadequate in the real world?
Experts continue to assert that traditional, fixed POS systems remain the best choice for most businesses because they offer consumers a sense of security and familiarity. Indeed, they have reigned supreme for decades with a solid track record. But what exactly are the benefits that could ultimately cause the stationary POS system to retain its critical position in sales?
- Security. The Federal Reserve has published a report that asserts security concerns present the main reason why consumers remain hesitant, when considering mobile POS. Therefore, when it comes to credit cards, consumers prefer traditional, stationary POS systems than mobile POS alternatives. Moreover, given the mobile POS system’s reliance on Wi-Fi networks, traditional POS systems present a safer choice. The mobile POS depends on the signal strength of the wireless network, which still fails to achieve the same reliability as hardwired networks. Lastly, there are some who also argue that mobile POS systems fail to achieve PCI compliance standards or only meet them to a lesser degree. This may, however, only present a temporary problem, because mobile POS technology still remains in its infancy.
- Reduced Liability. Tablets remain an attractive target to theft, which substantially elevates the risk of losing confidential company data, not to mention sensitive customer information. In addition, mobile devices are far easier to misplace than a stationary POS system, increasing the risk of theft even further. Imagine sales staff misplacing them in a large department store. While it may be easy to replace these, one should not underestimate compromising customer information, which can have costly consequences for businesses. Aside from brand damage to a business, there are cost estimates ranging from $150 to $250 per stolen credit card!
- No Wi-Fi Requirement And Associated System Vulnerability. Aside from elevating the start-up cost, all peripherals connected to a mobile POS via Wi-Fi also create a weak spot for a business. If a Wi-Fi access point goes offline, none of your mobile POS units will be able to print or even open the cash drawer. Every mobile device will instantly disconnect from each other and their peripherals until you can get your network back online. The stationary POS system does not have this drawback, as most devices attach directly via RS232 or USB.
- Longevity. Stationary POS systems can serve a business for five to seven years and amortize themselves within the first few years. Some even last a decade. Tablets become obsolete in one to two years and will require replacement in order to run the latest version of your mobile POS software.
- Large Touch Screens. Remember the days when a large touch screen was a must-have? Now with the appearance of the tablet, no one seems to mention this anymore. Regardless, the advantage then remains the same today. Legibility and ergonomics make a big difference during busy work hours. A traditional POS has a large 15-inch touch screen. This allows the user to place many items on screen, which one can access quickly during customer processing. While mobile POS vendors argue for small learning curves due to the familiarity of mobile devices, nothing beats a one touch solution. Consequently, it speeds up transaction, essentially negating the mobile advantage on the sales floor. The touch screen technology of stationary POS systems has proven mature and stable for decades. It will be difficult to dismiss this advantage.
- A Proven Track Record That Spans Decades. Fixed POS fulfils critical needs and hence owners have little motivation to change. How much additional value do mobile POS systems really deliver? Aside from a smaller form factor, you will find that most features have been around for years. In the case of mobile payments, for example, changes require investments, which many merchants may not be willing to undertake, because most consumers still do not use them. They do not really offer convenience improvements compared to traditional credit cards, which are still easy to use. Are mobile processing rates really more competitive to warrant a switch? Unlikely.
- Superior Selection Of Compatible Devices. The stationary POS system comes with a number of interfaces to support various devices, whereas the selection of tablet compatible POS hardware remains limited. Tablets do not support common serial or parallel connections. Most do not even support USB!
- Drop Resistance. Mobile devices suffer this inherent flaw — employees are destined to drop them during operation, causing critical damage. Manufacturers of POS hardware often provide drop ratings with their products. Consumer-grade hardware, on the other hand, features no special impact protection. You will need to buy cases, which add to the cost.
- Superior Processing Power And Memory. For those that wish to run demanding POS programs, stationary POS systems remain the best choice. Mobile devices typically do not have enough RAM and processing power to support demanding POS software. In fact, most will not even be able to handle the next OS update!
- Minimal Update Issues Or App Store Politics. Mobile POS relies on software, which is an ongoing project. New hardware, new standards, new technologies or worse — bugs — all require software updates. iPad POS apps, for instance, have to get approved by Apple before they become available to users. Do you really want to wait, because your POS app is not compatible with iOS XX?? Worst of all, if your app provider fails to adhere to Apple’s policies, you can find your POS app banned, leaving you stranded. To illustrate, The Starbucks incident in 2015 is a prime example of an update gone wrong. It resulted in a country wide black-out at the POS. The chances of that happening with a stationary POS system are slim. Many only require a USB stick to complete the update within minutes.
- Cost. Run the numbers compared to a stationary POS system. This is especially true for multilane check-outs. With monthly product plans, a Wi-Fi infrastructure, data plans, and investment on compatible peripheral devices plus stands, there is little chance you’ll come out ahead of traditional POS systems. You can expect another $500 per terminal. Let’s not forget the cost of the tablet, either. Further, purchasing a tablet POS system with its fancy looking app means you’ll most likely lock yourself into one credit card merchant. The one that happens to support your app and charges you whatever they want. Even if the entire system bundle comes for “free,” you will pay for it in your monthly processing statements.
- Supplementation. Mobile POS technology presents a great supplement to traditional POS systems and business owners should therefore not see the technology as a replacement. Savvy companies have used both technologies to offer their customers the best possible experience as well as open new service opportunities — buy online and pick-up-in-store, for instance. The stationary POS system plays a key role in these scenarios.