"During a stroll out to Innocent Coffee in Vancouver with my wife, we stumbled upon a really cool sight: the iPad as a cash register," writes Gary Ng, on his iPadinCanada blog.
Coolness is one reason to use an iPad as a point of sale (POS) system. It was a prime consideration for Lloyd Swords, owner of the Harper and Madison coffee shop. "The clientele we are going for has a sort of hipness to it and to see the iPad being used as a cash register will be a novel attraction for the café" (Old ways don’t register, The Daily, March 7, 2011).
But using an iPad as a POS system provides a lot more than social cachet to small businesses. In summary, besides the cool factor, the advantages of using an iPad POS for your small business are:
- Cost savings;
- A tool for better customer service;
- The ability to streamline the sales process by providing catalogue and inventory data to customers as well as payment services;
- It's a good defensive sales strategy;
- The ease of employee training;
- The environmentally friendly aspect of e-receipts.
Here's a closer look at each of these advantages.
1) The cost savings, compared to a full-blown POS system, can be enormous. While a traditional point of sale system can cost upwards of $20,000, a complete ShopKeep iPad POS system, for instance, with an iPad, cash drawer and receipt printer costs about $1000. You will pay a monthly fee on top of this ranging from $49 to $129, depending on which package you choose, but that's still a considerably inexpensive alternative.
2)iPad POS systems are also powerful customer service tools.
For small businesses such as restaurants, the portability of the iPad and other mobile devices means wait-staff can make paying the bill more convenient for customers; they can take the iPad POS right to customers' tables.
And iPads and mobile phones can do something that other POS systems can't – with additional apps, they can serve as catalogues and inventories of your merchandise, meshing the shopping and buying experience. Think of how much your sales could improve if a customer who was trying on sweaters in your store decided she wanted a blue cardigan and you were able to show her a selection of four right there, right then on your iPad.
3) This streamlining of the sales process can also make an iPad POS system a real sales booster. Having POS capability in hand means that salespeople can make sales right on the spot, while the customer is fully engaged with the merchandise, rather than directing her to make the walk to a cash register, during which she may have too ample time for reflection on her purchase, or worse, get tired of waiting in line and abandon her purchase.
At Pacific Sunwear, for example, salespeople use iPads equipped with Global Bay's In-Store iPad Retailing App to show customers different products, suggest products based on their purchasing preferences and even place ecommerce orders for customers if items are out of stock in the store. Can your existing POS system do any of that?
4)Using an iPad or other mobile device as a POS system is also a good defensive sales strategy.
Shoppers' behavior has changed. As Bill Siwicki, Managing Editor of Mobile Commerce, puts it, an increasing number of shoppers are walking into stores with smartphones in hand, armed with the full power of the mobile web and all kinds of retail apps. They're standing in your store comparing your products and prices to your competitors and checking ratings and reviews.
Traditional point-of-sale hardware can't compete; "it's just not designed to cross-sell, up-sell or generally provide pre-sale service," says Nikki Baird, managing partner at Retail Systems Research. "If a retailer has employees on the floor, as opposed to behind a register, then employee-facing mobile has to be seriously considered, even if all it does is provide the employee access to the retailer's web store" (Don't Leave, Internet Retailer).
5) The ease of employee training is another iPad POS advantage.
When implementing an iPad mobile strategy for Modern Bride with the sales staff of J.C. Penney, Tom Nealon, group executive vice president at J.C. Penney, found that the employee training required was minor as the iPad is "such an easy tool to pick up and use... which makes using the iPad an easy sell to associates."
6) And using an iPad or iPhone as a POS machine can be environmentally friendly, too, as receipts can be emailed to customers or uploaded to password-protected websites. More and more customers are opting for electronic receipts, reports the New York Times, seeing them both as more convenient and less wasteful of resources.
iPad POS and Your Bottom Line
Whether your small business has a hip clientele or not, using an iPad POS can provide real bottom line benefits in terms of cost savings over traditional POS systems and possibly increased sales through enhancing the customer service experience.
Now that's cool.