When it comes to tablet deployment, it’s no longer a question of if, but when for many retailers. A report from RIS News found that 28 percent of retailers are currently testing tablets and another 31 percent plan to begin tests this year.
Mobile point-of-sale (POS) devices present an opportunity for retailers to deliver a better customer experience and alleviate lengthy checkout lines. One AisleBuyer study reported 64 percent of shoppers found associates more helpful when on the floor with tablets.
In the past week, I spoke with three retailers that have recently deployed POS solutions on Apple’s iPad to learn what they would tell those considering a similar move:
- Stacey Barnes, co-owner of GoodyTwos, a toffee shop in Scottsdale, Arizona. Barnes deployed ShopKeep POS in her store a month ago.
- Jerry Hancock, CEO of SubZero Ice Cream. His ice cream franchise has over 16 stores, and began rolling out Olympus POS via iPads in January.
- Garth Schmeck, owner of Cyclopedia of Redding, a bike studio in California. Schmeck has used the Square card reader & register app since June, 2011.
Here are their five tips for retailers ready to move to iPad POS solutions.
1. Start with a Modest Hardware Investment
Today, a retailer can purchase an iPad 2 for as low as $399–a relatively inexpensive option compared to traditional terminals. But the retailers I spoke with cautioned others from going out and buying a dozen iPads. Instead, start small and scale up only when necessary.
“We made a direct one-for-one exchange of cash registers for iPads,” says Hancock. Barnes did the same, switching out her two cash registers for two iPads. As growth necessitates additional terminals, retailers can hop over to an Apple retailer and be up and running the same day.
Schmeck is currently thinking of purchasing additional hardware, as he’s looking to expand his reach from the store walls. “I would just need to purchase another device, and the salesman would be ready to sell wherever needed,” he says.
2. Upgrade Your Infrastructure
While mobile devices are often capable of processing payments on cellular networks, the reliability of these networks are dependent on the retailer’s location, the building, network congestion and other unexpected factors. Wi-Fi is a better option, and is supported by the least-expensive iPads.
You may need to modestly invest in infrastructure. Barnes says that when they moved from their first store to a larger facility, they upgraded their bandwidth and wireless connection to meet their expanding back-office and checkout needs.
If you’re not satisfied with the speed or reliability of your current Internet provider, investigate your options, (business cable, DSL, T1 lines, etc.). In addition, make sure your wireless router:
- Accommodates multiple concurrent connections reliably;
- Isn’t prone to interference;
- Supports (and you implement) WPA or WPA2 encryption; and
- Meets Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards for card-based transactions.
3. Hire Help for Deployment and Management
The retailers I spoke with mentioned the usefulness of outsourcing the set-up and management of the technology. Hancock partnered with mobile device management provider MokiMobility to lock-down devices and centralize sales and inventory data throughout its stores.
While GoodyTwos only has one location, the owners chose to work with a local reseller to ease their POS deployment. “My time is limited. It was helpful to have an expert set everything up,” says Barnes.
A reseller can focus on migrating data, setting-up merchant services accounts, and ensuring the deployment goes smoothly. Resellers can also help with integration of previous systems, like QuickBooks for accounting.
4. Integrate the iPad with the Selling Process
Another statistic from AisleBuyer’s mobile shopping survey: 57 percent of customers view retailers using mobile devices as innovators. Using an iPad POS system presents an opportunity for retailers to provide a unique shopping experience that can drive loyalty.
Schmeck has used his device to help customers research custom bike builds. When ready, he quickly transitions and helps the customer pay via the card-reader sled. “Some customers are going to be shocked at first,” Schmeck says, noting that customers can be surprised by the system’s flexibility.
By further integrating shopping and checkout, retailers can adjust customers’ mindset at the point of sale. Other store owners should similarly utilize the iPad’s to integrate shopping and checkout.
5. Involve the Customer at Checkout
Hancock chose the iPad because he needed “a system that was not only durable, but had the needed speed-of-service.” But in addition to being a great device for the point of sale, it has the ability to make checkout a little more fun (and the bill more palatable).
Schmeck walks customers through the process, showing them the iPad as he rings up the total and has them electronically sign at the end. Similarly, Barnes has made it a point have customers sign and finish the transactions themselves. In downtimes, she even has customers briefly use the iPad themselves to create a unique in-store experience.
"It's been great to be able to have customers take a picture in the store and immediately share it on social media," remarks Barnes.
Final Head-Smacking Tips
In addition to the tips above, these retailers had other great pieces of advice. Schmeck mentioned that many of these systems offer receipts be sent via email, but to provide a printed option, too. (“Some customers just don’t want the email,” says Schmeck.) In addition, Hancock emphasized that retailers treat an iPad POS solution search like any other retail software selection project.
Above all, my interviews brought to light that retailers should lean on and reach out to other merchants that made the transition to the point of sale via the iPad.
What other suggestions would you have for retailers moving to the iPad platform? Please leave your thoughts and any additional tips in the comments.
Thumbnail image created by Kai Hendry.