How are point-of-sale systems going mobile?

Where is mobile point-of-sale headed?

Wagamama is a worldwide restaurant chain that has been an innovator in adopting mobile point-of-sale systems. When you sit down in the restaurant to enjoy Asian-inspired cuisine, a server enters your drink and food choices into a small mobile computer. The order is displayed instantly in the kitchen and at the drink bar. When it's ready, the chef pushes a button and a ticket is printed to tell the server where to deliver the food. After dinner, the server can present the customer with a bill, swipe his or her credit card, and print out a receipt from a portable printer [source: Clancy].

The next step for mobile POS systems at Wagamama is an iPhone application that allows diners to order their food before they even reach the restaurant. They can browse the menu, send their order straight to the kitchen, pay by credit card, and then either eat at the restaurant or take the food out. This feature is currently available in the United Kingdom and will soon spread to other countries [source: Clancy].

Advances in mobile POS are fueling a quest for ever greater transaction security. One way in which retailers can address this challenge is by using encrypted card readers. When they're used, the customer's information never leaves the mobile card reader except in encrypted form, minimizing the chance of it being stolen [source: Ciardiello].

Another innovation in POS systems is contactless payment. One version is a card with a built-in computer chip that does not need to be swiped. MasterCard is currently working with retailers like Home Depot and Sports Authority to install POS systems that will accept contactless cards. Some gas stations and fast food restaurants also use them [source: Mobile Banker]. The technology can speed up each transaction by 30 seconds, keeping lines shorter [source: Extended Retail Solutions].

Also on the horizon is the idea of enabling mobile phones to complete contactless transactions. Visa has kicked off a program in Malaysia that lets customers pay for purchases simply by waving their enabled phones near a terminal. The phone securely transmits the owner's credit data to the device and keeps track of transactions [source: cellular-news].

The applications of mobile POS continue to grow. For example, Stop & Shop Supermarket Co. is installing a system called ScanIt! in many of its stores. Upon entering a ScanIt!-enabled store, the shopper may present a loyalty card and pick up a portable scanning device. The scanner's display presents special offers and coupons based on a person's shopping history. It even offers coupons as the shopper nears a particular product in an aisle. A customer can scan items and immediately bag them in his or her cart. The device totals the purchases, and the shopper pays at a self-service kiosk [source: Ciardiello].

In general, mobile point-of-sales systems are increasingly decentralizing the actual point at which sales take place, minimizing wasted time and eliminating unnecessary paperwork. The goal is to make shopping as easy and as "automatic" as possible for the consumer. For more information on point-of-sale systems and other tools, follow the links below.

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  • Ciardiello, Regina. "4 Retail POS Trends to Watch Out For." (accessed February 25, 2010)
  • Clancy, Meredith, Training & Marketing Manager, Wagamama USA. Personal interview. February 23, 2010.
  • Extended Retail Solutions. "Trends in Payment Systems." (accessed February 25, 2010)
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