Epson Exec: Demand Exploding for Tablet-Based Point of Sale Systems

Solution providers must embrace mobile point of sale (POS) devices to help retailers improve in-store customer experiences, same store sales and to avoid losing (more) business to Amazon.

That's what Epson North America's director of commercial channel sales, Tom Kettell, told more than 200 solution providers at the ScanSource Partner Summit on Tuesday. Epson's mobile POS business has, for the first time, surpassed its traditional, fixed-location POS business as many mom and pop shops have ripped out their electronic cash registers and replaced them with table-based systems, Kettell said.

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The mobile POS business is expected to grow from $2 billion in 2015 to $38 billion in 2024, with analysts projecting a 36 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between now and 2019, Kettell said at the conference here in Greenville, S.C.

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While hardware and software are bundled together for traditional POS devices, Kettell said the hardware and software are independent of one another in mobile POS systems, with many software providers focused solely on creating software and having little to any interest in the hardware sale.

Mom and pop shops are happy to rip out their electronic cash registers and replace them with mobile payment terminals, but Kettell said a rip-and-replace model would be very expensive for major retailers, who would prefer to incorporate mobile technology into their existing infrastructure.

Retailers, though, are very focused on figuring out ways to enhance their customer experience so customers can make their final purchase in the store, Kettell said, rather than doing their brick-and-mortar research in a store and then making the purchase off Amazon with one-day shipping.

Nordstrom has succeeded with this, Kettell said, as the upscale department store company has sought to improve its customer experience by having its sales associates walking around each department with a tablet that can check customers out rather than forcing customers to go to a fixed cash register and wait in line.

Similarly, Kettell said Best Buy ran a pilot where the consumer electronics retailer brought a mobile cart of tablets to an area of the store where a major sale was taking place to try and take advantage of impulse buys before the customer left the department.

In the hospitality sector, Kettell said bigger restaurants are increasingly turning to mobility to enhance their customer experience. For instance, he said that a steakhouse at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas gives customers an iPad with their wine list, allowing them to research and order wine directly from the table without having to interact the server.

POS resellers must become more sophisticated as the customer demand for mobile and completely wireless payment terminals grows, said Bobbi Boyer, a hardware sales specialist for Aptos, an Atlanta-based ScanSource partner.

Support and integrating mobile POS offerings is more difficult, Boyer said. The hardware and software are typically developed separately, and the setup is expected not to involve any wires, he said.