If you’ve shopped recently for—well, pretty much anything, you know how the retail world is mobilizing the check-out experience: Big retailers like Nordstrom, Guess and Sephora are all taking their cue from Apple and offering their customers an alternative to standing in line. In fact, over the next five years, industry pundits expect that more than half of all retailers will offer mobile check-out.
But if you’re running a small business and you haven’t won a lottery recently, it’s important to be prepared for the quagmire of costs that could be thrown at you as you march toward mobile. Four issues you’re likely to be dealing with:
1. Equipment: Yes, you can use what you’ve got.
New tablets and phones aren’t exactly cheap—so check to see if the POS solution you’re considering works with the mobile operating system (and, therefore, devices) you already have. If not, keep looking.
2. Ask about the cost—and security—of the card reader.
You should be able to get the first one free, with a small one-time fee for additional card readers.
Always compare card readers. Fraud is all too common, and data encryption is critical to what’s known as “PCI Compliance,” which is mandatory for anyone who accepts credit cards. Intuit, one of the largest purveyors of card readers, provides this functionality.
3. Software: Don’t settle for double entries.
You probably hear the term “integration” a lot. Demand to hear it in the context of the mobile solutions you’re considering. You want your mobile machines to work seamlessly with your desktop POS and your credit card processing for two reasons:
Integrated systems eliminate double (or even triple) entries—so you lessen the chances of mistakes, you save time, and there are no mysteries in your Z-Report.
Your inventory management is more accurate, more often. If your mobile devices aren’t updating the inventory in your desktop system, you’ll be doing manual updates, increasing the chance of errors (and, basically, defeating the whole purpose of automation).
4. Credit card processing: Watch for double fees.
This topic is, without a doubt, the Crown Jewel of Confusion. Ask your prospective mobile POS providers to give you a full explanation of their fee structure for mobile credit card processing, and demand to know how it works with the merchant services you currently have. That question alone could save you a ton of money, year over year.
“Your mobile capabilities should just be an extension of what you’re doing anyway,” says Michelle Baker, Senior Marketing Manager at Intuit, Inc—makers of small business retail products. “If you’re already accepting card payments, your monthly fees, minimums, discount rates and per-transaction fees shouldn’t change. If anything, they should go down as your sales volume goes up.”
The company’s QuickBooks Point of Sale 2013 features an end-to-end solution that includes desktop POS, merchant services and mobile payments through their GoPayment product—currently with a free hardware offer.
Right now, the company is offering a great deal to purchasers of their QuickBooks POS 2013 who sign up for QuickBooks Point of Sale Payments: They’re throwing in their full suite of POS hardware (cash drawer, bar code scanner, credit card reader, receipt printer and mobile credit card reader) at no charge. The hardware is worth about $600, and it’s available by phone only at (866) 379-6636.
“We’re all about going mobile and preserving as much capital as possible. Our mobile payments work with the major operating systems, which means our small business customers don’t have to spend money on new mobile devices,” continues Ms. Baker. “Meanwhile, they have a new tool to compete with larger retailers. And their eyes light up when we show them how our MobileSync feature updates their inventory with one click.”
Is mobile check-out worth it? A definite yes, say small retail analysts. Doing it soon? Sure. Doing it right? Mission-critical. It may take some homework, but it’s better to spend a little time—before you spend a lot of money.