Not even the cash register could escape potential replacement by an iPad. In fact, any Small to Medium Business (SMB) entering retail sales or seeking a replacement for their aging cash register can find some innovative features and economical pricing by going to an iPad-based Point of Sale (POS) solution.
Like many Americans, I spent some time working a cash register in high school and college for a new defunct department store. Register training and refresher training were a regular event in that job, so I could see the following benefits of an iPad cash register:
● Easier adoption by new employees because of consumer popularity of iOS and Android devices
● Less costly to manage when it comes to fixing the device, because you don't have to call an expensive technician
● Flexibility and utility are especially suited for side businesses
Square is perhaps the best known iPad-based POS solution because one its founders, Jack Dorsey, is also one of the minds behind Twitter. I am seeing Square more frequently in my local area, especially in independent shops and newer chain stores. The advantages of using Square include:
● Free Square Card Reader that just plugs into your iPad
● Easy payment ($275.00/month USD flat fee or 2.75%/swipe), with funds deposited in your SMB account in 1-2 business days
The Square Register app includes features that rival and far exceed the cash registers where I spent the school breaks of my youth. Using the app on an iPad (Figure A) enables your SMB to accept credit and debit payments. You can also accept CNP and Square Wallet payments.
Outside of accepting payments, Square offers support for the following:
● Multiple custom tax rates and item-specific custom tax rates
● Special offers, including first visit offers and reward programs
● Item management
● In-app data reporting
You can ring sales up on your iPad.
Another advantage of Square as a POS is that it already has its own hardware ecosystem. This gets SMBs out of rolling their own solutions or crazy workarounds. Available Square hardware includes:
● Cash drawers
● Kitchen ticket printers
● Receipt printers
● Barcode scanners
You cannot connect Square Register from your smartphone to the receipt printer, cash drawer, or barcode scanner, so plan your POS solution accordingly. Figure B shows Square setup on an iPad with a cash drawer and receipt printer:
Square setup as a stationary cash register and ready for the next sale.
Square seems to hit the delicate sweet spot between pricing and affordability that's so important for SMBs these days. It's also available on Android.
Other iPad POS solutions
While Square gets most of the buzz around the iPad as a POS and the mobile device payments market, they aren't the only game in town.
ShopKeep POS is another iPad-based POS solution for SMBs that also offers a hardware ecosystem, including a barcode scanner, remote printer, and scales with a gamut of other options. ShopKeep's pricing is one register ($49.00/month USD), two registers ($98.00/month USD), and discounted pricing for three or more registers.
Revel Systems crops up a lot when it comes to Machine to Machine (M2M) technologies, even though their core business is POS systems. They split their solution into three categories, starting at $49.00/month USD:
● REVELite (1-2 terminals; up to 500 items)
● Business (3 or more terminals; up to 100,000 items)
● Enterprise (10+ store locations; up to 500,000 items)
Network connectivity and security
Network connectivity for your POS solution is definitely something you should consider. While the Square solution supports Wi-Fi and Ethernet, they also offer multiple levels of security that span the physical, network, and backend security, including the web client.
The iPad POS solutions in this post don't skimp on the backend security. Fortunately, you'll find that POS solution vendors have a lot of documentation and materials online about the security their solutions offer.
There's also the question of using Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) as a POS solution. My recommendation is that the two should never meet (but I'm sure it happens somewhere out there). Using the iPad as a POS means physical security is often a requirement, so that the iPad doesn't walk off with a customer. In fact, sites like iPad Enclosures and the iPad Kiosk Store show that there's an industry developing around providing physical security for the iPad in retail and other high traffic public settings.
Ring up your next sale on an iPad
The iPad with the right POS software and hardware add-ons can offer SMBs a low barrier of entry to accepting customer payments. These iPad POS solutions have the payment processing power that once required proprietary cash registers with an expensive hardware and network backend. Do you use your iPad as a POS device? If so, which POS solution do you use? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.
Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management applications, Google Apps, Microsoft technologies, and online collaboration for TechRepublic and other sites. Will also works as a contract technical writer for clients in the Washington, DC area and nationwide. Follow Will on Twitter: @willkelly.