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Fixed and mobile check-outs

The cash register of the future, and that future is now, is designed to be both fixed and mobile at the same time — and that is a part of the evolution of POS into #NextGenPOS.

Traditional cash registers and PC-POS systems are almost as mobile as glaciers, and one wouldn’t think seriously about carrying them around. But once you have a POS system that is primarily made up of a Wi-Fi-connected mobile device, it is silly not to take advantage of the mobility of it and that is exactly what we are beginning to see.

I have always found the whole concept of the store counter a bit bizarre. Its existence stems from earlier times of market stalls and over-the-counter sales when theft was perhaps a bigger problem than today. The problem I have with the “counter” is that it almost acts like a psychological barrier between the customer and the retailer. Once a customer is standing in front of it, he has already made that important decision to buy something and the retailer certainly does not want to change that decision. Retailers spend a lot of money and effort in location, advertising and promotions in order to attract customers to their stores, and once they have managed to do that there is another massive effort within the store itself (design, layout, product selection, customer service etc.) to convert that customer-visit into a sale — so why on earth would anyone want to build a barrier, i.e. a counter, between that dedicated customer and the sale?!

To make things even worse, retailers put an even bigger barrier on top of the counter: a big, bulky cash register or PC-POS. In some stores it is actually hard to see the cashier at all, as they are hidden behind a wall of screens and (empty) plastics. It is almost as if to say to the customer: “are you really sure you want to go ahead with this purchase?”.

Checkout counters are often relatively large, even in small convenience stores, but for whose benefit: the customer's or the retailer's? Bagging, de-tagging and payment is important, but there are other ways of accomplishing them. Despite customers being used to this interaction, and cashiers likely finding this more comfortable, it is not necessarily best for business.

One way to go about changing this is to have no fixed counters in the store, which is what Apple has famously deployed. Although it can sometimes be a little confusing and seemingly disorganised when their stores are busy, they probably do not experience many “walk-outs” due to long queues…as you don’t see them.

The 'mobile POS vs fixed POS' can work well when the processes are carefully planned. However, this is the case only in retail stores, where the customer's basket consists of few items of high value as opposed to many items of low value (such as in a supermarket). For many merchants it might not make sense to only mobile counters, but they should consider combining both fixed and mobile checkouts.

Obtaining the ability to re-use the same system on the counter as well as on the shop floor can be very cost-effective. The technology is already available to achieve this. Yet, it is first and foremost the internal processes which must be well thought through. With NextGenPOS replacing so many traditional cash registers, I am sure we’re about to see much more of “advanced” checkout processes.


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