- Research shows that if you don’t give your customers a variety of payment options, they’ll either leave your store or – worse – go to a competitor.
- New industry trends are improving the retail experience, with POS machines going mobile, connecting to the cloud and personalising the customer experience.
- Aside from the big banks’ POS machines, e-Commerce giants like PayPal and Stripe are offering their own physical POS systems.
The point-of-sale (POS) machine sits at the very heart of the modern retail experience. What was once a simple device that sat next to the cash register in order to process credit card payments is now a fully-realised digital terminal that often comes with a user-friendly screen, cloud capabilities and complete mobility. More importantly, the best POS machines can now accept essentially every form of payment – a real boon in the competitive business landscape.
The bottom line is this: if you want to reach to a wider customer base, you have to allow them to pay the way they want. Unfortunately, business owners are beginning to realise that shoppers will simply leave – or, worse, buy from a competitor – if they are unable to complete a transaction using their preferred payment method.
It might seem like an unnecessary hassle to upgrade your POS machine, but in the long run it could be the difference between ‘just surviving’ and actually thriving. After all, when you’ve got to compete with the power of online shopping, shouldn’t you be arming yourself with the best possible sales weaponry?
In-store and online
The internet has turned the traditional shopping experience on its head. And for better or worse, it’s here to stay. While that may mean owners of shopfronts have to work that little bit harder to engage with a typically disengaged audience, it’s also a chance for them to embrace new technologies to help them win over new customers.
With the right POS machine, you can adopt certain elements in-store to rival a feature that makes online shopping so attractive to consumers – namely, the freedom to pay how they want. In fact, consider that many online portals only accept credit cards and a handful of alternative payment methods (e.g. PayPal and POLi). With the right point-of-sale system, you could actually accept more payment methods than even your online competitors.
What to look for in a POS machine
In order to grow your business, you’ll need to seek out the best-fitting POS machine for your needs. Start by comparing the merchant services of some of the biggest financial operators in Australia.
Then you’ll want to determine exactly what you want to get out of your POS. Do some research and find out which machines:
Max out the different payment options you can offer customers (e.g. Visa, Mastercard, American Express, online wallets, and more).
Focus the most on customer service – e.g. providing 24/7 support.
Help keep your own business costs down – such as by eliminating surcharges.
Provide the most convenience – for both you and your customers.
What you need to consider
Beyond how your POS machine fits into your business structure, you also need to consider the financial pros and cons of each machine. For example, how much will PayPal Here cost to purchase and set up compared to the Commonwealth Bank’s Albert tablet?
Then consider the technical requirements. Is the POS machine user-friendly? Have there been instances of the machine going haywire or there being a lack of support from the provider? Is the machine easy enough for any member of your business to process customer transactions?
Finally, you’ll also want to consider if there are any legal issues around using a particular POS machine. Stripe Terminal, for example, has only recently emerged from beta testing some functions (as of publishing). If something goes wrong during a transaction, that could potentially cause major issues with payment errors – not to mention negative customer feedback.
Expert tip: It’s always worth accepting American Express cards at your business. Customers love the extra rewards, but they often won’t swipe if there’s an excess surcharge on Amex transactions – and plenty of businesses actually refuse to take American Express credit cards altogether. Be a point of difference in the market: don’t merely accept Amex cards, but also eliminate any related surcharges. It could be just what you need to entice a new customer base.
It’s important to realise that the shopping experience is constantly evolving – it didn’t stop once the internet was introduced. Rather, there are plenty of POS trends that are reshaping the retail industry right now:
Popularity of mobile: More and more customers want to pay on the go, and they don’t want to have to dig into their wallet for cards or cash. With digital wallets, customers can now pay with their smartphones – so you need to ensure your POS machine is up to the task.
Cloud tech: Modern POS machines are being integrated with the cloud, assisting with new features, real-time updates and added security benefits. If your POS machine is out of date, it could become a business liability.
Personalised CX: Some POS machines can actually aid the in-store customer experience (CX) for returning shoppers. Why wouldn’t you want to use your customer’s previous sales data to give them a personalised experience? At worst, they’ll be happy that you recognise them (and their shopping habits), and at best you’ll get a better shot at upselling.
How do the biggest POS players stack up?
Now that you know what to look for in a POS machine, here’s a quick rundown of some of the major players on the market right now:
1. Albert (Commonwealth Bank)
You’ve no doubt seen these sleek machines in stores around the country. The Albert has a 7-inch touchscreen that’s easy to use and not only accepts contactless payments, but also scans barcodes, prints receipts, allows for split bills (great for fast-paced cafés) and can add tips. It’s completely mobile, connects via 3G and Wi-Fi, and integrates seamlessly with most POS machines. Monthly fees start from around $60 for a basic plan.
2. Stripe Terminal
Fresh out of last year’s beta testing, Stripe Terminal isn’t the most attractive device on the market but it does the job. Considering that Stripe began life nearly a decade ago as just another online payment system, it’s interesting they’ve decided to dip their toe into the in-store experience. The good news is that because it’s backed up a tech giant, it’s a modern piece of hardware – connecting to the cloud, highly secure, and customisable so you can build your ideal POS system.
Aussie-made Tyro is all about helping small to medium businesses with its variety of tech products. With the Tyro POS you can actually save on standard tap-and-go transactions, you’ll have access to a fee-free business bank account, there’s no lock-in contract and there’s round-the-clock Australian-based customer support.
4. EFTPOS 1i (Westpac)
Another device that isn’t exactly good-looking, this black Westpac brick at least houses modern technology to make transactions a breeze. It’s compact and lightweight (despite its size) and can be used with your POS system via the PC EFTPOS software. This means that if your main communication method goes down, the 1i terminal automatically jumps onto a 3G/GPRS backup – so you’ll never miss a sale.
5. PayPal Here
Another online payment giant jumping into the physical POS universe is PayPal. Its PayPal Here device is a relative bargain at $99 in Australia but the catch is that the reader only accepts Mastercard, Visa and American Express. On the plus side, it’s extremely lightweight and can slip into your pocket, it can email and SMS receipts to customers, it automatically syncs transactions to your accounting software and it’s compatible with a range of POS systems.
6. ANZ complete range
ANZ actually offers a staggering variety of merchant and EFTPOS services. There are six terminals available at the moment, including POS Mobile Plus, which is great for owners who want to offer mobile payments around the business (such as in high-traffic restaurants) since it has a wireless terminal that communicates with your POS system via Bluetooth. The POS Plus 2 is probably one of their most popular terminals and is ideal for high-volume payments that are processed fast and securely.
7. NAB MPOS
You can actually get a more standard mobile POS machine from NAB, but this little device is perfect for businesses that only have infrequent card transactions. You just link it up to an app on your smartphone. NAB MPOS accepts all major credit cards as well as mobile wallets (Google and Apple Pay), and has same-day settlement for existing NAB customers.
8. Live eftpos
Not quite making waves just yet, Live eftpos services only around 7,000 merchants in Australia at the moment. But while it’s not the biggest name on the market, it’s doing its best to wrangle in more businesses with its Qantas offer – business owners can earn 1 Qantas Point for every $25 transacted, and your earning potential is uncapped. Like all the other Aussie-based POS providers, you’ll get a dedicated support team to quash any technical issues before they cost you money.
9. eWay mPOS
This mobile solution is again great for businesses that are on the go or don’t take all their payments at a single location (i.e. cash register). It’s an Aussie company that offers 24/7 support and has the ease of contactless payments. However, in addition to high transaction charges you’ll be forking out a fee to eWay every month.
In an interesting offering to potential business clients, Limepay focuses on your brand first and foremost, so they “integrate in the backend so that your brand shines through”. Aside from brand personalisation, Limepay accepts all major credit and debit cards, digital wallets and also – and this could be a biggie if you’re trying to penetrate the Asian market – Alipay.
Square is a popular mobile POS solution from the USA. They offer the mobile Square Reader for contactless and chip payments which can also be integrated with an iPad and Square Stand. It's free to sign up and the Square Reader hardware starts at $59. With no monthly fees or long-term commitments, as well as the ability to accept American Express Credit Cards, it is easy to see why this POS has become popular.
Look beyond your existing business banker
While it may seem easier to simply accept a POS machine available from the bank you are already using for your business transaction account, it may not be the best solution for your business. If it is the best solution, then happy days, you should be able to move fast.
Add up the machine’s purchase cost and any ongoing monthly fees or individual transaction fees, consider any incentives being offered and the kind of customer service you’re likely to get from the supplier, but above all make sure that the machine’s features cover all bases for your customers and the way you conduct your business.
What POS systems do you currently have in place at your business? Would any of these modern machines help you reach a wider audience – or at the very least lower the fees you currently pay on transactions? Share your POS story by commenting below.