RIP the lowly chequebook: Disruptive technology at the point of sale in the 21st century
The next time you leave your house or apartment on an errand and forget your purse or wallet, will you have to turn back? Or can your entire task list be accomplished by the one object you’re never without – your phone?
Depending on where you live – rural or urban – and what needs to be achieved, many essential aspects of day-to-day life can be accomplished using apps. There are maps which guide you on foot and through public transport timetables (or on the road), contactless payments of road tolls or train fares, buying goods & services and even settling a utility bill en route.
In technology circles, this type of activity is known as disruptive, that is, a change in the accepted ways of doing things through technology. In commerce, it makes life easier, cheaper, and more convenient for buyers and sellers alike. And there are few areas of modern life which haven’t been touched by technology, and many industries which have been disrupted.
In the UK for example, fewer than 50 percent of transactions now involve cash, down from 64 percent in 2005. By 2025, it’s predicted that cash will be used only around 25 percent of the time.
Even the Paris underground system is embracing contactless payments. The paper Metro ticket, a proud symbol nearly as typically French as a fleur-de-lis, is to be phased out by 2021. Londoners have wielded contactless Oyster cards since 2003 and been able to pay with a bank card or smartphone (or smart watch) since 2014.
The fabric of our buildings and societies are changing alongside us too, as a result of disruptive technologies. Brick and mortar banks are on the decline, meaning many communities are becoming “unbanked” in traditional terms, with services moving online. Finding a “local” branch into which to pay a cheque is increasingly difficult, and ironically, to find one, we’d probably go online to search!
With fewer of us carrying cash in any quantity, and the concept of a chequebook having to be explained in schools to a new generation, even the most die-hard old-fashioned trader has to embrace technology: it’s what customers want and expect. In fact, consumers will actively go elsewhere if they know that your goods or services can’t be paid for with anything other than cash.
Until very recently, the process of taking electronic payments by a smaller, independent trader was cumbersome, long-winded and very inefficient. Merchant accounts would need to be applied for (perhaps via a paper form), and after a few weeks and a hefty fee, some kind of card reader would appear in the post, looking like something out of a 1950s sci-fi film.
For the online-only trader, the way was equally as fraught, with high fees levied up front and on every transaction, via constrictive ready-made online shops which looked untrustworthy to visitors and were a headache to maintain.
Suppliers, some featured below, offer a broad range of technology solutions which can be deployed as all-in-one online and brick-and-mortar systems, capable of handling in-store transactions (and more), but also melding a business’s e-commerce facilities into the whole. Even organizations without an online presence can use buttons or links, supplied by payment providers, for use on their Facebook pages, for example.
Or, if e-commerce facilities are already in place, the next-gen electronic payment suppliers will often be able to integrate with most systems, such as Magento, Woo Commerce, PrestaShop, and so forth.
There are a decreasing number of reasons then, that many of today’s tradespeople, small business owners, clubs & societies, shops, bars & restaurants remain cash-only. Prime mover towards digitization is customers beginning to go elsewhere in order to pay for a possibly inferior product with the tap of a smartphone or the click of a mouse.
For those businesses which embrace electronic payments, there are additional advantages over and above simply accepting cards on-premise. The latest POS tech can let users top-up pre-paid mobile cards, charge and spend from the business’s own gift cards, and offer immediate transfer of payments straight into the retailer’s or restaurant’s bank account.
Here at Tech HQ, we’re very aware of the need for suppliers of technology to be approachable and offer services which are simple to use and implement, but not cost the earth. Below are three such suppliers of electronic payment systems, each of whom offers a subtly different variation on POS, e-commerce, invoicing, stock control, administration, and finance – everything, in short, that today’s small business owner will need.
Each of the featured companies can offer some or all of the following:
- Card payments with customer present or not present.
- Contactless credit and debit card payments.
- Google Pay and Apple Pay (which unlike contactless payments, are usually not limited to a fixed amount).
- Mobile use.
- Ability to take payments online.
- E-commerce facilities for online stores, and for those who just want social media pay buttons or pay-by-email.
- Stock control.
- Invoicing, receipting, split payments.
- Administration, reporting, staff accounts (limited or full access for employees).
For the very latest, up-to-date rundown of EPOS and electronic payments in 2018 for the UK & Europe, read on!
Apps and software are free, and the card reader is £39+VAT, available in certain stores to buy over the counter today, or posted to you within a couple of days.
Once equipped, you pay 1.75/2.5 percent on each transaction (customer present/not present), and the payments appear in your business bank account the next working day (or within minutes if you add an additional one percent to the tariff).
As well as handling all point-of-sale transactions, the free software handles inventory (you can import product lists to get started) receipts (electronic or printed), invoices, reporting & analytics, multiple branches, and payments “in the field”. It’s also secure and safe – you don’t need to store customers’ card details yourself – and administrative duties can be assigned to specific employees if required.
Your Square account will work online too, and the company has partnered with several website/e-commerce suppliers to make an online shop’s set-up or integration simple. There are plenty of other integrations, as standard, so the tech chats quite happily with QuickBooks, Xero and other common systems you might already be using.
Today’s consumers – and increasingly, businesses – demand an omnichannel experience. myPOS, a UK-registered company operating in 24 European markets, extends POS facilities beyond traditional card readers to a whole range of extra services, white-labelled gift cards, payment links & buttons, and third-party integrations.
myPOS’s range of offerings democratizes card payments’ acceptance for small and midsize retail businesses and makes them equally able to accept payments – in person, via mobile and online – as the largest retailers. More accessible and affordable technology (no contracts or subscription fees) positions small retailers as credible businesses, offering convenience and a seamless customer experience.
myPOS uses the latest technology to offer instant pay-out from payments made via its channels into the merchants’ accounts within seconds, not hours (or days!). A whole host of merchant services is available via the account – from sending and receiving money transfers to accepting MO/TO payments, creating private label gift cards, topping-up prepaid services for customers, and more.
The software integrates with a broad variety of industry-standard software and hardware platforms, and the company’s experience in POS, web and app software development means that customers’ systems and processes can be integrated into the latest and newest merchant services. There’s a fully functioning API to allow a bespoke integration with e-commerce platforms, such as Magento, Zen Cart, Woo Commerce etc.
The myPOS Smart device series uses an Android-based OS with access to AppMarket, where merchants can download third-party apps onto their myPOS card machines. There’s a myPOS mobile app too, allowing sending of payment requests and 24/7 access to users’ myPOS accounts and online banking platform.
Canadian company Lightspeed offers a cloud-based software platform that’s suitable for retailers, restaurateurs or indeed anyone with a website to take electronic payments, either in person or remotely.
The company can provide the equipment required for in-store use, or in a restaurant/bar, or its customers can use the hardware in which they’ve already invested. Wireless cash drawers, barcode scanners, and receipt printers in-store all fit seamlessly with the software provision, and the solution starts providing real-time analytic data from day one.
Lightspeed eCom combines inventory management with a range of online webstores especially designed by the company, with the emphasis on responsiveness – that is, sites which render and perform well on mobiles.
eCom integrates with the same cloud that brick-and-mortar installations use, so inventory management is unified right across channels and different outlets.
The company offers specialist provisions for the hospitality trade, including the ability to create changing floor-plans (coping nicely with walk-ins and seating changes) and managing staff loyalty programmes – all from the same centralized dashboard.
Retail assistants and waiters, equipped with the latest tech, can take orders “on the floor,” making a fully-personalized service a reality for a new generation of outlets.
*Some of the companies featured on this article are commercial partners of TechHQ