One way to breathe a gust of new life into your local business is via mobile point-of-sale — technology that lets you take on-the-go credit card payments from your smartphone or tablet.
For some businesses, mobile sales make perfect sense — say, a mobile dog-grooming business, food truck, delivery service, or any other small business without a traditional storefront.
However, even if you operate a brick-and-mortar store or restaurant that doesn’t lend itself perfectly to mobile sales, there are still some cool and useful ways you can use mobile POS.
Learn how you can mobilize your local business, and more about how mobile POS works in general.
What is mobile POS exactly?
Point of Sale (a.k.a. POS) is the the place where a business’s customers pay for their goods or services.
Pre-computer age, a POS system basically consisted of a cash register and a ledger. Today, much of the process is digitized. Most (but not all) systems still have a cash drawer, as well some type of computer terminal, a credit card reader, receipt printer, and other related equipment.
In the past few years, several mobile POS systems have entered the scene. These software services allow merchants to take payments from an iPhone, an iPad, or even an android phone.
A few basic mobile POS solutions that let you take on-the-fly credit card payments from your mobile phone include Square, PayPal Here, and Spark Pay. You can use these mobile payment apps on an as-needed basis, and all you really need is a smartphone with the app downloaded on it.
Then, there are iPad POS solutions like ShopKeep, Shopify, and Vend, which are more robust, all-in-one mobile systems that you can also use as your main POS at your brick-and-mortar store or restaurant; the only caveat for these is that you will need a WiFi connection. These software-as-a-service (or “SaaS”) POS’s typically charge a monthly fee, but usually come out to be way cheaper than a Windows-based POS like Micros.
Using mobile POS to power your business
Now that we’ve got all that technical mumbo-jumbo out of the way, on to the fun part: how you can actually use mobile POS to power your small business.
1. At local events
Sure, a lot of small businesses don’t have the estimated $50K it would take to buy a food truck or a retail truck (yes, that’s a thing). Nevertheless, you might still make occasional “mobile” sales, i.e., any sale not conducted from your regular storefront.
Practically any type of retail, online or restaurant business can benefit from mobile sales, either by setting up a limited-time event with a pop-up shop, or by piggybacking on a local event in your community.
Not only does this kind of innovative mobile setup help you get some extra sales, but it also increases your business’s visibility in the community, via word-of-mouth marketing.
Whether you set up a pop-up shop, rent a van or food truck to tailgate corporate events, or set up a booth or concession stand at a local festival, you can use a mobile POS system to your advantage.
You can of course use this type of setup to sell food or merchandise, or perhaps gift cards/vouchers if you don’t sell any tangible goods. In addition to making mobile sales, special events are also an opportunity to give away coupons, free consultations, or free samples that will introduce people to your business in a favorable way.
2. As a floating terminal
Some businesses use mobile POS systems as a floating terminal — a device that can take orders and/or payments from places in your store other than the main register. These systems usually use one or several tablets.
Here are some things you can do with a floating POS setup:
Work your way down a busy line, taking orders and ringing customers up
Run restaurant customers’ credit cards right from their table
Send restaurant orders electronically from the table to the kitchen
Have floating sales associates who ring up merchandise on the floor
Set up kiosks where customers can place orders or check out on their own
Most POS systems that use a mobile floating terminal have a web-based design that lets mobile devices communicate wirelessly with each other, sometimes requiring an onsite server, sometimes not. Usually, these systems will sync all your data to that awesomely-mysterious-sounding place you’ve probably heard about called the cloud.
3. As your primary POS
Increasingly, small businesses are using mobile technology in daily business operations. In many cases, you can use the same cloud-based POS system to take mobile payments as you can to take payments at your brick-and-mortar store.
And, as mentioned, you can even “go mobile” within your own store, freeing your terminal from its boring fixed position at the front of your establishment.
Cloud-based point-of-sale systems actually have a lot more to offer than just mobile capabilities. Besides giving you freedom of movement, a tablet POS lets you do things like:
Sell online with an integrated e-commerce store
Collect and access customer information at point-of-sale — email address, return history, etc.
Access sales analytics for your business via an online portal or with an app
Accept newer payment forms — ApplePay, PayPal, chip cards, etc.
Run store-wide discounts and promotions
Provide a loyalty program for regular customers
Additionally, lightweight mobile POS systems are perfect for the millennial business owner who shies away from long-term commitments. With SaaS, you don’t have to make any major investments or sign any contracts; if the POS service has a fee (in addition to the credit card processing fee), you typically pay on a month-to-month basis.
Cloud POS is anywhere you want to be
You can use cloud POS to modernize and revolutionize your small business, taking mobile payments and managing your business from wherever the day takes you.
Does your small business use any mobile software services?
This article has been edited.
Shannon Vissers is a contributing writer for Merchant Maverick, a comparison site that reviews and rates credit card processors, point-of-sale systems, mobile payments services, and small business software. Shannon specializes in writing about small business point-of-sale systems. Connect with @ShannonVissers on Twitter.