2011.22 | Where to use mobile POS

Recent efforts at the office have me thinking about businesses that might want to use mobile POS.

I have a mobile POS unit up and running and have been demonstrating its use around the office and to clients. Whenever I demo the solution to colleagues I have had consistent comments that come down to the fact that it’s a really cool solution, but people seem uncertain of where it could be leveraged best.

Mobile POS capability and queue busting have been available for years now. I’ve played with various devices and platforms and it’s never caught on in volume, but with mobile now so recognizable for consumers this form factor is the hot thing of the moment.  I’ve started to see it in wider deployment, but you have to wonder if EMV will hold us back in Canada.  Apple store and Air Canada use it in Canada, but Home Depot are using it in the US and Disney and Gap have been getting into it.

No matter what platform a retailer chooses, it is absolutely fundamental to consider how the platform will be leveraged in an operation.  If the objectives of a mobile unit are not clearly defined, and mobile is not fully integrated into the front end operations of a retail store,  it will not be successful.

Before any major retailer considers using a mobile POS, I strongly recommend a front end optimization assessment to understand how all of the service solutions will work together (POS, Self-checkout, Kiosks, mobile POS, Customer Service Desk, etc) to ensure maximum customer throughput, an optimized customer experience, and a cost effective implementation.

Consider the potential benefits of a mobile POS unit:

  • Small form factor
  • Built in scanning capability
  • Print receipt to small mobile printer/ remote printer / email
  • MSR credit card swipe
  • Wifi connection
  • Battery power
  • Retail hardened (depending on the platform)
Now consider the tradeoffs of a mobile POS unit:
  • Small form factor items can be lost =security risk to network, and cost of lost units.
  • Connecting to remote devices like printers and scanners can be tricky over the long haul – but the technology is improving.
  • In Canada, NFC and EMV cards won’t work as MSR swipes are only available.  Vendors says an EMV model is in the works.
  • Accepting cash would require significant trust and could be a security and shrink risk.
  • Wireless connections can be challenging in retail and are prone to security risks.
  • Batteries need to be recharged.  It will be necessary to have a charging station where all units must be returned at end of shift or end of day.
  • Even retail hardened items can break if dropped.
  • Retail staff (and clients) who are older or who have less than optimal eyesight often are challenged to read the text on a small screen.
  • Depending on the operational implementation, there may not be a counter to set down merchandise for folding or bagging.

As with everything else, the decision to leverage a mobile POS should be driven by a the specific retail business.  Mobile POS will evolve, but in my opinion, the items above indicate potential places where  leveraging a mobile POS in a retail environment would be particularly useful.

  • Simple Order taking with no Scanning Required (QSR)
  • Small  Basket Purchases where no weighable items or security tags are used.
  • Simple large customer assistance required orders in a DIY or GM environment – (bicycles, lawn tractors, etc.)
  • High traffic timeframes – sales, grand openings, holiday periods.

Given the excitement around mobile, expect many vendors to provide solutions and many retailers to try them.  I think it’s great and it is progress.  We could very well end up with all a high percentage of mobile POS down the road, but starting from the strength of a solution and expanding from that point provides the best roadmap to success.


  1. Tim Dickey says:

    Baden, Very difficult question to answer. Here is a very relevant blog post for you to consider. http://secureitexpert.com/compliance/compliance-o-wherefore-art-thou-pci-on-mobile-pos/ PCI isn’t saying much on mobile at present.

  2. Baden Smith says:


    Are you aware if any of these mobile payment applications PCI compliant?

    Baden Smith

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