Revolutionizing Retail: The Energetic Evolution of Point of Sale Systems

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Point of sale systems are evolving to meet the changing demands of businesses in the retail and hospitality sectors, including providing more data and insights, as Jay Kim, managing director of BIXOLON Europe GmbH.

Point of sale (PoS) systems and receipt printing are crucial to retailers and hospitality businesses. Without them, they cannot enable sales effectively and grow their businesses optimally. To say they are important, for many, is an understatement.

Especially when you consider their strategic importance to not only drive sales efficiency; but to track and record sales data and provide an optimum customer experience. What is more, within this, retailers and their customers have many different needs when it comes to managing and accepting payments. So, as the market evolves what should retail and hospitality organisations consider when deploying PoS systems and related technologies?

PoS needs vs wants

Within busy retail and hospitality environments it is vital that PoS systems are ‘always on’ and do not experience downtime. Simply put, failure to execute transactions can lead to lost revenue and a poor customer experience. Therefore, when purchasing these kinds of technologies, retailers typically consider an array of important factors including network connectivity options, the performance of PoS systems, how these system looks aesthetically when installed, how they integrate into the business and the price of the investment.

Additionally, with the need to keep up to date with the latest technology trends and requirements, many retailers are turning away from only using Serial or Parallel connectivity for printers. Instead, they are and moving to ethernet, USB, Bluetooth and WLAN for integration with tablets and other peripherals as part of PoS systems. Since technology has always been central to buying decisions, many retailers now build their hardware solutions around their software – whether this be a simple payment solution for an independent company, or part of a more complex omnichannel ecosystem.

Naturally, the performance of hardware within these systems is key. Printers form a vital component at checkout. They enable the printing of receipts, coupons, vouchers and more depending on the scenario. They are rated not only on the speed and reliability of the printing hardware, but also the performance of the cutter and print head, which leads to less maintenance and possible downtime.

Within retail situations, sleek, compact printer designs are becoming increasingly popular, because retailers are looking to streamline their cash desks. For instance, cube printers have increased in popularity with their compact features and front exit feed for either on-the-desk or under-desk integration, which allows it to just fit into a PoS set up easily and attractively.

Ease of integration is also essential. With many retailers looking to upgrade their systems, many look for hardware that they can essentially plug in and play. As time means money, retailers look for installs that take hours rather than days to avoid costly downtime and loss of productivity. Pricing is also a factor; but a lower priced printer doesn’t always provide the quality and reliability required. Typically, when you buy cheap, you buy more, as the adage goes.

Driving insights and protecting data

Data and reporting are important to retailers. They need to know what inventory is being sold and when to restock. Sure, smaller companies can keep a written tally; but larger companies often link their electronic point of sale (EPoS) systems with their enterprise resource planning (ERP) to allow a seamless reordering of supplies – and sometimes they also combine their store and e-commerce sales if that makes more sense and is more effective. This kind of approach can be crucial when used in conjunction with a more sophisticated just-in-time stock control method.

Security is also important, whether it is through employee logins, systems to track transactions or security systems to maintain secure transactions. In many European countries, fiscal law has been brought in to avoid retailer fraud. With reporting done through the cash register, fiscalisation is always done through software. However, measures can be put in place that cover software and the PoS hardware. For example, in Slovenia, fiscalisation is handled through software; in Italy and Poland it is done through a specialised module and hardware within a PoS device; in Germany the software needs to meet criteria set out by the government.

The best the PoS market has to offer

There are many types of PoS solutions on the market for retailers and hospitality organisations to consider. Standout options include mPOS, mobility solutions and kiosk solutions.

mPOS: the days of traditional bulky PoS setups are dead, mPOS solutions are now taking centre stage as more compact, cost-effective solutions. These interchangeable setups typically consist of a tablet, printer, card reader, scanner, customer display and cash drawer, which are commonly bundled together by resellers with additional EPOS software. These interchangeable solutions provide a cost-effective solution that can be upgraded as a business’ PoS estate evolves. But these types of solutions now require more intelligent printers too, such as those that can seamlessly connect to a host tablet device while supporting a charging port and up to four USB peripherals. This solution is a great way to use existing peripherals that are operated through the printer as it communicates to the tablet device via Bluetooth.

Mobility solutions: for busy seasonal retail periods and pop-up stores, the need for accessible printing is becoming more popular. Mobile printers are the perfect solution as they easily connect to a smart device and can print receipts or labels. As batteries continue to improve, many printers can now be used for a complete shift and recharged outside of opening hours. Many printer providers offer technologies that enable receipt, ticket and labelling solutions. Alternatively, there are battery powered PoS receipt printers. Much like a mobile printer, battery powered PoS receipt printers offer fixed location printing where power is not available. This type of printer is attractive for higher volume receipting for pop-up locations, which take larger quantities of transactions so a larger receipt roll can be used.

Kiosk solutions: kiosk systems are becoming increasingly popular, which has been accelerated by the pandemic. These self-service solutions typically come with two types of printers, either a packaged printer or a kiosk mechanism, which are chosen based on the kiosk design and user requirements. Typically, stand-alone unmanned solutions are fitted with kiosk printing mechanisms that use a presenter; allowing for larger paper rolls to be used, which require fewer changes and thus less maintenance.

Future of PoS printers

The face of retail is changing. Traditional bricks-and-mortar stores are being complemented with e-commerce; and, with this, the use of printing and its technology is being adapted. As orders now also come in online, new software technologies such as native, web and cloud-based mPOS applications will enable printing to come directly to a designated printer for efficient picking, shipping or collecting.

Additionally, retailers will be looking for mixed estates of printing technology covering receipting and labelling, with linerless labelling becoming increasingly important as a traditional labelling alternative. This eco media removes the need for label packing paper, enabling variable-length labelling with either semi-permanent or permanent adhesive. This type of media is ideal for home delivery orders, click-and-collect, product markdowns and more.

Conclusion

The future of PoS is bright and offers retailers and hospitality businesses of all kinds the opportunity to manage sales more effectively. Further, during check-out scenarios it remains important to provide customers with a receipt too, which is the legal form of proving a purchase of a product or service. While some might argue that e-receipting is coming, or is already here, this will not mean the death of the physical receipt. They will work in tandem, depending on differing requirements.

Labelling, though, will continue to innovate the industry. This is because as more business is done online, the need for labelling for services such as home delivery and click and collect will continue to rise, so retailers will require printers for different logistics scenarios within their fulfilment centres.

In either case, a PoS system will sit at the heart of purchases and either offer customers physical printed receipts, or they will drive organisation and logistics operations within e-commerce distribution centres. In both cases, operations and reliable and accurate printers will be required to support these operations, and provide receipts and labels for customers or e-commerce logistics teams in warehouses.