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Mobile Point-of-Sale (mPOS) Devices Driving Profitable Innovation in Retail and Beyond

By Bill Camarda

According to Juniper Research, the number of transactions handled by mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) devices will triple from 2018 to 2023, representing nearly one-fourth of all point-of-sale transactions by then.1 The expected growth in mPOS usage with credit, debit, and prepaid payment cards reflects an extraordinary range of high-value applications in retail and many other environments, experts say.2

What Are Mobile Point-of-Sale (mPOS) Devices?


mPOS devices are variously smartphones, tablets, or dedicated wireless devices that perform the tasks of standard electronic point-of-sale terminals, but can operate untethered – virtually anywhere.3 By adding an appropriate mobile app and a connected contactless or mag-stripe card reader, most standard smartphones and tablets can be converted into mPOS devices.4


Since mPOS runs on standard mobile computing devices, mPOS systems can also integrate additional front-office capabilities (i.e., marketing and customer relationship management), back-office services (invoice creation and inventory management), or both.5 They can link with traditional POS systems, sharing the same databases and connecting with the same business systems.6


Some mPOS devices can also be extended with hand-held docking “sleds” that can read barcodes or print physical receipts. mPOS devices typically encrypt customer and cardholder data immediately – sending it in encrypted form to secure servers or cloud systems – rather than storing it on the device.7


Mobile POS Adoption Is Growing, Especially in Emerging Markets


Juniper Research reports that mPOS adoption is highest in North America, which accounts for 37 percent of the devices in use; the Far East and China account for another 25 percent. What’s more, Juniper projects that mPOS will drive especially large increases in payment card usage in emerging markets, such as India, where it expects 46 percent annual growth through 2023. Meanwhile, mPOS device prices, already low, are expected to fall still further.8


Today, the mPOS ecosystem comprises diverse companies offering partial or complete solutions – some directly to merchants, others to companies that serve them. In its mPOS Pyramid, PYMNTS.COM identifies several categories of providers:9


  • Merchant consumer networks that offer solutions enabled by mobile devices and apps, based on their control of both consumer- and merchant-related assets;
  • Core providers of basic hardware/card reader solutions, offering mag-stripe acceptance, merchant processing, and related services;
  • Companies that extend their core solutions with front-office services, back-office services, or both;
  • Platform players that “’power’ merchant-facing organizations by supplying them with the mPOS hardware (dongles, tablets), software, tools and services”;
  • Open platform/API providers that serve merchants and allow developers to plug into and extend their capabilities via application programming interfaces (APIs).

How mPOS Technology Can Improve Retail Businesses


Observers note that the rapid growth in mPOS usage and today’s robust ecosystem of associated service providers might be attributable to the technology’s potential for improving customer experience and operational flexibility, reducing cost, and increasing sales.10


Many retailers took note in 2014, when In the Pink Stores pioneered mPOS in eight New England locations, eliminating traditional cash wrap and stationary POS terminals. In the Pink quickly experienced a 32 percent increase in sales in its first fully mobile store.11 mPOS has also become a key element of the familiar Apple Store experience: associates can handle transactions anywhere in the store, and customers never need to wait for a cash register to be open.12


Even retailers that can’t eliminate all manual checkouts can still use mPOS to increase flexibility. At busy times, associates can engage in “line busting,” processing simpler transactions with customers waiting for a register.13 Of course, cutting waiting time also reduces the chances that customers will abandon their shopping carts – a habit of many online shoppers.14


When personnel can move away from the register to serve customers throughout the store, say experts, it’s easier to personalize service, and, in some cases, even to upsell.15,16 Some retailers suggest they can deepen customer engagement when the same sales associate who works with customers on the store floor can serve them through payment.17 With mPOS, purchases can also be transacted in a showroom, or at a desk where sales consultants and customers collaborate to configure a product and choose options.18 Since mPOS operates on the same mobile-device platforms as other apps, larger retailers can use it as part of wider customer-engagement solution incorporating inventory checks, product comparisons, and loyalty programs.19


mPOS capabilities such as these can help brick-and-mortar retail stores replicate the seamless experience that customers appreciate when shopping online.20 Experts suggest, also, that retailers might be able to use space more efficiently, replacing cash registers or hardwired POS systems with additional product displays, and changing store layouts quickly to reflect trends and opportunities.21


Mobile POS Opportunities Beyond Traditional Retail Stores


Many believe that mPOS has wide applications beyond retail. For example, some restaurants already rely on mPOS devices to provide pay-at-the-table service, helping them support contactless payment systems and reducing the time required to process payments, thus increasing table turns. mPOS-based pay-at-the-table can also improve security, for the payment card never leaves the customer’s sight.22


Observers suggest that mPOS use makes it more practical for merchants to accept payment cards than it ever was before. For instance, building on early application in the food truck world, mPOS makes it easier to create temporary pop-up stores that can transact business almost immediately, without waiting to install cash registers or hardwired POS systems.23 The technology can also be used for selling in the field, at events, and in customers’ homes; for mobile ticketing at events and on public transportation services; and on in-flight air travel.24,25 Some say the devices are even being used by street performers looking for tips from people walking by, many of whom carry fewer coins nowadays.26


Issues for Retailers Looking to Implement mPOS


Ingenico’s Ben Wagner suggests that retailers planning for mPOS consider three sets of issues: store layout, training, and secure infrastructure.27


His ideas include: thinking ahead about how to convert checkouts to selling space; making sure associates aren’t just trained on the technology, but also on how to use it for customer engagement, upselling, and preventing cart abandonment; and making sure Wi-Fi networks and devices are secured, can be centrally updated, and can be conveniently charged.28 Restaurants, he notes, should further consider how many devices and chargers they will need to support peak mealtimes.29


mPOS technologies have rapidly moved into the mainstream, where they are helping retailers and many other businesses improve customer experience, increase operational agility, reduce costs, grow sales, and accept payment cards in new venues. Their use is also helping payment-card usage grow in emerging markets, such as India.

Bill Camarda - The Author

The Author

Bill Camarda

Bill Camarda is a professional writer with more than 30 years’ experience focusing on business and technology. He is author or co-author of 19 books on information technology and has written for clients including American Express Private Bank, Ernst & Young, Financial Times Knowledge and IBM.


1. “Mobile Point-of-Sale Devices to Account for Almost 1 in 4 POS Transactions by 2023,” Juniper Research;
2. “North America Is Set To Be An ‘Early Adopter’ Of mPOS,” PYMNTS.COM;
3. “mPOS (mobile point of sale),” TechTarget/CIO Whatis;
4. “mPOS — How to Choose the Right Mobile POS System,” Square;
5. Ibid.
6. “5 Reasons to Implement a Mobile POS System at Your Retail Chain,” MagStar;
7. “mPOS (mobile point of sale),” TechTarget/CIO Whatis;
8. “POS & mPOS Terminals: Our Vision for 2023,” Juniper Research;
9. “mPOS Tracker March 2018,” PYMNTS.COM;
10. “mPOS (mobile point of sale),” TechTarget/CIO Whatis;
11. “In the Pink Bids Adieu to POS, Goes Mobile,” Retail Info Systems;
12. “Why the in-store retail experience needs a mobile point-of-sale,” Retail Customer Experience;
13. “5 Reasons to Implement a Mobile POS System at Your Retail Chain,” MagStar;
14. “Is mobile POS largely about line-busting?,” RetailWire;
15. “How to use mPOS to Encourage Upselling and Cross Selling,” iVend Retail;
16. “Elevate Your Customer Experience and Drive Revenue with mPOS,” Ingenico;
17. “Is mobile POS largely about line-busting?,” Retail Wire;
18. “The Benefits of mPOS for Salesforce,” AppFrontier;
19. “Large retailers to ramp up mobile POS strategies in the second half,” Retail Dive;
20. “Why the in-store retail experience needs a mobile point-of-sale,” Retail Customer Experience;
21. “Building a store for the future with mPOS,” Ivend;
22. “7 Pay-at-the-Table Questions Restaurant Owners Shouldn’t Miss,” Sterling Payment Technologies;
23. Ibid.
24. “Elevate Your Customer Experience and Drive Revenue with mPOS,” Ingenico;
25. “TRENDING: Buskers Add mPOS To Their Act,” PMNTS.COM;
26. Ibid.
27. “7 Pay-at-the-Table Questions Restaurant Owners Shouldn’t Miss,” Ingenico;
28. “3 Ways You Can Prepare Your Retail Business for mPOS,” Ingenico;
29. “7 Pay-at-the-Table Questions Restaurant Owners Shouldn’t Miss,” Ingenico;

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