Traditional POS is Dead
By David Dorf on Feb 07, 2011
Traditional POS is dead -- I've heard that one before. Here's an excerpt from Joe Skorupa's blog over at RIS where he relayed ten trends that were presented at NRF.
7. Mobile POS signals death of traditional POS.I'll grant that in some situations for some retailers there might be an opportunity to to ditch the traditional POS, but for the majority of retailers that's just not practical. Take it from a guy that had to wake up at 3am after every Thanksgiving to monitor POS systems across the US on Black Friday. If a retailer's website goes down on Black Friday, they will take a significant hit. If a retailer's chain-wide POS system goes down on Black Friday, that retailer will cease to exist.
Shoppers don't love self-checkout, but they prefer it to long queues or dealing with associates. Fixed POS is expensive and bulky. Mobile POS frees floor space for other purposes and converts associates from being cashiers to being sales assistants that provide new levels of customer service and incremental basket sales. In addition to unplugging the POS, new alternatives are starting to take hold - thin client, POS as a service, and replacing POS software with e-commerce platforms.
Mobile POS works great for Apple because the majority of purchases are one or two big-ticket items that don't involve cash. There's still a traditional POS in every store to fall back on (its just hidden). Try this at home: Choose your favorite e-commerce site and add an item to the cart while timing how long it takes. Now multiply that by 15 to represent the 15 items you might buy at store like Target. The user interface isn't optimized for bulk purchases, and that's how it should be. The webstore and POS are designed for different purposes.
Self-checkout is a great addition to POS and so is mobile checkout. But they add capabilities to POS, not replace it. Centralized architectures, even those based in the cloud, are quite viable as long as there's resiliency in the registers. You cannot assume perfect access to the network, so a POS must always be able to sell regardless of connectivity.
Clearly the different selling channels should be sharing common functionality. Things like calculating tax, accepting coupons, and processing electronic payments can be shared, usually through a service-oriented architecture. This lowers costs and providers greater consistency, both of which help retailers.
On paper these technologies look really good and we should continue to push boundaries, but I'm not ready to call the patient dead just yet.