Mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) devices are having a moment, with analysts predicting that the yearly number of mobile POS transactions will triple by 2023.
Among the reasons: Prices are dropping for wireless POS units and plug-in card readers, and some POS vendors are expanding their product lines to offer mPOS technology.
Cost-conscious small businesses, SMBs that sell at temporary or mobile locations, and brick-and-mortar merchants all stand to benefit from mPOS adoption—as long as they understand how to protect their data on these comparatively new systems.
How merchants are using mPOS tools
Some companies use dedicated mPOS terminals that can print receipts for customers, but the typical mobile point-of-sale setup is a smartphone or tablet with a payment-processing app and a card reader that plugs into the audio jack. This tech is ideal for small retailers and food vendors who sell at different locations like fairs, food truck courts, and farmer’s markets. It’s also helpful for service providers like HVAC repair technicians who can process payments on the spot at clients'homes and offices without having to phone in a credit card number or mail an invoice.
In physical stores, MPOS units can work as additions to a traditional POS terminal or replace it entirely, which is the case with some small businesses that use a tablet-and-reader setup instead of a dedicated POS terminal. Larger retailers with existing POS infrastructure—recently updated for the 2017 EMV liability shift in the US--have been slower than mobile and small businesses to adopt mPOS technology. But now, larger merchants are driving growth in the mPOS, which is expected to top 27 million devices by 2020.
By untethering in-store payments from the checkout counter and allowing customers to pay anywhere in the store whenever they’re ready, retailers can reclaim floor space and increase sales, as women’s fashion chain Lilly Pulitzer has reported since it added mPOS capability for its In The Pink stores.
As more mPOS devices come into use, security and fraud experts caution that these tools carry their own set of data-safety and payment-fraud concerns, in addition to the challenges that all business face when accepting with card payments. Any merchant who uses mPOS or is considering it needs to be aware of what those risks are and how to reduce them.