Do a post on the benefits of mobile POS, they said.
I’ve done that 100 times, I said.
Make this one different, they said. Use some persuasive statistics.
Statistics. That’s a word that can send me into paroxysms of anxiety, 7.8 times out of 10. The other 2.2 times, I have no opinion. As a writer, I’m supposed to think critically and uncover truths, and statistics aren’t exactly the most honest way to do that. Benjamin Disraeli, the 19th century conservative politician and writer who twice served as the UK’s Prime Minister, once famously quipped, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
The use of statistics to bolster arguments is problematic for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that they are often true. Like, it’s true that four out of five dentists recommend a specific brand of sugarless gum to their patients who chew gum. On its own, that could very well stand as an endorsement of that brand of gum. But that statistic, while true, might leave out another fact: all five of those dentists would prefer you not chew gum at all. Plus, five dentists is a really tiny sample size. It isn’t nearly enough data to extrapolate and identify a trend—the one thing statistics should be used for. Maybe you don’t spend as much time as I do worrying about the soundness of any argument based on the citation of stats—well, now we’re in this together. I’ve been asked to use persuasive statistics and I will do so, responsibly.
There are dozens of posts on this blog—and thousands elsewhere—that tell you the benefits of using a mobile POS from a practical standpoint. That it can make selling easier, streamline inventory control, and keep you connected to your customers are common selling points. But recent—and not so recent—trends are pointing to a new direction in the POS adoption conversation. Namely, that the benefits of using one will pale in comparison to the losses you’ll suffer if you don’t. We haven’t hit that point yet, but the confluence of low cost mobile POS apps and hardware, along with the democratising factor of mobile payments, isn’t going to reverse itself anytime soon. This storm’s been brewing for nearly a decade, yet there are still only just as many businesses itching to go mobile as there are those who haven’t given it a thought. In a white paper published by the Mobey Forum, they cite a McKinsey & Company statistic showing how small business owners responded to the question, “Would you consider an alternative POS?” They define “alternative” as being either tablet or smartphone based, and the response is as follows:
Amusingly, Mobey draws the conclusion from this that “Small businesses are largely open to alternative POS systems.” And, sure, “largely” is a vague term that could point to a plurality rather than a straight majority—neither of which is the case here, anyway—but those also aren’t numbers to dismiss, either. Clearly, there’s traction with this technology, and this poll was done in 2013. Still, it’s safe to say that the majority of small business owners who responded weren’t interested. Two years later, Business Insider put the mobile POS adoption rate at 50.6% for 2015, which includes retailers large and small. We’re still hovering at around half of retail businesses that haven’t moved to mobile POS despite demonstrated benefits.
So, if businesses aren’t exactly clamoring for this technology, why should you jump on the bandwagon? I’m glad I asked for you, but I object to your having theoretically used the term “bandwagon,” which is reductive. But the answer is a simple one: your customers want you to. They’re more likely choose you over competitors if you’re using tech in any number of ways (online menus, mobile ordering, and more). And that should be all you need to know to start testing POS apps sooner rather than later. Fifty million Elvis fans could’ve totally been wrong, but they spent a ton money on Elvis gear, so no one really cared if they were right or not. Likewise, customers would prefer to spend their money in places that offer mobile check-out and other technological conveniences, and I’ve already fact-checked this one for you: they’re right to want that. With adoption steadily, if not slowly, on the rise, you could find yourself on the outside looking in before long. Don’t believe me? In 2014, the National Restaurant Association in the US conducted a survey on consumer attitudes towards technology in restaurants, and they’d really like to see more of it on the menu. Or as the menu:
This favorable view of technology has a direct result on consumer perception and behavior:
These numbers don’t seem as overwhelming as the first batch, but remember that perception is a lot easier to influence than behavior. Also, consider that nearly half of the respondents of this survey enjoyed their experience more simply because a tablet or smartphone was part of that experience. And a third of the people are making decisions about where to eat because they can view a menu or order the food with an app. In other words, the ease of getting the food mattered more than what the food was. And that last stat is even more encouraging for restaurateurs. 34% of the people who responded to this survey spent money on a meal they otherwise wouldn’t have if it weren’t so easy to place the order. Perhaps this isn’t too surprising, given that most pedestrians would rather be hit by a bus than stop looking at their phones for even a minute.
But let’s look at a final bunch of statistics, also from the National Restaurant Association, that shows a major gap between what restaurants are providing, tech-wise, and what consumers would like to use.
As you can see, wherever there is a technology that makes it possible to facilitate a meal, people would like to use that technology. In all cases, more people are saying they’d view a menu, order a meal, or make reservations (for example) if the places they’d want to go offered it. It’s hard not to see the necessity—nevermind the benefits—of integrating a POS. Back in the days of the legacy POS, where a server hid in a backroom and a large, ugly 8-bit display on a desktop computer was the register, the POS was a fancy tool only owners really benefitted from. Could you imagine a customer back then saying that the technology in the restaurant made their meal more fun, or made them more likely to show up in the first place? If you’ve made it this far without trying out a mobile POS because you think you can run your business without it, think again. It’s no longer only about what you want—your customers are asking for this, and it’s time to answer.