There have been two major factors influencing the way people shop and dine out in the last 20 years: the internet, and a sense of ironic detachment from reality. But, mostly it’s the internet. The act of shopping itself went online, and then mobile. Consumers can get just about anything they want, whenever it might strike their collective fancy, and one only need look at the tiny little things the average Yelper will complain about to understand that keeping customers happy is harder than ever. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that the restaurant chains and megastores of the world are no longer the only ones with access to the kind of hardware and software that improves business and operational intelligence. Cloud-based software, available for subscription and designed for use on tablets and other smart-devices, have made it possible for just about anyone with a broadband connection to be as mobile as their customer base demands.
The bad news, part two? Getting the right mix of hardware and software to create a seamless experience. For example, it’s all well and good for a tablet-based POS to tout its ability to bring credit card transactions to customers on the sales floor or seated at their table. But the wow factor tends to fade the moment your employee has to head back to the printer to fetch a receipt. More importantly, though, a routine like this cancels out any gains in efficiency you’ve made by investing in a modern system. And when you have people on Yelp lambasting restaurant managers for not personally apologising in addition to comping meals, you get the idea how high the stakes are for keeping customers happy.
The most apparent obstacle is the hardware itself. Printers are notoriously stationary items. You almost never hear, “Yes, the resolution looks great, but can I attach it to my belt?” For better or worse (worse!), portability just isn’t on the list of concerns for most printer manufacturers. Nor is it for many POS developers, mobile or otherwise: In an effort to fit into as many existing shops possible, they tend to focus on making software that works with existing hardware and peripherals. This is an admirable goal but it cannot be the whole vision of hardware compatibility. A mobile POS that keeps sales tethered to a physical location, even if that location is 20 feet away, isn’t a mobile system at all. It’s like buying a motorcycle that you only drive in tunnels: it’s got the makings of a liberating experience, but ultimately you’re still constricted.
Likewise, software that is developed to run in a closed ecosystem, limiting customer choice for add-ons on integrations, ends up restricting users over the long term. This is why it’s important to pay attention to the architecture of any given developer’s applications, as well as to the technology partnerships that developer chooses along the way. Good software still ought to be positioning you for the future and not locking you into a moment in time—especially when that software is a subscription which can be canceled at any time. Developers who leave their customers with limited options will find that their customers are eventually the ones doing the leaving.
While it may seem counter-intuitive, one of the best ways to understand where a technology company is headed is to look at its past. When looking at POS options, the company’s history, even if its in startup phase, can be very telling. From its inception, Kounta has been about freeing store and restaurant owners up from those. From being the first fully EMV compliant cloud-based POS in Australia to developing a payment via facial recognition with Paypal, Kounta has stayed on top of each and every Next Big Thing of its existence. Perhaps most importantly, Kounta has forged many technology partnerships and has openly shared its APIs with them to enhance features and functionality.
One of those partnerships is with Epson, a company which has been making printers since 1968, from old school 80-column dot matrix to cloud-connected thermal printers today. Within their TM line of intelligent printers, the new P20 takes mobility to new levels. Weighing in at less than half a pound, the resolution looks good and it can clip to your belt. It’s also waterproof and can withstand subzero temperatures, and with its NFC antenna it can be paired with any other NFC capable device in seconds. But it’s also truly cloud connected, meaning the printer can retrieve data directly from the web without even having to go through the tablet. They say a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and the same could be said about mobile apps: they’re only as mobile as their most static elements. The cash register and credit card reader left the front desk a few years ago, and now with Kounta and Epson, the printer can tag along.