iPad POS System in Store

It’s a very exciting time to be a retailer at the moment. After a long lull in innovation following the dot-com bust, overseen by the huge incumbents; NCR, Micros, Microsoft and others, times have changed and we are now seeing a new generation of companies vying to capture the hearts, minds and credit cards of retailers. From point of sale systems to hosted eCommerce stores to accounting packages, software companies are focusing on small to medium sized retail businesses and winning them over with intuitive, affordable and powerful new applications.

Cloud Based

These new companies, such as Vend, Revel, Xero & TradeGecko all have one constant between them. They’re built in and accessed from the cloud. Go back just 5 years ago and walking into the back office of a retail store you would most likely find an ageing Windows server and a mess of network cables holding together the store’s computing needs. The benefits of cloud computing have long been discussed and with the industry predicted to reach $95 billion next year, the cloud is clearly the future.

With no need for an on premise server or the traditional bulky point of sale systems, retailers can focus on the aesthetic of their store. And with their data stored in the cloud, it can be accessed from anywhere in the world, in real-time, sent straight to their computer or mobile device.

Systems Integrated (APIs)

Previously, getting all of your different software to talk to each other was either impossible or unaffordable. Simpler EPOS systems used by smaller retailers were often unable to talk with inventory, accounting and payroll systems. More complex options from Micros and NCR were able to integrate, but API (application programming interface) access was severely limited and locked behind a very expensive paywall.

New technology companies have realised the benefits of adopting an open approach to API access, allowing any developer to sign up to their platform and build integrations and add-ons to their core product. See how Xero has fostered a community of developers and other companies to integrate complementary products in their app store, clearly all parties involved benefit, the customers, Xero and the integrated service.

Affordability

Built on new technology, like HTML5, developers can iterate much faster than when building for traditional Windows or Java based systems, reducing time to market and hence costs. Couple the reduced development time with a focus on the core product, lower customer acquisition costs and you have the recipe for powerful software affordable for all. Contracts are a thing of the past too, gone are the days of $xxx/month support contracts, software is paid for on a monthly subscription basis, often with the ability to cancel any time. But what about support? Again the cloud comes in, with software run by the company that makes it, on their own servers, they are able to update, debug and troubleshoot remotely without interrupting retailers.

As I’m sure you’ll agree, the recent innovation in the space makes the future of retailing look very bright. I predict we will continue to see growth and innovation as low barriers to entry allow competition to quickly enter the market and gain traction.