It’s an age-old debate: “Fashion or function?” For some, the answer is fashion, which means if something looks good, how well it works might not matter as much. But for others, function is the key, meaning that if something works great, the way it looks isn’t (or shouldn’t be) a big concern.

But when it comes to point of sale devices, the answer is somewhere in the middle, though functionality should be a primary concern as adoption of new devices proliferates.

Understanding the Changes
The way point of sale devices look has changed a lot in just the past several years, and continues to evolve rapidly as these machines have to adapt with a growing payments ecosystem, according to Toast Tab. As recently as 2010, near-field communications technology wasn’t even a consideration in traditional card readers, and now, just seven years later, many devices can handle transactions based on traditional credit card swiping, EMV, scanning and mobile payments with little or no difficulty.

This kind of rapid evolution is, of course, good for both customers and merchants, but when it comes to looks versus functionality, merchants need to understand that consumers want seamless transactions, but they probably don’t want to complete them using big, clunky machines they may not be able to figure out intuitively.

“[Merchant] technology should be about getting out of the way,” As Ben Kaplan of Barbara Lynch Gruppo told the site. “It should add efficiency and take away obstacles so that [business] operators can do what is best for the guests.”

With more checkout options emerging, merchants may consider whether looks or functionality is more important.

Determining Preferences
With the advent of EMV adoption in the U.S., companies now have more decisions to make, and they should follow their customers’ leads (to some extent) when it comes to those decisions.

For instance, some may indicate that they like certain aspects of the checkout process more than others, depending upon the kind of business they operate. For instance, even smaller restaurants should certainly consider the benefits of table-side ordering and payment as a means of expediting the dining process, while traditional retail shops might want to weigh the positives of mobile checkout that allows customers to check out from anywhere within a store.

An Overarching Approach
Here, too, it’s important to consider fashion and functionality of any device being encompassed within a overall merchant’s point-of-sale system, and to prepare for the eventuality that some customers may not be comfortable with certain types of POS technology regardless of how well it works or how good it looks, according to Retail Dive. To that end, having more than one option – such as a traditional card-reading device at a standard checkout counter, in addition to more advanced mobile checkout – could help to meet multiple customers’ expectations and preferences simultaneously.

At the same time, though, it’s important to consider the inward-facing issues related to modern POS. This means that the more information employees get from a new device when a person checks out, the better off they may be when it comes to meeting customer needs.

What Customers Want
There may be many things any individual customer wants from a merchant, but there’s one broad preference that gets demonstrated over and over again: speed, according to Payments Source. One of the big reasons EMV struggled to catch on with consumers at first is that they were perceived to take longer than traditional credit card swiping technology.

“For the first time in a long time, customers are starting to push the envelope on the shopping and the buying experiences and merchants have to respond,” Marc Castrechini, vice president of product management at Cayan, told the site. “Customer preferences are changing. They will actively gravitate toward merchants that offer what they want and avoid ones that don’t.”

With this in mind, both looks and functionality become paramount simultaneously, because consumers need devices they can use intuitively even if they’ve never seen the card readers before – that’s where looks come in. But if those devices don’t operate at a top speed, the functionality is going to be a hindrance as well.

Security is Key
In addition to outward-facing functionality, merchants should also be aware of their needs when it comes to maintaining high levels of security when controlling customer data and processing individual payments, according to Chain Store Age. The good news is that most modern POS systems can do this with ease thanks to improved encryption and security software, but exploring all available options to determine the one that best suits any individual company’s needs is vital. This is also increasingly important when it comes to PCI compliance and other considerations merchants now have to deal with.

Get Everyone Involved
It’s worth noting that most modern POS machines are now designed to be sleek and easy to use, and as a wider variety of payment types come into broader use, issues related to intuitive use will likely evaporate. To that end, it’s perhaps more important for merchants to make long-term plans related to simply being able to accept as many different types of payments as possible, according to Business News Daily. By having a “big tent” approach to payment processing, merchants are able to keep their potential customer bases as big as possible.