In the world of iPhone 6 and app stores, the technology actually deployed by small retailers remains bafflingly expensive, archaic and inflexible. Now, a new idea called Poynt may allow merchants to leap a generation and join the retail mainstream.
Typically, a shop has three technology touch points:
- A payment terminal supplied by the retailer’s bank (or a recommended partner of the bank). The bank works with the manufacturer (normally Ingenico or Verifone) to control the software, firmware and user experience on the terminal but has little incentive to innovate. 3rd party services such as tax free shopping or gift card schemes are difficult to integrate and generally only supplied on the bank’s terms.
- An EPOS system provided by one of several hundred sub-scale technology vendors lacking the resources to move ahead. This typically runs installed software on a locked-down Windows PC linked to a touch screen, scanner and cash drawer. EPOS vendors are notoriously recalcitrant when it comes to integration with 3rd party services.
- A PC in the back office used for payroll, stock control, accounting and placing orders with suppliers. Increasingly, these functions are also available on the shopkeeper’s mobile device too but don’t talk to either the EPOS or the payment terminal.
There’s a huge amount of technology innovation happening in retail right now – cloud based sales analytics, iBeacon based loyalty schemes and P2P financing initiatives to name but three. Sadly, while SME core payment and EPOS systems remain isolated and stranded old, inflexible technology, it will be hard to get full advantage of the best of the new ideas.
Here’s where Poynt comes in. It’s a new concept in payment terminals from Osama Bedier, the ex-Google mobile payments supremo, which could be the hub around which these new applications cluster.
Here are six reasons why Poynt might disrupt this market:
- Poynt has its own Android based OS and comes with an SDK and app store. Developers are welcomed not shunned. This should make Poynt the payment partner of choice for the next generation of EPOS vendors such as Vend. It should also be the ideal platform for loyalty schemes, tax free shopping providers, footfall monitors and anyone else that needs a technology point of presence in shops.
- The appstore is already looking good. Launch partners include Vend, Kabbage (financial services), Swarm (sales analytics), Bigcommerce (online sales platform) and Intuit.
- Prices are keen. Poynt says that it’s going to make its money from commission fees from the partners. The device retails at $299 and that compares favourable with a list price of c. $350 for a standard Ingenico iPP350.
- Poynt is working with the channel not against it. Most SME’s will continue to rent payment terminals from their bank so Poynt has signed up two large US banks as distributors. Poynt’s enhanced platform should allow these banks to offer a better customer experience than today.
- The machine is really elegant and looks rather more Apple-like than any of the old-style machines commercialised by Ingenico or Verifone. It will attract a ready market with brand-led retailers.
- The timing is perfect. The Americans are finally adopting chip & PIN so every payment terminal in the States needs replacing. That’s a great market to be selling to.
Poynt represents a break from the locked-down approach of the past. Launching at time of unprecedented market demand and with a very open approach to a previously closed eco-system, it could well become the in-store technology hub we’ve been waiting for.