Tablet-based POS solutions

POStabletblogimageIf you are a business owner, you have probably realized the days of needing a cash register shackled to one spot as a POS system are over. Thanks to recent technological advances, there are a number of new POS solutions available to your business.

Smaller devices such as phones and tablets have taken over at the point-of-sale. Some mobile devices include credit card scanners in which a customer can physically swipe their means of payment, while newer technology consists of devices using Near-Field-Communication (NFC), which allows a customer to simply tap the device being used in order to make a purchase.  If you want to learn more about NFC technology check out our blog post on the mobile wallet here.

Tablet-based solutions have become a strong trend in the world of POS.  Why do more businesses prefer these new tablet point-of-sale solutions?  Well—they are improving the way businesses function, while increasing sales; and they cost much less.

The biggest appeal to the tablet POS is the mobility it presents. Using a tablet POS allows retail sales associates to roam the store, look up prices, handle returns, and even check out customers wherever they are standing.  This minimizes long lines, wait times, speeds up the transaction process, and ultimately the customer is happier.  Tablet-based POS solutions are even able to recognize and store your businesses reward or loyalty cards, which can greatly enhance your business as well!

Retailers aren’t the only business types utilizing mobile POS systems. The restaurant business is clearly following this trend as well.  Dining establishments are getting on board with tablet-based POS solutions for the same reasons as retailers. The use of tablet POS systems is enhancing guest’s dining experiences and how the back-end of business operates. These tablet POS systems can be placed tableside at each individual table, allowing customers to order, pay their bill, and even play games or trivia directly from the device.

Another advantage of tablet POS solutions is that they allow flexibility in today’s demanding business world.  Thanks to cloud-based technology, business owners can manage their operations on-the-go because they’ll have access to critical analytics and sales data at their fingertips. Cloud-based technology also improves the speed in which businesses can access help desks with troubleshooting issues from remote locations.

At Alpha Card Services, we can offer your business a number of intuitive and comprehensive POS solutions.  We have developed POS solutions for restaurant, retail, and salon applications. Our POS systems are easy-to-use, and most importantly reliable. We understand that owning and operating a successful business is a 24/7 process, and you need to depend on a system that can help you efficiently manage it all.

Keep a lookout for more information regarding our next generation tablet POS solution that will be launching soon. In the meantime, please keep yourself connected by visiting the Alpha Card website and following us on Facebook and Twitter!


Cloud Based POS: Growing and Revolutionizing the Way You Do Business

Cloud computing is not only a buzzword; it is a method of computing that you can use to grow your business. Cloud computing is a form of Internet based computing where shared resources, software, and information is provided to computers and devices on demand. Think of it like an electricity grid, where you get the electricity when you demand it, you don’t have to store it and waste space trying to keep it available and secure. Clouds are getting more secure and more user friendly every day.  And the uses, like other exciting new technologies, are seemingly infinite.

Today we’ll discuss how cloud computing can help you with your point of sale (POS) system. We have discussed POS a little, here and there. But this time we are going to focus on how a cloud based POS system can help your business.  Alpha Card Services offers a cutting edge cloud based system to help you deal with your business POS needs.

Cloud based software is beneficial for many reasons, not the least of which is saving money.  First, there is nothing to install. The software usually runs in a web browser and Internet servers take care of the rest. The cloud will automatically back up your information, making saving files unnecessary (sort of like with Google Documents, but with more than just a typing program). Then the server system secures the information on the cloud and keeps it safe until you need it again. No more back-up server and maintenance costs for your business!

With Alpha POS Systems you can count on the fact that you will always be on the cusp of the latest technology, and that information is in a secure location, even with changes in technology. Not only is it secure against outsiders, but it is held for your benefit, and you can set up the information you need.

So beyond providing basic computer storage; how can cloud computing help? Have you thought about your POS system lately? Think about using cloud based POS for menus, discounts, loyalty programs, and card processing, all without anything more than internet access. The POS system can also run without an active Internet connection, so if you lose access for a time, there is no need to shut down the store or restaurant.

Your typical retail POS can handle a myriad of customer transactions including payment, gift cards, returns, exchanges, coupons, and layaway. The POS system should also help you track inventory, sales, profits (or losses on a slow day) and create more efficient business management. The same capabilities exist in cloud based POS, and again, its saving you money by taking away the need for your business to physically store and back-up the information.

POS in a hospitality business, such as a restaurant or an inn can not only process all necessary payment transactions, but also track sales or menu items, labor and payroll compared to the money coming into the business, and generate records you need for accounting and bookkeeping. POS has revolutionized the restaurant industry in particular; the efficiency of POS systems has decreased service times and noticeably increased efficiency in the kitchen and in the management department. Now consider how the money saving and efficiency building capabilities of cloud based computing can further revolutionize your restaurant, and how it can help your business continue to grow.

Not only does the cloud help the customer get prompt service, but a distance manager can also benefit from the cloud based POS; imagine checking your inventory needs while riding the train to Timbuktu. When you can check up on your business in real time, you will know you can relax and manage your business without micromanaging your business.

The server you choose is important. You need a host who has the bandwidth and the technology available to get your information to you when you need it. To go back to our electricity analogy, you wouldn’t want to experience any rolling blackouts while you are trying to get crucial information for a customer.

If all of this is sounding too good to be true, thank technology. And if all of this is sounding like the way to grow your business and better serve your customers, then give us a call and find out just how easily you can implement a cloud based POS in your business.

Can I have an iPad with that order?

I don’t know about you, but I long for the day when I won’t have to leaf through filthy restaurant menus, caked by spaghetti sauce and other assorted “unknowns”.  Printed menus have long been a thorn in the side of restaurant owners and general managers, due to ever increasing print production costs and the inflexibility of revising pricing and menu items as needed.  Often you’ll see hastily prepared and unprofessional looking special sheets added to the menu as an afterthought.  Or what about those multi-colored chalk boards announcing the daily specials as you enter the restaurant?  If you’re a diner like me, you want the selection and ordering process to be as enjoyable as the food.

There may be an answer to these issues.  Within the past year or so, particularly with the advent of the tablet computer, there have a number of restaurants transitioning their printed menu to a digital version, through the use of an iPad.

Basically digital menu technology works something like this example.  A group of 4 diners enter a restaurant and approach the maître d’ station.  Instead of pulling out 4 menus, a wine list and a specials menu, the maître d’ undocks an iPad, and assigns it to a table number via the POS system.  The diners are seated then take turns ordering from the iPad…drinks from the bar, appetizers, salads, main courses and eventually desserts. By the way, items can be ordered as desired; not all at the same time with traditional menus.  The menu selection experience is much more interactive than ever before.  Crisp appetite-appealing images of the menu item entice the diners, along with accurate portion sizes, complete nutritional and food allergy information, even a comments field.

The orders are then transmitted to a head server equipped with a similar device or smartphone, who is responsible for verifying each diner’s request, and then subsequently pushing that order into the kitchen or bar for preparation.  In the kitchen, the order would print to a kitchen printer or display on a flat screen monitor.  Additionally the functionality of the digital menu system is integrated seamlessly into the restaurant’s POS system to ensure a turnkey solution.

While the order is being prepared, the iPad would re-charge at a tableside docking station, or back at the maître d’ station.  Newer versions of digital menu software have built-in social media links to Facebook and Twitter, enabling guests to Like or Tweet their overall experience at the restaurant, or just review a menu item they enjoyed.  Additionally some iPads are loaded with interactive games that allow diners to pass the time as they are waiting for their order to arrive.  Other add-on technologies could be an integrated digital signage system that prominently displays kitchen or bar items, restaurant events and promotions to patrons.

Once the meal is finished the restaurant POS system reconciles the check, and the head server could attach a mobile processing card swiper to the iPad so diners can easily pay their bill, sign the screen and leave.

For the restaurant, this appears to be a win-win scenario. While there is an investment of hardware (iPads) and software (digital menu customer facing application and backend technology) to launch the system, the bonuses far outweigh the drawbacks.

  • No more printed menus.  It is extremely easy for the restaurateur to create or modify his menu items.  This is a major reduction of costs for the restaurant.
  • Pricing can be revised at any time, not just at the menu print date.
  • Do they really need all those servers now: memorizing orders and shuttling back and forth from the kitchen to the table?  Perhaps just a head server “captain” and some glorified “bus people”…
  • Reduction of errors.  No more memorization of orders, particularly with those finicky diners.
  • Restaurant would be creating a new kind of ambiance…iPads or tablets at the table.  New concepts like this create a buzz in the restaurant industry.
  • Integration with POS.  This fully digital system for the restaurant owner enables him to easily focus on the business side and ensure that items are priced correctly, inventory is sufficient and profit margins are acceptable.

Digital menus are not for every restaurant.  However for a restaurant that is on the cutting edge of technology and wants to reach out and engage customers, this may be the right solution.  Digital menu vendors are offering options of complete purchase and leasing options to restaurants.  Essentially the technology is really the proprietary software created for the menu application and the backend module that integrates with various POS systems.  In theory, restaurants could provide their own tablet computers and contract with a vendor for the software application and continuing support package.  Look to Alpha Card Services offering this digital menu solution as part of our POS system…

As a diner who is always looking for the next big thing, digital menus are something that I would like to see more of in the near future.  I’ve attached link of a video of a restaurant in Atlanta that has this same thinking and what they are doing.

Are digital receipts and mobile card processing the next evolution of commerce?

How often have you waited in line at the local home improvement store for the one clerk to checkout 20 patrons; often with tired, screaming children running through the aisles?  Perhaps you’ve enjoyed a long meal at a Zagat-rated restaurant, and you’ve been waiting for over a ½ hour for your server to process your check.  You know the story; its wait, wait, and wait some more!  Waiting is what we seem to do best these days.  If you’re like me, when you purchase a product or service, you want to get in and out of the retail environment as soon as possible, with no complications at the register.

Recently, an increasing number of retailers and restaurants are offering mobile credit card processing as a solution to alleviate these long checkout queues, as well as enjoy other benefits to the merchant and consumers.  In a nutshell, the merchant utilizes a placement reader or card swiper that attaches directly to a smartphone, such as the iPhone, Android or Blackberry.  A smartphone app downloaded by the merchant provides the technology for credit card processing, digital signatures and electronic receipt transmission to the customer.  The merchant swipes the customer’s card through the placement reader, the card transaction processes in the background, the customer signs the smartphone screen and a receipt is emailed to the customer’s email inbox.

Beyond the obvious convenience factor of reducing retail checkout queues and the efficiency of emailing a receipt directly to a customer email inbox, merchants are starting to tout the other benefits that accompany mobile credit card processing.  Merchants that are migrating towards paperless, digital receipts are finding that expensive to maintain receipt printers are no longer necessary.  This in turn reduces the merchant’s receipt paper and printer ink costs.  With a reduction of paper usage, merchants can now champion the environmentally friendly aspect of paperless receipts in their green marketing campaigns.  Customers also appreciate the green alternative to a crumbled receipt that often gets misplaced.

Cardholder security is a major concern for both merchants and customers alike.  Most mobile processing systems are equipped with rigorous encryption standards that meet or exceed conventional processing terminals.  For example, Alpha Card Service’s QwickPAY mobile processing device surpasses current PCI DSS standards by combining multi-layered MagneSafe™ security, in addition to encrypting card data from the point-of-swipe.  The QwickPAY service enables merchants to use their existing mobile devices to make secure, card present transactions anytime and anywhere, without the concerns of storing sensitive card data.

For merchants, there are clear opportunities for direct marketing with obtaining the customer’s email address.  Special offers, coupons, newsletters and social media outreach are all possible with this direct relationship with the customer.  However, some privacy advocates have expressed concern that obtaining customer email accounts constitute an intrusion into personal information.  As electronic receipts have been optional for consumers thus far, most of these concerns are unfounded.

As a person who is frequently impatient with long lines and slow checkout staff, I fully embrace this transformation to digital receipts and mobile credit card processing.