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SMB Retail by Angela Diffly
Aures bakery1
Lasting Impressions

When you think about big-box retail store checkout spaces, what comes to mind? Slow-moving lines? Dirty conveyer belts? Grey, clunky cash registers? If you’re lucky, you get a real person who knows how to work the register, and offers a smile. For smaller retailers, the checkout area is a place to outshine even the largest retailers on the planet. With more personalized service, clean counters and sleek point-of-sale technologies, SMB retailers can exceed customer expectations when it comes to the last mile impression in stores. Technology companies are stepping up to the plate to deliver new and innovative solutions that look as great as they perform. We reached out to a few to find out how they’re taking the point-of-sale from eyesore to attention-getter.

Dean Heckler, founder and lead designer of Heckler Design believes the beauty of point-of-sale hardware is revolving, not evolving. “In the early years of cash registers (the late 1800s and early 1900s) a merchant’s cash register was a breathtaking point of pride. With the advent of the credit card in the 1950’s, aesthetics took a back seat to technology. The last four decades were the low point,” he said. But today, he believes SMB retailers are embracing new options, like attractive colors and minimalist installations using the latest, thinnest tablet hardware, along with unobtrusive payment terminals, to make a statement.

APG Cash Drawer’s VP of global marketing Stephen Bergeron thinks technology and innovation have driven the evolution of POS systems. “Historically, small retailers have used electronic cash registers (ECRs) as their POS solution. The introduction of tablet POS in software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications is allowing small retailers to take advantage of the cloud by integrating the function of the front-end POS with back office accounting,” he explained. Along with that, he pointed out that tablet POS also offers the retailer a more intuitive, image-driven interface – which helps with employee training and is especially helpful with employees who speak various languages.

Jeff Burroughs, VP of sales and marketing for French-headquartered POS manufacturer Aures believes “less is more” with new systems. “That’s not to say that computing requirements have changed,” he told us. “But the desire to have a sleek and simple device at the core of the POS solution is rapidly becoming the norm. The lasting customer impression should have little to do with the POS solution employed in the store – rather, the overall store aesthetic is the key to a lasting impression and the POS should complement that.” The company’s sleek lines and wild array of eye-catching colors appeal to distinguished brands, such as Bose, Starbucks and BMW. “Image-conscious companies are starting to require more from their POS suppliers, and there’s no reason to think that trend will slow down any time soon,” commented Burroughs.

Tasteful Tech

“For so long, point-of-sale hardware manufacturers thought of function first,” said Jon Levin, product integration manager at Star Micronics. “If the terminal, printer, scanner, cash drawer, etc. was reliable, that was all that mattered. Now, all these companies are delivering products with function and design in mind, accelerated by the rise of tablets in retail – which has driven peripheral manufacturers to design hardware that matches their sleek, slim design.”

Known as being “obsessed with simplicity”, Heckler Design’s Dean Heckler believes renewed attention to the brick-and-mortar checkout experience is the most important trend in retail today. “Customers constantly weigh the brick-and-mortar checkout experience to the online checkout experience,” he told us. “We’ve all witnessed customers abandoning the checkout line in frustration, only to buy online later. To keep your customers excited to buy – not just browse – in your shop, they must have a high level of curiosity and excitement for reaching the checkout counter. Impressive, tailored aesthetics, superb human interaction, and overall speed and efficiency of checkout are critical.”

‘Consumer looks with commercial functionality’ is how Aures describes its sleek POS systems. “There is no inherent reason why POS devices need to be the same old thing,” commented Burroughs. “They can be sleek, efficient and unobtrusive, while still being full-featured and ready for the rigor of retail environments.”

Great Expectations

APG Cash Drawer’s Bergeron believes consumer behavior is the driving force behind enhanced store design. “Online shopping, mobile wallets, contactless payments, mobile POS (mPOS) are all changing how retailers and consumers engage,” he said. The company can customize its cash drawers to fit into retail environments by doing things like mounting them under a display table to make them appear as part of the store’s furniture, integrating a lock box that allows cashiers to remove large bills, limiting access by only allowing authorized users to command the drawer open, and streamlining cabling to support mPOS solutions. Perhaps most exciting, at least aesthetically, the company is using magnetic graphic panels that affix to the drawers – allowing retailers to easily customize them, or use the drawer surface for advertising and promotions.

Star’s Levin agrees that customers are driving the way retailers reconfigure stores. “The modern retail environment is changing from the traditional merchandise in the front, cash wrap in the back to more of an interactive showroom where experience trumps all,” he told us. Designed for specialty, jewelry, apparel and electronics retailers who don’t accept high volumes of cash, the company’s all-in-one mPOP solution includes printer, cash drawer, scanner and device stand in one compact footprint.

Creative Concepts

Heckler’s most frequent customization projects involve simple modifications to stock tablet enclosures and payment terminal stands to seamlessly blend tablet, payment terminal, cash drawer, and barcode scanner into a cohesive unit. “In this way the retailer benefits from both hardware flexibility, best-of-breed device technology, and aesthetics that are tailored to their brand identity,” Heckler told us. The company has also designed self-service kiosks and mobile POS tablets, which it plans to release in the coming months.

Star’s Levin mentioned the flexibility of today’s POS applications, with the ability to work on Windows, Android and iPad tablets. “Retailers can mix and match solutions, like a large till if they have high-volume cash transactions paired with a sleek tablet-based system. The proliferation of enclosures available for tablets also gives retailers more choices,” he told us.

Heckler pointed out that some retailers have gone beyond aesthetic customization to enable customer interactivity via dual-tablet screens at the point-of-sale. With these systems, customer-facing screens might display promotions, daily specials, quick quips that tell the shop’s story, or newsletter or loyalty program signups. “These added elements often spark conversation between the customer and the employee. And these conversations lead to relationship-building. The point of sale should be an opportunity to deepen the relationship with the customer in some way,” he added.

Style By Design

Some retailers shy away from customized POS solutions, whether they be in various colors or unique form factors, out of uncertainty surrounding minimum quantity order requirements. But customization is possible, even with just a few units.

“We have developed custom hardware for as few as five units. That stated, our processes lend themselves well to 100-unit minimum production runs,” Heckler told us. APG Cash Drawer can customize its magnetic graphic panels for a small number of units, while understandably custom metal work requires a higher minimum.

Aures boasts a number of products in multiple colors and styles, including one that comes in seven different colors, with no minimum order requirements. “Retailers spend a tremendous amount of time and energy on the overall aesthetic of their stores, so why must they be limited to ‘grey-box’ point-of-sale devices?” asked Burroughs. As stylish new systems pop up at the POS, there seem to be no limit to what’s next.