Monday, January 21, 2013

What a POS!: The Cluttered World of Payments

And by POS I mean point-of-sale. 

In many ways, this old school register featured above was a bit more simple. As indicated by the case box below, the only form of payment accepted was likely to be cash (and maybe checks). There was little room for consumer or merchant confusion. 

Yet, today, I chuckled a bit when I paid a visit to my local coffee shop. I had often noticed to that there were numerous devices near the area where customers pay. But today, it looked as if a mini-Radio Shack had sprouted its roots on the counter. 

"How many different POS applications do you have running back there?", I asked while pointing at the iPad and 3 phones. 

The happy employees began to reel off the list. Lavu on the iPad which allowed for the swiping of credit cards. LevelUp was nearby. One iPhone just so happened to be running the coffee house's standalone loyalty app which could recognize when a customer that had downloaded the app entered the store ("But they don't get credit unless they tell us their name. Otherwise it'd be too much to keep track of.")

"And what about that last phone?"

"Oh, that's just the phone we use to play music from the Songza app." 

The fragmentation in the payments space only seems to be growing. Curious to know when the consolidation will begin that will bring loyalty and multi-method payments together seamlessly. Thus far, we've seen shimmers of promise coupled with tons of false starts. 

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