Mobile POS Hits a Home Run

I bought an iPad at a local family owned electronics store in Mumbai recently and in the process had a fantastic experience that really hit home the point on ROI in mobility.

I selected the iPad I wanted, I started walking towards the cash register and the power went out in the entire block.

It was the weekend, the store was crowded with people. Probably at least 10% of them had a phone, a tablet, a DVD player, a toaster or whatever their hands selected for purchase. Half of them were likely to pay with a credit or a debit card.

If you were the owner of that store, you can imagine how this situation would have appeared to you. Its prime time for business at our store and your store is full of customers waiting to checkout their purchases. But alas, your store is dark and the harsh glare of the emergency lights you have turned on are serving only to highlight the harsh reality you are staring it: that of losing something like a few hundred thousand rupees of business as people walk out of your store empty handed because they intended to pay by a charge card and cannot anymore because the power is out.

I myself had two choices at that point: I could either hang around until the power came back, or I could walk out and come back later…or not.

What I didn’t know , because of what I was not observing was happening around me, was that I had a third option. What I had not been observing is that store owner was happily swiping people’s charge cards and checking out their purchases in the darkness.

What was making this possible was a tiny mobile POS device that had a 3.5 mm jack. The shop owner had plugged it into a 5000 rupees (100 dollar) Nokia phone, meaning that it worked even with low end J2ME phones. You slide your card through a slot on the device, the J2ME POS app running on the phone processes the card information, you authorize the transaction and its submitted via the cellular network just like on a network connected POS terminal. Once successful, you get a confirmation SMS. No receipt to be printed and there is nothing to sign.

Needless to say I got my Pad as planned and the store got my business.

Mobile POS terminals aren’t a new concept anymore. There are dozens of them available. What caught my attention that day is how extraordinarily compact and simple they have become. The piece I encountered in that shop was a half moon disk of plastic, no more than few centimeters across and a centimeter thick. It had a card slot on side and a 3.5 mm jack on its other side. That’s it!

Now that’s hitting it outside the stadium!

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