iPad POS for Enterprise? What You Need to Know

Back in 2013, Forbes suggested that the iPad might be “the future of retail”. Has that turned out to be the case? For retailers trying to keep up with the breakneck pace of technological change, and especially larger businesses, it’s an important question to ask. Is a mobile POS option something that will help stave off the retail apocalypse? It certainly has created clear opportunities for smaller retail businesses hoping to find an edge. But is an iPad POS the right choice across the board for an enterprise retail business?

In truth, part of surviving comes down to effectively answering those questions. For a larger business, it can be difficult to react quickly. Major decision making can seem like steering a supertanker. You need to think carefully about which way to turn, because you’ll be going that way for a while. If you choose poorly, changing your mind isn’t as easy as CTRL-Z.

At Erply, we think that point of sale on a tablet is a great enhancement to a retail enterprise, but not necessarily a replacement. There are some good reasons to consider adopting it, and some very good reasons not to throw out your existing infrastructure just yet.

Traditional Windows-Based POS System

While some businesses, like Apple, are doing away with the traditional point of sale and with it the dedicated “cash wrap” location at the front of the store, there are a number of benefits to keeping that setup in play, at least for the time being. The most obvious of which is that it’s still a familiar idea to your customers. When you’re ready to buy, you go to the front of the store and look for the counter where an employee is standing, with the big screen, the cash drawer, the receipt printer, bags, and all the other familiar things that signal to the customer, “this is where I need to go.” A crowded store without a dedicated checkout and no clear process for who goes next? Think for a bit about how that’s going to work out.

In addition to that, there are some other areas where the traditional setup can be an advantage:

  • Easier Support. Windows-based POS systems have the advantage of remote login, so a support agent can virtually be looking over your shoulder at what’s going on. An iPad won’t allow this option, so the support agent will have less visibility into what’s happening.
  • More Peripherals. The nature of Windows is that it’s really easy for a third party to create an adaptor to connect to your system. You’ll have a wider range of options. For an iPad, the supported hardware has to be built into the POS code itself. You will have a decent range of options, probably more than enough for any small business, but for an enterprise organization, you may find the choices a bit restrictive in some cases.
  • Back Office. This might not technically count as “point of sale”, but there are going to be important back-end functions in your software that will be easier to manage with a full on PC. Importing spreadsheets to manage your inventory, for example.

You could also argue that a traditional setup has some maintenance advantages. If the display on your Windows POS malfunctions, you can swap in a new display pretty easily. If your tablet breaks, you’ve effectively lost the whole register.

iPad POS System

The advantages of an iPad POS — or really anything based on a mobile device — may seem like they’re focused on small businesses, but it’s not necessarily the case.

Erply’s POS works great on an iPad.

  • Low Cost of Entry. Many iPad POS systems are offered at a competitive cost, with a somewhat streamlined setup. A business can often make a modest investment to get all the necessary software setup on a tablet, a bluetooth printer, and even a stand for it, if you want to retain that traditional “cashwrap” approach. Most if not all tablet solutions will be cloud based, so there’s no burden of infrastructure costs, no worry about the need for an IT person. For an enterprise retail business, an iPad POS creates a highly effective solution to support traditional registers during a rush. If you only have two physical spaces in a store dedicated to checkout, with traditional setups, you can hand an employee a tablet and a scanner to instantly create a third.
  • Flexibility. Because a tablet is a mobile device, an iPad POS allows the user to bring the POS anywhere. It’s a great option for a pop-up store, for a mobile business like landscaping, or any business where you come to the customer. For an enterprise business with standard checkout solutions, this may open the door to new customer experiences. Think about how a mobile POS can help you reach customers more quickly, or more effectively.
  • Beyond the POS. While a tablet might not be ideal for the heavier back-office functions, it’s a pretty great solution for stocktaking. Get rid of the clipboard approach and hand an employee a tablet. Because it’s the same software, this same employee is effectively on standby to become the extra register described above if things get busy.

Erply’s inventory management functions allow for easy stocktaking on an iPad.

The Enterprise Solution

The smart move for enterprise retail businesses seems to be something of a hybrid. Is an iPad POS a smart choice to provide a flexible response to the constantly changing retail landscape? Absolutely. Should you move away from all your existing POS infrastructure and double down on the mobile approach? No. Not yet, anyway.

As it has always been, the real differentiator for an enterprise retail business is going to be “under the hood”, so to speak. All the cool gadgets and approaches won’t matter if you can’t effectively track the impact. Can the company in question integrate fully with your ERP software? Do they know how to roll out their software across your enterprise without major disruptions in service? Do they offer hosting at the level of security you require?

Because if they can’t do all that, an iPad isn’t going to matter one way or another.

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