Mobile POS | 9 mins read

Complete Guide to Mobile POS- How to Choose the Right System

complete guide to mobile pos how to choose the right system
Jin Hyun

By Jin Hyun

Mobile POS systems are quickly gaining popularity due to their flexibility, customer experience-enhancing features, and the ability to aggregate essential data.

In 2018, a study by Juniper Research predicted that the adoption of mobile point of sale (mPOS) systems would drive mPOS transactions to over 87 billion by 2023 - a threefold increase from the 28 billion transactions recorded that year. Juniper also forecasted that mobile POS transactions would account for 24% of all POS transactions by 2023 based on usage models.

Meanwhile, another report by Global Market Insights predicted that the market value of mPOS devices would reach $80 billion by 2026. The report also noted that the growth in adoption will be driven by the increasing popularity of digital payment methods.

From the perspective of a business owner, investing in mobile POS solutions takes careful consideration and budgeting. While the benefits of flexibility and improved customer experience are incomparable to legacy POS solutions, it's important to consider the return on investment and support features available.

Mobile Point-of-Sale Systems Explained

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Mobile POS is a catch-all term that refers to the hardware and software components of a mobile, cloud-enabled point of sale system.

With many traditional POS systems, all transactional data is stored at the site of the cash register, which is usually linked to an onsite server. At the end of a business day, these transactions are manually tracked and cross-referenced with inventory records. While many modern POS systems can now do these things in real-time, mPOS solutions come with the extra feature of mobility. This means that-

  • On the hardware side of things, the mPOS system consists of tablet devices and smartphones, which replace desktop computers and traditional POS terminals. They can also come with peripherals, such as a debit/credit card reader, NFC (near field communication) chip scanner, barcode scanner, or a receipt printer.
  • The mPOS software links all of these devices together and leverages cloud technology to capture and store sales and customer information from any location. This gives businesses the flexibility to process orders at any place and time, provided there is an Internet connection.
The simplest way to summarize the functions of an mPOS system is to describe it as a cash register or electronic POS terminal that can accept transactions wirelessly, inside or outside of the physical business premises.

Mobile POS vs. Mobile Payments

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Although mPOS systems and mobile payments (or mPayments) are often conflated, the two terms refer to completely different transaction models.

An mPOS system generally pertains to a point of sale software and hardware ecosystem that is based on mobile devices. In contrast, mobile payments are an umbrella term for payment options available to customers using mobile devices. These options include-

  • Mobile wallets, such as Android Pay and Apple Pay
  • Mobile money transfers, such as PayPal, Venmo, and TransferWise
  • Peer to peer payments (P2P) payments (based on money transfer platforms)
The technologies that make mobile payments possible can also be found in many mPOS systems - hence the confusion between the two terms. In any case, small businesses must be prepared for the shift in consumer preferences to mobile alternatives by investing in mPOS systems that accept a wide variety of mobile payments.

Benefits of Mobile POS Systems

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The ability to move the business's point of purchase may not seem like a big modification, but it can dramatically improve the customer experience and simultaneously make it easier for staff members to perform their duties. Here's a quick look at some of the benefits of using an mPOS system.

  • Shorter Checkout Lines
No consumer wants to spend too much time waiting in line, especially during peak shopping hours. A long queue not only takes up store space, but it can also dissuade shoppers from entering the establishment.

When lines begin to form and cash registers are busy, businesses can simply deploy associates to process each customer's purchase with an mPOS-enabled smartphone or tablet. This is ideal for customers with few items that staff can quickly check out.

  • Faster and Simpler Checkout Process
An mPOS system can speed up and improve the overall checkout process by providing customers with multiple options to pay for their purchases. Look for mobile POS systems that support debit cards, credit cards, gift cards, and coupons, as well as mobile wallets and NFC-enabled devices. Customers will appreciate being able to swipe or tap for their purchases without having to go to the checkout counter.

  • Better and Quicker Customer Service
Traditional POS systems have a tendency of compartmentalizing the customer experience. If a customer has an inquiry on the floor about the availability of an item in a certain color or size, they need to look for a sales assistant. That person, in turn, has to check with another staff member in the stock room. However, for businesses with mPOS systems, the consumer simply needs to seek a staff member with a tablet or smartphone or go directly to the point of sale.

An mPOS system helps employees do a better job of helping customers. For example, sales staff can simply pull up inventory information from their phones or tablets to answer customers' inquiries about the stock and mark an item for checkout if the customer wants to purchase it.

  • Flexibility
mPOS systems are perfect for non-traditional businesses or businesses that don't operate out of a brick-and-mortar store. Think food trucks, events companies, pop-up stores, trade shows, and professional services - basically any business that is constantly moving to get to customers.

  • Customer Insights
An mPOS can be a valuable tool for capturing key customer information and using it to provide better service. With an mPOS system, sales staff can quickly look up a customer's purchase history and loyalty rewards to engage customers more effectively.

Brands Using Mobile POS Systems

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Companies that are ahead of the curve are already reaping the benefits of mPOS systems. The following are some major brands leveraging these solutions.

  • Sephora
Beauty and personal care chain Sephora is a pioneer in the mPOS landscape. In 2011, the company introduced a mobile POS system at its flagship store in New York City's meatpacking district and rolled it out to more stores in the months that followed. The mPOS system was also integrated with Sephora's loyalty program, allowing sales associates to provide personalized one-on-services to customers.

  • Apple
Apple Stores are famous for their clean, minimalist interiors. Rather than taking up counter space with bulky stationary POS systems, Apple uses iPads, iPhones, and Macbooks to process purchases and inquiries. This eliminates a centralized point-of-purchase and creates a customer-centric experience where sales associates approach customers instead of the other way around.

  • Jamba Juice
In 2018, Jamba Juice migrated to a mobile, cloud-based POS system to meet their need for real-time data and analytics. The mPOS solution provides an agile system for Jamba Juice's evolving needs and ensures that the brand's POS systems across all branches get frequent updates seamlessly.

8 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Mobile POS

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Switching to or investing in an mPOS system is not a decision to be taken lightly. Below are eight things to consider when looking for a POS solution.

1. Support for EMV Chip Credit Cards

Today's credit cards are equipped with EMV (Europay, Mastercard, and Visa) chips, which means that the traditional method of swiping a card is slowly being replaced by tapping the card reader or inserting the chip under its pin pad. The magnetic stripe is still there, of course, but it's a good idea to look for mobile POS systems that support contactless chip cards to future-proof your investment.

2. Support for Mobile Payments

Near field communication technology allows devices like smartphones and tablets to emulate contactless cards. The payment is then processed by an e-wallet app such as Google Wallet, Apple Pay, or AliPay. While mobile payments have been slow to take off in the US, they are already commonplace in different parts of the world.

3. Cross-Platform Support

Look for mPOS solutions that support a variety of devices, including smartphones (both Android and iOS), tablet devices, and even laptop computers. This allows the business to be flexible when helping customers. For example, a sales associate can use a tablet to help customers on the floor, while other consumers can browse through products on a laptop.

4. Support for Multiple Registers

Growing businesses may need mPOS systems that support multiple registers in the same store or across multiple locations and branches. For restaurants, the mPOS solution must have the ability to open multiple accounts - one for every customer - at the same time. Each account is closed after the customer pays for their meal.

Meanwhile, businesses with multiple locations need an mPOS system that supports continuous connectivity between all mobile devices and terminals.

5. Customer Relationship Management Features

Data has the capability to transform business performance - this is especially true when customer data is concerned. A reliable mPOS system will have the ability to track every customer that visits the business and record their information, including-

  • If they are a new or repeat customer
  • The number of items they purchased
  • The total gross value of their purchase
  • How often they return to the business
  • The amount of money they spend on average during each visit
This data allows business owners to understand their customers' buying habits, which can be used to build a loyalty program or even upsell and cross-sell items customers may be interested in.

6. Cost of Hardware

Hardware acquisition costs are perhaps the biggest concern business owners have when implementing a point of sale system. The good news is that many mobile POS systems are compatible with iPads, iPhones, Android smartphones, and Android tablets. This makes their initial investment much lower than traditional POS systems. Be sure to check with the mPOS provider if they require proprietary hardware or support general consumer devices.

7. Employee Management

Employee theft is an unfortunate aspect of doing business, especially in the retail industry. mPOS systems can help monitor employee actions whenever they interact with customers and product inventory. Look for mPOS systems with employee management features to make it easier to hold employees accountable and reduce human error.

8. Offline Mode

Some business owners may be concerned that mobile point of sale systems are less secure or prone to downtime whenever there is an Internet outage. This is a valid concern as debit and credit card transactions require online access. However, many mPOS solutions have multiple offline functions, such as processing cash transactions, accessing customers' order histories, or looking at the gross sales for the day. These are essential features for any mPOS system.

How Can Businesses Implement Mobile POS Systems?

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Using a mobile POS system isn't just a matter of buying the software and installing it onto devices. There are a few final considerations to ensure the implementation process can be as seamless as possible.

  • For Restaurants
The biggest factor to consider when rolling out an mPOS system in a restaurant is how it can improve the guest experience. At the least, the system should have seating management, reservations management, and even a dashboard for online order deliveries.

The mPOS must also be accessible to key personnel in the restaurant, including the host/hostess, server, cashier, and bookkeeper. This means that the restaurant must set aside time to train these people to use the mPOS effectively.

  • For Retail Businesses
Similarly, retailers need to have a deep understanding of their buyers' journey to maximize their mPOS' value. Deploying an mPOS can also be an opportunity to rethink the store's layout, bearing in mind the freedom of movement that the systems can offer to customers. The company must also provide training to teach sales associates, cashiers, and inventory management staff to use the mPOS solution effectively and safely.


Mobile point of sale systems offer a plethora of benefits for business owners, their employees, and customers. The key is to choose the right system for the needs of the company.