In the past decade, POS systems have evolved from terminals near the exit—tended by employees, to self-service checkout kiosks—where the customer can complete a transaction without staff intervention, to powerful tools that engage buyers across multiple touchpoints. In fact, today’s POS may be an experience wherever the customer wants it, thanks to the expansion in types of POS systems.
A customer’s ultimate desire is to easily find, buy, receive, and return goods anytime, anywhere. For many businesses, meeting customer expectations may take the form of multidevice POS systems, with fixed POS terminals throughout the store and mobile POS (mPOS) when customer traffic demands it. The introduction of autonomous stores will remove checkout altogether. Customers who have indicated their payment preferences will simply walk in, take what they want, and leave, being charged for only the things they’ve taken.
Many retailers, restaurants, and hospitality businesses are moving toward these technology-enabled experiences. But merging physical and digital commerce demands an inventive approach to POS systems. Customers expect businesses to know what they want and to provide seamless experiences as they move between different brand outlets, from online, mobile, and social platforms to in-person physical locations during their purchasing journeys.
Modern POS systems enable cross-channel purchasing experiences, including click and collect or Buy Online Pickup in Store (BOPIS), where shoppers buy products online and pick them up at a physical location. Likewise, endless aisle experiences support customers who can’t find the just-right product in store. Customers can, through a self-service kiosk or with staff assistance—using a mobile POS system—check inventory, compare products, and purchase items for shipment directly to their homes, helping capture additional sales that may have otherwise been lost1.
Modern POS Business Benefits
One challenge for businesses in the past was the delay in understanding the nuances of customer transactions, which meant potential lost opportunities for greater customer service, promotion, and even revenue. Now, combining POS systems with in-store edge computing solutions that collect and analyze data in near-real time enables businesses to enhance the customer shopping experience in the moment.
With the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) businesses can leverage object detection, motion analytics at the POS-enabled checkout station, and digital sensors to support loss prevention.
AI in POS systems can also help with such functions as handle orders, manage inventory, highlight product trends, alert on lagging customer engagement, suggest promotions, support production requirements, and manage employees.
In an example of what’s possible with intelligent technology solutions, the first cashierless coffee shop has recently become a reality, demonstrating how AI and POS systems can support new business models.
Features of Contactless POS
A significant sustainable differentiator and competitive edge in business today is what customers experience with brands. By proactively and thoughtfully designing a POS system as part of the customer experience, the business can better meet customer expectations and deliver greater perceived value.
At the same time, the business benefits through the expanded capabilities of a modern POS system for operations and analytics. When the POS is integrated with other business systems, the possibilities become almost limitless.
Contactless POS for Touch-Free Transactions
The latest retail technology solutions are empowering retailers to deliver more engaging experiences and unprecedented convenience. Accordingly, POS systems, from desktop to mPOS to tablet POS to thin client, will need to integrate new ways of enabling seamless, touch-free purchases. POS systems must connect online orders with in-store pickups smoothly. Just as importantly, savvy retailers will offer convenient returns both online and in the store, regardless of the initial purchase method.
Contactless technology is readily available today. Operating through voice- and gesture-based interactions and including contactless payment options, such as mobile wallets and near-field communication (NFC)-enabled payments, these technologies offer more engaging and efficient transactions while addressing customer health and hygiene expectations.
Next-level contactless POS systems use technologies including computer vision, artificial intelligence and deep learning, and edge-enabled sensors to further streamline and enhance the customer buying journey. The addition of opt-in biometric detection, such as facial or palm recognition, can help loyalty programs run without the need for separate cards or phone numbers as well.
In a real-world application example, Intel ecosystem partner Advantech, in collaboration with Neurolabs, offers a canteen self-service checkout system that uses computer vision and deep learning to identify what’s on a customer’s food tray, automatically adding items to the POS system for customer review and payment. Removing the need for a human to scan or key in items increases checkout speed, which reduces customer time in line and frees staff to focus on food quality, canteen cleanliness, and customer service.
Autonomous stores further remove staff intervention and POS friction from the shopping experience. Customers indicate their payment preference upon entry. Edge-enabled sensors build virtual baskets as shopping customers add and remove products to physical baskets. When service is needed, AI chatbots help answer questions. And when the customer is ready to leave, they review their bill and exit the store, being charged only for the items in their basket. Intelligent shelving, integrated with inventory systems, notifies staff of product needs postcheckout or when products have been placed somewhere other than their original location.
Customers expect seamless experiences as they move between channels and devices. The latest POS systems are merging the best of physical and digital environments with features like AI and analytics.
Data Collection from POS
Data from point of sales systems lets businesses improve customer experiences and communications, enhance sales reporting and inventory management products, and identify new revenue possibilities. Being able to manage data, record transactions, and communicate with the data center in near-real time can be game changing for business owners to understand their customers better. To share the same data across devices and locations and unify customer experiences, POS systems must run on the same operating system. But the first priority is to help keep customer data secure.
Security and POS
Providing encryption at the POS and transmitting data via secure network devices and protocols can help retail stores and hospitality businesses support a cybersecurity strategy and comply with industry-standard regulations. The Intel vPro® platform builds on that by delivering hardware-enhanced security features that help protect all layers in the computing stack. Additionally, with processors on the Intel vPro® platform, your IT team can enable Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT) to remotely manage devices. This helps minimize downtime and improve customer experience as well as reduce costs.
Modern Software Architecture and POS
The key to delivering the shopping experiences your customers want and growing your market share is a multifaceted POS strategy that addresses current expectations and adapts to future possibilities. However, staying current with the latest capabilities can add complexity as multiple systems and third-party application programming interfaces (APIs) are integrated and additional compute power is needed.
Retailers increasingly want to consolidate their application development from mobile to in-store POS. This requires the flexibility to use multiple operating systems in a physical environment. Advances in virtual machines and containers now allow retailers to run multiple operating systems on the same premises without requiring additional hardware or integration.
Most businesses will likely integrate new technologies one at a time to improve customer experiences and business efficiency. Software tools such as the Intel® Distribution of OpenVINO™ toolkit will make it much easier to implement computer vision and deep learning across multiple applications and platforms.
For example, in the previously referenced Advantech Neurolabs canteen checkout system, Neurolabs used the Intel® Distribution of OpenVINO™ toolkit during development to optimize the inference models that enable the kiosk’s automated visualization capability.
Businesses also benefit from new technologies built upon a common open framework. This enables an ecosystem in which components can be interchanged with ease and speed. The Open Retail Initiative (ORI) is a collaborative effort by Intel and other top technology firms to support open solutions that deliver value and exciting service models that enhance customer loyalty.
Common, open source middleware can simplify the integration of individual solutions by letting vendors publish and subscribe to data from other vendors while also supporting all operating systems, hardware, and communications protocols. This open approach to data sharing facilitates data fusion and provides a more accurate picture of analytics to help solve retail problems. In this way, the ORI will adjust to ultimately benefit businesses as future technologies transform every step of the customer journey.
Future of Cloud POS
As businesses increasingly blend online and in-store transactions, they will likely rely on cloud services to support faster, more agile POS services. A growing number of POS systems use integrated cloud solutions as server-based, on-premises software gives way to progressive web applications that operate like those on your smartphone.
Depending on your devices and requirements, computing may take place either in the cloud or on the device itself. If in-store devices are thin clients, for instance, then businesses may choose to use cloud services or an in-house server. But for advanced technologies, like computer vision and artificial intelligence, sending large amounts of data to the cloud can be costly. Instead, businesses may look to edge devices to collect and analyze critical data needed to run the business in near-real time.
Further, Intel-powered 5G networks can enable an omnichannel retail revolution, seamlessly integrating physical and digital experiences to engage shoppers and reduce costs for retailers.
By engaging with the customer regardless of their location, whether in store or online, the POS system becomes a tool to enhance the business’s brand value.
Intel: Your POS Partner
Customer behavior is dynamic, and POS systems must keep up as a powerful way to support customer expectations and engagement. Intel and our ecosystem of partners offer technologies that continue to evolve the modern POS experience to both support customers and surface ways to improve business operations, increase efficiency, and identify new growth opportunities.