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  • NETMEDIA International

[Tribune] Providing point-of-sale connectivity, the prerequisite for any shopping experience

To secure your payment system and protect against network outages, you need to think about optimising your fleet and monitoring each terminal.

An outage in the home network causes most consumers to experience successive interruptions, depriving them of an increasing number of connected services and equipment, which many of them find it more and more difficult to cope with. Now imagine the consequences of a similar outage of even five minutes at a point of sale. It instantly results in a loss of turnover and high customer dissatisfaction.

In 2021, the subject of POS connectivity will still be of great importance. With more devices and services connected in the shop, and more and more consumers going mobile directly within the shop, these are new challenges that need to be addressed. These issues are invisible to the customer, yet they have a proven impact on turnover and the shopping experience.

Connecting shops for ultra-connected customers

Connecting a point of sale seems as trivial as installing an internet box in your home. This is an analogy that was still relevant a few years ago. Today, the point of sale needs to be able to control its local network and monitor it as it sees fit.

Today, "connecting your shop" implies the proper functioning of a growing number of peripherals (payment terminals, tablets, etc.) and services (connected screens, interactive terminals, etc.) in the front office. But also a good continuity of activity in the back office (transactions, protection against fraud, data transmission, maintenance reports...). Not to mention customer devices that require a continuous connection similar to the one they find at home.

The ins and outs of connectivity is strategic

Connectivity is not only necessary for sales staff to access CRM data and ensure the smooth running of the shop, but also for customers to meet their expectations.

As early as 2018, Fevad revealed that 60% of French consumers had already carried out research on their mobiles, 28% compared the price of a product at other retailers and 22% checked product reviews... all directly in shop. The same year, a second Total Retail study announced that 76% of online shoppers use their smartphone in shop to compare prices, 47% to find out about a product and 33% to consult reviews on the brand and the product! These figures are still evolving as mobile phones become increasingly popular.

Problems related to connectivity can be a very detrimental source of frustration and irritation for increasingly demanding consumers. Retailers have a particular responsibility to adapt to guarantee transactions no matter what happens.

Solutions to keep the business going

Firstly, let's recall the main sticking points to good shop connectivity:

  • A Wifi, 4G or Ethernet network that is defective, undersized or inadequately wired-up;

  • A saturation, a collision between different networks. This is often the case in highly populated cities, in Hong Kong for example;

  • A particular configuration or architecture (thick walls, basement, multi-level...);

  • Specific network problems, locally or via third party servers.

Even the most sturdy installation is not safe from interruption or technical problems. The solutions to be put in place must therefore allow service continuity that is completely transparent for customers. In the universe of digital devices in a shop, payment terminals are the most sensitive. It is therefore advisable to optimise the number of terminals by, for example, combining WiFi terminals and 4G terminals or by fitting out hybrid terminals capable of automatically switching from one network to another.

When the terminals are dumb - in other words, when they are out of service and can therefore no longer communicate with the banks - transactions must nevertheless continue.

This is the task of Visa and Mastercard's EMV Offline service, but also of additional services provided by payment service providers. The terminals, even if they are dumb, complete the transactions and record them. They are only verified after the fact and bank reconciliation is carried out off-line, when the network is operational again. This system makes it possible to continue sales in the event of loss of connection but requires specific rules to be established as to which transactions are accepted or not during a shut down.

For a retailer with a national or international presence, monitoring and maintenance of each terminal in near-real time is a necessity. Platforms can therefore be used to monitor the status of the entire fleet, by shop, by country, by terminal model, and to benefit from analysis reports and alert notifications in the event of malfunctioning. These standardised management tools also allow remote software updates to increase, for example, the contactless payment limit or to keep up to date with the latest anti-fraud barriers.

Whether paying by card, contactless, wallet or SMS (Pay by Link), the great majority of transactions today are online and picked up in real time. IT, financial and support functions are also integrated and feed on transactional data from the shops. The connectivity of a point of sale is therefore a cornerstone that must be reliable, sturdy but also flexible enough to adapt to technological evolutions. Like the 5G to come.

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