The use of e-commerce payments technology as a portal to other business services is advancing rapidly, requiring point of sale companies to constantly add new tools that merchants and developers can use to add muscle to transaction venues.

For example, tablet point of sale provider Bindo on May 27 unveiled its new application programming interface (API), which allows developers to build loyalty programs, third party e-commerce plug-ins, sales dashboards and integrated back-end enterprise resource planning systems.

Bindo, which is preparing to launch its own marketplace for consumers, hopes to sell merchants on the idea of managing payments and other internal functions from a single unified platform.

"The more platforms that a business is running that aren't synched up, the more time it will take a merchant to manage the business, especially as an operation gets larger," said David Bozin, vice president of growth development for Bindo.

The Bindo API will integrate with the company's existing point of sale platform to allow retailers, developers or IT managers to build custom add-ons to their own platforms. Users will be able to access Bindo's API to scan required business services, adding functions such as inventory management or sales tracking to the point of sale system. "It's designed to be plug and play. The merchants can turn on and off what they want to use or don't want to use," Bozin said.

Bindo will charge based on volume, such as the number of registers or employees using the point of sale system. The company has targeted smaller businesses, though like many point of sale companies that use tablets or mobile technology, it is working to appeal to larger retailers by allowing the information that flows through a payment transaction to contribute to other business operations. 

"The point of sale is the very crux of data for any small- to medium-sized business, and for larger businesses with multiple locations," Bozin said.

Bindo did not discuss details of its new marketplace, which is expected to debut later this year as a way to link Bindo's iPad point of sale system directly to merchants and consumers, providing an alternative to offerings like Square Market.

Bindo has been diversifying its technology ahead of its marketplace launch, adding e-commerce tools for offline merchants and an integration with Powa's mobile point of sale technology. Bindo has also added price quotes and invoicing as features in the past year.

"True point of sale systems provide a variety of value-added tools that help merchants manage their stores, their inventory, their staff, their accounting and their customers," said Rick Oglesby, a senior analyst at Double Diamond Payments Research. "However it's very clear to most developers that they can't be all things to all people, and there's value and financial opportunity in leveraging the power of third parties to deliver component parts."

Many mobile point of sale providers are taking a similar approach in beefing up their offerings. In addition to Square, PayPal plans to make access to payment and merchant development tools a major part of its acquisition strategy after finalizing its split from eBay this year.

Among traditional processors, First Data has been actively adding small business tools to its Clover tablet point of sale system; and Heartland's tablet point of sale provider, Leaf, offers an app store for developers.

"Many vendors in the tablet point of sale market are beginning to open their APIs, inviting developers to build applications on top of their platforms," said Jordan McKee, a senior analyst at 451 Research, noting Clover and Poynt earn a portion of developer proceeds. "The advantage is two-fold. It serves to build out the overall utility and versatility of the product while simultaneously opening up a new revenue stream."

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