Slideshow 8 Ways Mobile Is Reinventing the Point of Sale

  • June 05 2015, 10:52am EDT
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The traditional cash register is making way for new technology based on tablets, smartphones and other, sleeker devices. These products open up a range of new capabilities for the retailer and the consumer.


Years ago, products like PayByTouch tried to bring fingerprint authentication into the shopping process, but these deployments met with limited success. Today, however, the fingerprint reader built into Apple's iPhones is a key element of making payments through Apple's mobile wallet. Fingerprint authentication is also coming to Google's Android Pay.

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On/Off Switch for Cards

Consumers now have more control over when and how their cards can be used, with the goal of reducing stolen-card fraud at the point of sale. Companies like Discover and BBVA let shoppers deactivate their cards completely when those cards are lost or stolen, and also set other restrictions on which types of purchases can be made.

Easier Gift Card Reloads

Prior to launching its mobile app, Starbucks used to handle card reloads at the register. This doubled the time it took each customer to pay, requiring one transaction to load the card and a second to debit it for the purchase. Its mobile app gave patrons the option of checking their balances and reloading their card accounts while waiting in line.

Mobile Pay-at-the-Table

Restaurants such as Olive Garden are getting more comfortable with putting tablets at the table (the Florida-based Italian restaurant chain expects to have tablets at all 800 of its locations by the end of this year). Patrons can review their bill and pay through the tablet, which lights up to tell the waiter that the table has paid.

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Omnichannel Shopping

Years ago, the Web was the enemy of the retail store, and many retailers were frustrated by shoppers who would evaluate merchandise in-store then buy it online from another seller. The emergence of mobile commerce is enabling stores to instead combine their channels and allow consumers to continue a single shopping experience across all of a retailer's physical and digital storefronts.

Bill Splitting Gets Real

For over a decade, P2P vendors have played up their technology as a way to help consumers split lunch bills. It was a shaky foundation for a P2P system, particularly in the pre-iPhone era when most consumers would have to use email to begin the process. But apps like Venmo finally make this use case practical by combining it with elements of social networking.


Bluetooth beacons can send offers to a consumer's smartphone when they detect the shopper walking by. Their short range enables retailers to provide different offers for each department, and some companies envision using the technology to accept payments as well.

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Gamified Rewards

Rather than show consumers their rewards balance once a month on a statement, mobile wallets like SCVNGR's LevelUp "gamify" the experience by showing consumers how much more they need to spend at each merchant to earn their next discount.