Use of tablets and iPods as point-of-sale devices is growing rapidly, but it's not going to knock cashwraps out of most stores anytime soon, according to an IHL Group report released Tuesday (May 21). More than 85 percent of big retailers say that for the next three years, mobile POS devices will be add-ons to—not replacements for—traditional fixed checkouts.
The most likely users of those devices: specialty retailers (both mall-based specialty chains and small independents), who are deploying about 45 percent of all tablets shipped to retail for POS, IHL said.
But only 28 percent of U.S. retailers plan to roll out any mobile POS devices by the end of 2013, a drop from previous estimates. That suggests the reality of mobile POS is beginning to set in for early adopters, who are beginning to see some of the limits—and counterintuitive aspects—of the technology.
For example, the mental model many retailers have for deploying mobile POS is the way Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) uses it in its stores, with associates able to do transactions anywhere in the store. For the less adventurous, mobile POS is for times when stores get especially busy and checkout lines get long.
But those turn out to be mutually exclusive situations. "Most retailers who are deploying mobile POS still will queue their customers into fixed lines during peak periods," said Greg Buzek, one of the report's authors. "Mobile is only truly mobile until we get busy. Even Apple abandons the free movement of people when they get busy, and move to fixed locations."