- iStock/Getty Images Plus/Chainarong Prasertthai

iStock/Getty Images Plus/Chainarong Prasertthai

Being able to accept mobile payments gives your business more flexibility than you might realize. You can walk across the salon while your client is letting her pedicure dry to swipe her credit card, you can go to clients’ houses and take electronic payments, and you even plan pop-up events with other businesses without having to worry about how to accept transactions. Better yet, you can sync the transactions your employee makes on a tablet with the ones you make at your main register on the front desk.

But what’s involved in setting up your salon to accept mobile payments? Let’s explore all the details of pivoting your business to be mobile payment friendly.

 

What are mobile payments?

Technically speaking, a mobile payment is anything that’s made via a mobile phone, tablet, or any piece of hardware that isn’t hardwired (like your more traditional cash register or a computer).

Mobile point-of-sale systems and applications even have their own acronym: mPOS, which just stands for a mobile POS. Simply put, an mPOS is a point-of-sale program on a portable device that functions the same way as a register would. To qualify as an mPOS, the technology also must be cloud-based, which means all of the data it collects is automatically stored offsite but online, so the information is available on any internet-connected device.

 

Are mobile point-of-sale systems and mobile payment applications the same thing?

The short answer is no, they’re different. They serve a similar purpose, but they’re different tools.

You’re right that mobile payment applications — such as Venmo, PayPal, Zelle, Google Pay, and Apple Pay — are also commonly referred to simply as “mobile payments,” but they’re different from the mPOS we’re discussing. Mobile payment apps are platforms that allow individuals (and sometimes businesses) to pay, or get paid, directly on a mobile device or tablet. While you can technically use these apps to make transactions as a business owner, they are different than a mobile POS system or application. That’s because an mPOS is part of a bigger software solution for your business — they typically integrate with the rest of your business data and are designed specifically for businesses to officially accept payments, whereas many of the mobile payment apps listed above were created just for friends to pay one another more casually.

 

What’s better — mobile payments or an mPOS?

It’s hard to say whether one is better than the other. If you’re running a robust business with several locations and plans for growth and development, an mPOS is probably better suited for your needs, as they’ve been developed to scale with businesses as they grow and evolve. mPOS typically integrate with a tablet/phone and a register, allowing flexibility and multiple points of sale throughout your salon, and they offer a myriad of other benefits, such as analytics and inventory, amongst many other things.

That said, if you are simply a nail tech who schedules a few appointments a week at your own home, using a free app like Venmo or PayPal is probably fine for your needs, especially since you can use these free apps on the phone or tablet you already own. Just make sure you are using the platform legally and accounting for any additional fees that the host may charge business owners that they don’t charge people who are just sending money to friends or family.

 

What are the important qualities of mobile point-of-sale system?

Picking the right POS system is incredibly important for your business. Selecting a subpar system, or choosing one that doesn’t meet your needs, could ultimately mean that your business suffers.

To avoid that, use a two-pronged approach. First, make a wish list for your mPOS. What qualities do you need your point-of-sale system to have? What aspects are deal breakers, and what are just “that would be nice” pieces? Next to your wish list, make a list of all the questions you have about buying and implementing an mPOS system. Next, do some in depth research on the mobile point-of-sale systems you are considering, referencing your wish list as you go.

Keep in mind that when it comes to mobile payments, mPOS refers to the hardware and software you’ll be utilizing: The phone or tablet that will be used, along with the software installed on that tablet, and possibly also on your more traditional register or computer so that the two can interface and integrate. So, one of the first questions to ask is whether the mPOS you’re considering can be used on the hardware you already have, or will it require the purchase of additional hardware.

Another important question to ask is how user-friendly the system is, for your staff and your customers. Have you ever bought something at a store and they’ve flipped an iPad over for you to interact with, maybe to add tip and sign your name? That user-facing interface is an important aspect of your mPOS, and you’ll want to make sure it’s simple and easily interpreted by your customers. You also want to make sure the backend, which just you and your employees see, is easy to understand and train within.

Other questions you’ll want to ask include: Will it improve the customer experience? Does it have strong security in place? How many devices can it be implemented on? Does it need to be on the same internet connection as your main POS to function? How much does it really cost, i.e., are there hidden fees for additional devices?