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Point Of Sale Gets An iPad Makeover

Tablets aren't just for conventional computing. This point of sale system for salons shows how varied the markets can be.

Salons are getting a technology makeover. Digital Right Brain's SalonPOS is one of the first salon and spa management point-of-sale systems for the iPad.

SalonPOS is interesting as an example of the vertical market potential for tablets, especially in point-of-sale. The POS industry is over $6 billion annually--Microsoft started developing for it in 2006--with an increasing number of those systems PC and now iOS based. In 2011 Apple built a POS system specifically for Old Navy. 2011 also saw a large number of third-party peripherals such as Square enter the market, as well as apps tailored for small and mid-size businesses. Restaurants were early adopters. "Realistically there are 20-plus iOS POS systems for the restaurants but nothing for salons," John Lee, marketing manager at Digital Right Brain, said. "It's a blue ocean."

SalonPOS' main competitive advantage is price. The entire SalonPOS system retails for less than $2000, including the software, an Argotron LCD display holder, a VESA-compatible mount, an APG Vasario Cash Drawer, a credit card reader, and an iPad 2. The software alone retails for $899, including a five-employee license. An additional five is $149.99.

Except for the iPad, SalonPOS looks and feels like many POS systems already out there with touchscreens and drag-and-drop interfaces. The checkout system accommodates just about every transaction type possible, including tax, tip, and promotion calculation--but it does not process debit cards. My issue with the touchscreen is that it doesn't take advantage of complex touch commands such as pinch or two-finger scroll. Most inputs are single-finger pokes or slides.

Like other iOS apps in its class, SalonPOS understands customer behavior and makes sales recommendations based on what, when, and how much clients buy. For example, if a regular client's purchase cycle is below average or there is occasion for client engagement such as a birthday or anniversary, the app pushes a notification to the device. It also includes an email reservation system for clients that includes reminders--SMS reminders are in development for Q3. "The salon business is based on returning customers," said Lee.

SalonPOS departs from typical PC-based POS systems in its mobility via either 3G or Wi-Fi. Owners and managers can review operations--including scheduling tasks, bookings, and all of the other features--from anywhere they can connect to the Internet. In store, a mobile payment system could create a more fluid customer service experience. In an image-conscious industry, the iPad's brushed metal and glass screen look good. With the upcoming iPhone app, available in late April or May, off-site managers can remotely perform the same tasks as they can on the iPad--go over employee reports, schedule clients, assign tasks to employees.

One of the most interesting features available now for iPad and coming for the iPhone app is mobile closed-circuit camera surveillance. Currently the feature has a price tag of $399, including one Panasonic BL-C210A pan-and-tilt IP camera. This feature lets managers keep an eye on their business while they're off site.

Integrated backup and recovery--locally and to the cloud--is another strong feature SalonPOS offers. Backup and recovery might not be sexy but it's important, especially if transaction records and reports are centralized in a single system. The iPad app gives salon owners the choice of backing up to iCloud, iTunes, or a third-party service. The integrated backup saves time, effort, and time, making the process easy for salon employees who might not be computer savvy.

Connectivity with the Apple Store also means that service updates and new features automatically download and install themselves on the device. There's no need to have sophisticated IT knowledge to keep the system operating, up-to-date, and virus free.

Overall, SalonPOS offers salon and spa owners a standard set of features you'd expect in the space plus several advantages such as mobility, backup, off-site monitoring, and little to no IT knowledge necessary to set up, operate and maintain. For salon and spa owners with an already functioning POS system, it does not offer significant advantages over what's already out there. But for business owners looking to upgrade or launch a new location, SalonPOS offers industry-standard features at a lower price.

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