The Retail POS Dilemma: Windows or Android?
Retail is changing rapidly as shoppers demand a seamless shopping experience across channels.
As the physical and digital store unify, it is imperative to have one unified view of customers, inventory and pricing.
The POS system serves as a backbone of all these transactions from initial order to fulfillment and final payment across physical and digital channels.
The Evolving Nature of POS
It’s no secret that technology powering POS systems are rapidly evolving to keep up with customer-driven demands. And with support for Windows 7 having ended on Jan. 14, 2020, retailers are faced with the major challenge of upgrading to Windows 10 for multiple in-store touchpoints: POS, kiosk, self-checkout, extended aisle, signage and more.
Retailers must allocate budget, assess software compatibility, design and implement rollouts, and address any concerns about support. This creates an opportunity to reconsider the POS infrastructure so it can support the rapid changes in customer expectations.
This is no small feat for a retailer of any size. While an upgrade to Windows 10 seems obvious for some businesses, others view the sunset of Windows 7 as a good time to reevaluate whether a Windows or Android operating system will best serve the company and its customers, both now and in the years ahead.
Shopper behavior and in-store technologies continue to rapidly evolve, so having a resilient POS system is critical.
1. Understand the pros and cons of each OS
Understanding the different features and attributes of a Windows or Android POS system will help retailers and operators decide which OS is the best fit for their needs.
For example, if a retailer already runs its business on Windows, migrating from Windows 7 to Windows 10 OS can provide access to the latest technology while leveraging much of the existing infrastructure. With a Windows OS, retailers can guarantee a connected and compatible store ecosystem that creates seamless communication between all Windows-based POS touchpoints such as terminals, tablets, touchscreens and self-service kiosks.
In an Android environment, retailers can add flexibility and adaptability across their POS touchpoints. Mobile architectures are familiar to consumers and associates across the globe, and enterprise-ready devices have high-performance computers to deliver rich experiences with flexibility in form factor and peripherals. An Android-based POS ecosystem allows retailers the ability to manage fixed-installation solutions on a mobile architecture environment.
This is especially attractive for businesses that want to interact with their customers across multiple technology platforms. For example, customers who are familiar with a retailer’s website will feel at home when navigating a similar interface in store. And when an in-store display triggers them to download the retailer’s app, they will seamlessly carry the same experience to their device.
That familiarity is important in restaurants as well; customers who are familiar with a mobile ordering app can easily navigate a restaurant kiosk to order their food.
2. Plan for longevity
As retailers and operators choose which OS is the best fit for them, they must ensure that their selected Windows or Android environment can support their entire in-store ecosystem for the long haul. Large national or global deployments can span several months or longer, and costs of managing these tech investments are high.
Additionally, once deployed, enterprises want technology to be supported for longer than a typical tablet’s lifespan.
Therefore, as retailers and operators debate the pros and cons of Android and Windows, they need to take into consideration their product roadmaps and ask the question, “Will my new OS support my long-term goals, delivering longevity (and security) for my organization?”
Up until just a few years ago, it was common for POS systems to stay stagnant for well over the life of the hardware and software solution. In the new age, retailers need to stay ahead of changes in technology as customer requirements change dramatically day-by-day.
For example, it used to be sufficient to make updates to POS systems three or four times a year. However, in today’s environment, there is a need to update features and functionalities of the POS in a much more agile way (even once a week).
It is important that a retailer’s chosen technology partner has the capability and willingness to address these needs. With an Intel/Windows based architecture, the lifecycle support of hardware and OS is well-known at 8-10 years.
With an Android OS, the hardware manufacturer is key. Hardware manufacturers that do not have significant investment in supporting the Android software stack for their devices will struggle because they are dependent on the open-source community and chip vendors to provide support, which is unpredictable and outside their realm of expertise.
Businesses interested in investing in Android should consider manufacturers that have created enterprise-ready solutions that provide the ability to support the Android OS for 5-7 years.
Creating an engaging POS experience with Windows or Android
As retailers implement a new POS software environment, the primary goal is clear: to create unified commerce with a seamless experience that brings together online and offline channels for each of their customers. This means delivering in-store touchpoints such as interactive touchscreens and self-service kiosks that connect the shopper’s online and in-store experience.
Both Windows and Android operating systems deliver key benefits to help achieve retailers’ goals. However, it is up to each retailer and operator to understand the pros and cons of each option, how it can adapt to their individual requirements, and how it can help ensure the longevity and adaptability that they need.
Sonal Apte is vice president of retail and hospitality solutions at Elo.