August 24, 2011, 4:19 PM

Mobile app powers payment in store

The Erply software also works with Near Field Communication technology.

Lead Photo

The card reader attaches to the docking port of the iPad, enabling card present transactions, which are cheaper for retailers.


A retailer could easily spend thousands on a system that connects the inventory tracking function necessary to run a business with the payment acceptance function at the point of sale. Such systems make it easier for retailers to track products, show customers product availability and monitor the selling prices of products; but these systems often carry high price tags. Despite the need, many smaller retailers lack the budget for such a system. That is why Erply, a startup that first developed an inventory management app for use on the iPad, has introduced a credit card reader that connects to its retail inventory management tablet app.

Combining the payment and inventory functions into a single mobile device enables sales associates to roam through their stores, answer customer inquiries about available stock and complete payment transactions without leaving the customer’s side, says Kris Hiiemaa, Erply CEO. In effect, the iPad becomes the cash register.

Erply’s card reader, which encrypts the card data, attaches to the docking port on the iPad. The merchant swipes the payment card through the reader to complete a payment. A receipt can either be printed or sent via e-mail to the consumer. If the merchant has entered his catalog of products, Erply’s software automatically will update the remaining quantities of the purchased item, Hiiemaa says.

The reader also contains a Near Field Communication technology chip that would enable NFC transactions when a consumer uses an NFC phone. Near Field Communication technology enables two-way communication between NFC devices, such as for completing a payment by tapping a smartphone against an NFC reader or tapping two NFC phones together to transfer money, as PayPal Inc. demonstrated in July when a PayPal executive held two Google Nexus S phones next to each other. Currently, only the Google Nexus S smartphone is available in the United States with an NFC chip. “We’re not seeing many NFC players yet,” Hiiemaa says, “but soon phones will come equipped with NFC chips.”

The Erply card reader costs $50, and merchants pay a 1.9% transaction fee. That is less than competitor Square (Square app intends to boost in-store sales, which charges 2.75% for a transaction. Retailers also can track cash transactions with the Erply app.

Erply also charges $70 a month for a two-user account at one location with up to 50,000 inventory items. Its top-tier fee is $999 a month for up to 100 users at no more than 30 locations. This level has room for two million SKUs. Erply also offers a free account for a single user at one location with no more than 1,000 SKUs.

Hiiemaa says retailers can tailor the inventory management software as much as they need to. A retailer could set up different customer price lists, price lists for each store location and adjust pricing based on demand or seasonality, he says. None of the app data, including payment information, is stored on the associate’s iPad, Hiiemaa says, but is stored in the company’s servers.

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