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Eventbrite enters portable register fray

By Mary Lou Jay

Clunky cash registers are becoming a thing of the past, thanks to mobile technologies that turn phones and tablet computers into sleek point of sale (POS) systems.

Square and PayPal are some of the companies that have launched portable POS applications for on-the-go merchants. The latest to join the ring is ticket seller Eventbrite, which has launched a portable box office application called At The Door. The twist with At The Door is that it focuses on special events -- and the ticket sales, food and drink sales and merchandise sales that go with them.

The portable payments line-up
Eventbrite's At the Door joins a slew of portable payments systems that allow merchants to untether themselves from the cash register. mobile-register

Mobile payments company Square was the pioneer in the field. Two years ago, it launched its tiny card readers that plug into smartphones. In 2011, it launched the free Square Register app, which turns iPads into registers. Merchants can set up a custom inventory of their products and services so that the checkout becomes a matter of simply choosing the right picture buttons. Square Register works in tandem with the company's mobile payments app for consumers.

Intuit's GoPayment is another alternative. One of Intuit's selling features is its ability to sync GoPayment transactions with the Quickbooks software used by many small businesses.  GoPayment also offers two levels of pricing -- a pay-as- you-go model and a slightly less expensive monthly service.

PayPal, meanwhile, will soon be offering its own mobile payment plug-in device, PayPal Here, set to launch sometime this spring. It will accept not only credit and debit cards but also PayPal payments and checks. PayPal Here will also allow users to create invoices and track cash payments. It will work with the Apple iOS and Android products. 

Eventbrite's At the Door
Eventbrite is an online service that allows a group, organization or merchant to set up a Web page for an event, sell tickets to it beforehand and process payments through PayPal, Google Checkout, Authorize.net and standard merchant credit card processors. Eventbrite charges a fee for ticket sales and for the payment processing. It also collects event sales data that the sponsor can access.

The At The Door app is a response to merchants' and event organizers' need to sell tickets at the event -- not just in advance. The app itself debuted in December. Yet, in March 2012, Eventbrite announced that it could now be used in conjunction with a new At The Door card reader and a wireless printer. That not only enables merchants to handle last-minute ticket sales, but also lets them sell (and print out) food, drink and merchandise tickets that can be redeemed at the event.

To accept credit cards, the ticket seller plugs the At The Door card reader into the iPad via the 30-pin adapter. The reader is small, measuring just a few inches on each side. It can process as many as 400 transactions per hour. The transactions are encrypted and secure, according to Eventbrite.

At The Door is free. The Eventbrite card reader is sold for $10 on Eventbrite's website and in several retail stores, although the company's current $10 rebate on the purchase makes it free. The Star printer retails for just under $300. Merchants who use the app won't have to pay a service charge, but they will be charged a 3 percent fee on each transaction.

TechCrunch.com reports that Eventbrite's new card reader and wireless printing capabilities are the latest steps toward the future Eventbrite Box Office, which will include additional features, such as seating charts. 

What portable payments mean for merchants
These portable payments solutions are about more than just eliminating the need for bulky registers. The applications have a variety of features that can help merchants improve how they do business.

Because merchants' portable payment apps are often designed to work in conjunction with customers' smartphones, payments can be processed without swiping. Square, for example, allows the merchant's iPad to recognize when regular customers are nearby. These customers can keep "tabs" open and simply give their names to pay for goods.

Another perk - these apps can also store customers' shopping history, allowing merchants to offer deals and coupons tailored to regular patrons.

Eventbrite, meanwhile, touts the ease of use of its new app, which it attributes to its user interface. A sample screen displayed on the Eventbrite website shows four purchase buttons for an imaginary event: general admission at $15.75; under-21 admissions at $20; VIP admission at $50; and a t-shirt purchase for $20. Two buttons at the top of the page allow the user to increase or decrease the number of admissions in each category.

At The Door also prompts merchants to input customers' email addresses. That enables them to email receipts to customers and put them on mailing lists for future events. The app also syncs the information it collects with the advance ticket sales data collected on Eventbrite's site, so that event organizers can get a read on total sales for the event at any time. It allows different levels of user access to this data, so organizers can control which employees see what, both on the website and on the iPad.

See related: Etsy introduces alternative to merchant accounts, V.me: A new payment option from Visa

Published: April 17, 2012

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