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NCR(s ncr) has beefed up with its virtual cash register Silver with new loyalty software, giving small businesses the ability to run rewards programs right out of their iPads(s aapl).
NCR is better known for making the point-of-sale contraptions you find at every large scale retail operation’s checkout counters – registers, scanners, card readers and receipt printers – as well as the software that runs them. But last year it decided to scale down its typical setup for small businesses by launching Silver, an application and set of retail hardware that attaches to an iOS device.
NCR is going after the market for simple point-of-sale platforms that Square created. Since the launch of Square’s Stand, it’s now competing head-to-head with NCR, Clover and many other tablet-based POS system makers for brick-and-mortar businesses.
With this software update, though, NCR is targeting a different set of startups: Belly, FiveStars and other companies building loyalty platforms for small businesses. NCR already has automated customer email management and social marketing capabilities built into Silver, but the new app will let merchants tailor customer rewards programs that track purchase history and customer visits without giving up their data to a third-party loyalty provider.
“We already had some of the marketing tools, but now it’s a platform businesses can use to go out and build customer relationships,” said Justin Hotard, GM of NCR’s small business division.
NCR’s business model is also very different from Square’s, which might make it more appealing to customers that don’t like Square’s flat-rate or custom-pricing models. Square’s business is built on taking a percentage off of each credit card transaction, while as an infrastructure provider, NCR’s goal is to sell software and hardware. It’s baseline fee is $59 per iPad terminal, and being National Cash Register, it of course sells peripherals. A basic bundle of iPad stand, credit card reader, cash drawer and receipt printer costs $499.
As for the transaction itself, NCR’s customers can strike up deals with any of the purchase processing outfits, but it also has partnerships with PayPal(s ebay), Evalon and Vantiv to help set up transaction services for customers that don’t want to broker their own deals.
So far it’s been slow going for NCR. After 18 months, it now has 10,000 virtual terminals in the market, the tiniest fraction of the 8 million small businesses it estimates are eligible for Silver. But Hotard pointed out that this is still a wide-open and shifting market. The nice thing about making your point-of-sale system virtual is it’s easy to switch. The only thing you really need is an iPad.