Stripe to take in-person payments with Terminal

November 27, 2018

After eight years building a huge following as an online payments processing company to be reckoned with, Stripe is set to enter the real world, offering merchants a new option when it comes to in-person payments.

Known as Stripe Terminal, it will offer retailers a “programmable point of sale”, allowing tech savvy businesses to create an ideal checkout experience that best suits their business.

Here’s an insight into Stripe Terminal, how it works and who it’s for.

A bit about Stripe

Stripe

First established in 2010, Stripe has always been a payment processing company with a developer-first focus.

Unlike other online payment platforms, Stripe isn’t a buy-off-the-shelf payment solution but rather software and programming that e-commerce websites and apps can utilise to customise the checkout experience and make payment processing simple.

This developer-first philosophy has seen Stripe quickly grow to become one of the biggest payment processing solution providers in the field. It now ranks second only to PayPal, according to Datanyze, with almost a 20 per cent market share.

Meanwhile, Forbes notes Stripe is used by government and the private sector alike “because it lets people start accepting payments online instantly without having to deal with the legacy payment infrastructure built for pre-Internet businesses”.

In addition to payment processing, Stripe also offers a suite of other tools to help companies do business online and globally.

Stripe enters real-world retail

In September this year, Stripe announced it was moving beyond the online realm and into in-person payments with the release of a programmable terminal.

The new initiative comprises three essential elements:

  • Hardware in the form of card readers
  • Software Developer Kits (SDKs) and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for customising the checkout experience, and;
  • Software for managing connected devices (known as Stripe Dashboard).

The upshot is businesses can now create a customised in-person payment system using pre-certified card readers offered by Stripe.

Retailers can then use the overarching software to manage their in-person checkouts remotely via their online account. That means they can scale up quickly and know exactly what’s going on with each card reader.

The card readers

At present, Stripe is looking to offer two variations of the card readers:

  • The BBPOS Chipper 2X BT, which is a handheld reader for mobile applications that can fit in your pocket. It connects via Bluetooth, and supports magnetic stripe payments, EMV or chip payments and also processes Near Field Communication (NFC) transactions.
  • Verifone P400, which is a countertop reader that connects to desktop devices via LAN. It accepts all payment inputs including NFC/CTLS, EMV, and magstripe, and also features a pin pad.

Stripe notes the advantage of both is that they are pre-certified, allowing users to enjoy end-to-end encryption yet avoid the costly certification process.

Software Developer Kits

Stripe currently offers two software developer kits for Terminal; one for IOS and one for Javascript. They are developing an Android SDK at the moment.

They note the SDKs allow developers to “customise every user-facing aspect of the point of sale using a modern developer platform”.

Or as they further explain: “A Stripe Terminal integration starts with your application running at a physical location. Using our SDK, your application communicates with a reader to collect physical payment methods from your customers. Your backend acts as a trusted intermediary for requests from our SDK to Stripe’s APIs.”

In other words, you can create a custom application and use the Stripe SDK to enable the Stripe terminal to take payments for it.

Stripe goes on to illustrate how that works, noting:

“You might choose the combination of an iOS SDK and mobile reader if:

  • You want to build a mobile-first experience, for card-present payment acceptance driven by an iOS device
  • You want to build a “clienteling” experience, where roaming in-store cashiers can accept payment right next to the customer
  • You prefer a mobile, Bluetooth-enabled card reader, versus one that must be plugged in

“You might choose the combination of a JavaScript SDK and countertop reader if:

  • You have strong developer proficiency with JavaScript and a web-based technology stack
  • You’d like a fully branded customer experience, using a device that provides a customisable splash screen, and dynamic messaging to the customer during a transaction
  • You prefer a countertop checkout experience, anchored to a traditional, desk-based, point-of-sale station.”

Who is it for?

Stripe Terminal
Stripe Terminal is not a plug and play styled offering and does require technical nous, so isn’t your ideal solution for a small café looking to access in-person payment processing straight off the bat.

Instead, Stripe Terminal would suit web-based companies looking to move to in-person payments, or businesses with tech support and a focus on building a fully customised payments experience.

When is it available?

Stripe Terminal is currently in Beta mode and available in the US by invite-only. In 2019 they will expand the Beta program to other countries, based on registrations of interest.
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