Groupon Goes After Square Register With New Gnome Point-Of-Sale Hardware

Groupon is expanding its footprint beyond daily deals yet again this morning, with an announcement of an iPad-based point-of-sale solution called Gnome. The platform includes an “all-in-one” cash register that can accept traditional payments as well as Groupon vouchers, integrated customer relationship management software, accounting software and more.

The point-of-sale solution looks to solve one of the challenges Groupon faced in years past, which was a key reason why many small business owners and retailers were soured on the daily deals platform: customers would come in, nameless and faceless entities brandishing their Groupon for a freebie or deeply discounted product or service, which they used one time and then often never returned.

With the integrated CRM module in the Groupon point-of-sale system, the idea is that merchants could begin to better track these customers, and create custom marketing campaigns using customer purchase history and other preferences.

Gnome, says Groupon CEO Eric Lefkofsky in a statement out this morning, “will serve as an operating system for merchants to run their entire operation and enable them to create real-time promotions that bring customers into their business when they need them the most.”

The company had already dipped its toe in the water of the point-of-sale space, with previous launches designed to extend Groupon beyond being just a daily deals play. Last May, for instance, the company released Groupon POS, an iPad-specific version of its mobile payments service aimed at local merchants, which founder (and ex-CEO) Andrew Mason then said was part of Groupon’s strategy to become the “operating system for local commerce.”

Around the same time, the company also rebranded its wider payments service as “Breadcrumb,” adding a merchant app called “Breadcrumb POS.”

While it’s unclear today how successful Breadcrumb has been for Groupon’s merchants to date, it seems that it’s been good enough for Groupon to further invest in the platform.

With today’s launched of the iPad-backed system, Groupon now wants to provide a fuller solution for merchants with both its own software and hardware.

The move also pits Groupon’s Gnome against Square Register, initially a software app from payments company Square, which later turned into a complete point-of-sale solution as well, with a stand built specially for iPad, turning a tablet running Square’s software into a card-swiping register, much like Groupon’s Gnome is today.

Like Square Register, Gnome users will be able to process payments by swiping credit or debit cards or by logging cash transactions. Plus, Gnome merchants will be able to automatically redeem Groupons using Bluetooth technology or search for customers by name, Groupon barcode or voucher number.

That means customers will no longer have to present a printed voucher or even show their mobile device at checkout – another item that would have competed with Square technology, specifically its consumer-facing Wallet app, which once let customers just speak their name at checkout. However, Square recently pulled that application from the App Store as it pivoted to focus on other areas, like a food-ordering app, for example.

Groupon merchants can also print or email receipts, load up inventory lists or menus, manage menus, view transaction history and issue refunds. But while Square is more focused on delivering a more affordable point-of-sale solution and analytics, Gnome is more so meant to become a tool that will finally tie the Groupon voucher to Groupon’s software platform and merchant toolset, which could generate more revenue for the business in the long-term.

Groupon, which is charging $10/month for its iPad system, will soon effectively require all merchants running promotions to use the Gnome platform, which is also a notable change for the company. While that requirement would obviously would benefit Groupon, if adopted, as well as put it into closer competition with Square and other point-of-sale iPad makers, it could also turn other merchants off – merchants who, for whatever reason, don’t want to bring in additional hardware or software or change the way they manage their customer promotions.

More info on Gnome is here.