How to Choose a POS for the Future
by: Kevin Wang
Point-of-Sale (POS) systems are at the heart of every retail business, from a single artisan at a craft fair to massive chains like Starbucks. Coincidentally, it is also one of the most neglected parts of a business, retailers will often use the same POS until it dies – if it isn’t broken, why fix it? Replacing a POS system is both expensive and risky – who knows if the new system really works. Secondly, benefits of a new POS systems can sometimes seem minimal, and retailers can’t justify the expense for advanced or niche features. It is often hard to justify the benefits of a new system due to the cost, uncertainty, and risk involved.
Why Upgrade Your System
So, given the risks and expense, why should you consider replacing your POS system? POS companies will tell you it will increase your throughput, simplify management and accounting, handle ordering and inventory, and a dozen other benefits. These are all true, but the largest reason is that technological upgrades keeps your business stable and running; much like a car, POS systems require ongoing maintenance to run well. This doesn’t mean buying a new POS every few years, it can be as simple as replacing outdated or problematic hardware, upgrading some software, or even just keeping an eye open for new technologies. It is like preventative maintenance on roads, filling a few potholes each year is much cheaper than repaving the road when it finally falls apart.
When looking for a new POS system, first check the fundamentals. Innovative technologies and features are useless if you don’t have a solid front-end to make a sale and a back-end to run reports. Retailers with unreliable POS systems often find themselves replacing their systems every three to five years. So, what should you look for in a good POS product?
First and foremost is reliability; it is the most important feature for a POS. There is a good reason why retailers choose to use an outdated POS which runs slowly and takes hours of extra management. If you can’t make a sale, your business is dead in the water. Ask around and see how long the vendor’s products are typically used.
Another important factor is ease of use; feature rich and complex are two different things. This is important for the back-end, but critical on the front-end. A complex system means longer training times, more mistakes, and slower throughput. Pay attention to how long it takes to train a cashier or manager to use the system.
Lastly, you should look for high quality support. No POS is perfect, and when issues arise you want to be able to reach your POS vendor. Many companies promise 24/7/365 support, but few deliver. Before you buy a system, make sure they answer their phones outside business hours.
Benefits of a Modern POS
There are many benefits to a modern POS. First and foremost is increased throughput; throughput is the best way to increase business. Carwashes and gas stations are especially dependent on throughput, as most of their business occurs during a few busy hours (or seasons). Lines in the store, on the forecourt, or behind equipment, can and will drive customers away. Modern POS systems have extremely optimized and streamlined checkout processes, meaning shorter lines and fewer checkout lanes needed.
Modern POS systems also offer powerful management tools and capabilities, which save time and reduce human error. Standard tools include automated report generators, inventory management systems, order generators, price books, and more; these tools can save hours of work every week.
A modern POS can also interface with a large variety of different devices. Tools like scanners, signature pads, and card readers help streamline the checkout process and improve the customer experience. A modern POS system can help minimize your liabilities. Features like cashier accounts, access restrictions, and detailed transaction records helps reduce fraud and theft. Semi-integrated pin pads can reduce your store’s PCI score.
New Technologies in POS
POS systems are constantly evolving and innovating, especially with the proliferation of internet connectivity and mobile devices. Here are some new technologies you should consider.
Cloud POS: A cloud POS refers a POS system where most of systems are hosted online. This allow for little to no upfront costs and easy setup and centralized management anywhere, making POS more accessible than ever. Companies like Square, Shopify, and LightSpeed have had tremendous success with Cloud POS systems. However, these systems typically lack the complex interfaces needed for carwash or retail gas, and struggle when internet is unavailable.
Centralized Servers: For retailers who want the centralized management capabilities of cloud, but do not want the heavy reliance on constant internet connection, some companies offer centralized aggregation and management servers. This is ideal for larger chains, and allows for the reporting and management of inventory, prices, and sales across multiple stores from anywhere in the world, whether it be a head office or a beach in Hawaii.
Mobile POS: Mobile phones and tablets have begun to replace traditional POS systems in many stores. This allows retailers to go and sell anywhere; you can check out a customer anywhere in a store or even at their vehicle. Mobile POS’s are often tied to cloud POS systems, but offline mobile POS systems are also available.
Software as a Service (SaaS): SaaS POS systems require a monthly subscription or service fee for the POS system. In exchange, they ensure your POS is always up to date, with improved optimizations, new features, and better security. This helps defer the hassle and cost of ongoing technological upgrades, and encourages a good product, as POS vendor’s income is reliant on the system’s reliability and their service quality.
Kevin Wang is the chief operating officer at Wiz-Tec Computing Technologies Inc., based in Calgary, AB. Wiz-Tec is a software company specializing in electronic business solutions, point-of-sale, and integrated systems. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Further information is available at www.wiz-tec.com