Keeping Track of Your Retail Sales
What Is a Point-of-Sale (POS) System?
Today's point-of-sale (POS) systems are not just cash registers anymore thanks to new technologies like mobile devices and the cloud. POS systems still include both software and hardware components, but they now also offer many new functions. One of these functions is integrating them with other back-end applications such as customer relationship management (CRM), inventory management and accounting systems.
Even before the rise of mobile and cloud technologies, POS systems took the basics of the cash register and expanded them to integrate directly to existing accounting and credit card payment systems. The cloud has become a necessity because it allows many small to midsize businesses to make use of advanced POS systems to avoid the ongoing expense of using and maintaining a back-end server at every location.
While there are several kinds of payment processing solutions available, including credit card readers and mobile payment methods, POS systems should still maintain cash registration capabilities and communicate with back-end accounting software to seamlessly process multiple kinds of payments.
When people talk about POS systems they're mostly referring to the software, which could be server-based or cloud-based. It is the software that tracks sales, issues receipts, and performs business management functions. Such functions include replacing inventory, tracking employee productivity, and reporting what sells and what does not sell. Good systems are designed from one to 100 outlets fully integrated centrally.
Key Software Features
The point of a good POS system is to let you get paid for products and services. There are a variety of ways that people get paid and your POS system should take cash, credit and debit cards. Some, but not all, also accept "contactless" payment types, such as Amazon Pay or Apple Pay. Importantly is the introduction of EMV’s, or chipped cards. EMV is the standard that is said to provide more security than the swipe-and-sign method historically used. The ability to now "Tap" these cards means additional or new hardware for which some POS systems charge extra.
Once you are happy with the minimum functionality or the POS software, there may be other features that you'll want to look for. These features include the ability for customers to use multiple types of payment, or to allow for returns, special pricing and gift cards. A fast-growing standard is the near-field communications (NFC) transaction, which is an electronic payment system being utilisied by Apple Pay and Google Wallet.
Making sure your POS system can handle these new emerging technologies is vital, as it will ensure your Payment Card Industry Data Security (PCI DSS) compliance.
While the software half of the POS system equation is probably most important, especially in a cloud-based solution, many retail businesses will still require reliable desktop and mobile hardware.
The ability to move POS functionality away from the cash register into the hands of roving employees for faster and more efficient business transactions is vital. This adds new areas of consideration, including an added focus on wireless connectivity, security, and support for tablets and smartphones. Most modern POS systems run on industry standard tablets such as The Apple iPad or Microsoft Surface Pro. There are also other dedicated hardware items available such as card swipe devices, receipt printers, cash drawers, and barcode scanners. The advantage of tablet-based systems is their mobility. While you may not immediately need this type of mobility, it is good to ensure that it is available in any chosen system.
An efficient desktop POS device can allow the customer to sign on the screen or enter contact information. In addition, customer-facing screens must be available to allow customers to view sales information as a sale is made.
POS systems are not just about taking payments as they also let you track your inventory, customers, and employees. As you make sales, the system should be able to track what has been sold, how many items still remain, when you are out of that item, and notify you ahead of time so that you can restock. You should be able to print out barcodes for any items that don't already have them using Universal Product Codes that you can scan during a sale.
It's one thing to be able to track how much of your inventory is still available but it's quite another to see what products sell when and to whom. If you can predict that twice as many individual product items are sold in July than in December, then you'll know how many to order.
If your sales of any items goes up exponentially every certain weekday or month, then you might want to hire an extra salesperson during those periods.
Employee tracking is also useful. Your POS system should be able to clock your employees in and out with wristbands and offer different levels of security depending on an employee’s status. This way, a cashier, for example, won't have access to the same back-office functions that a manager has.
It is useful for a POS system to collect customer information that can be utilized for loyalty programs and other promotional campaigns. The system should offer functionality to send emails to customers to thank them for sales, advertise bargains or offer coupons and offer loyalty perks.
Your POS system must function offline as networks can go down at the most inconvenient moments. You'll want to be able to keep selling even though your POS system may be temporarily out of contact with its central server internally or via the cloud. Additionally, your POS system should be able to create an online store that will pull from the same inventory database. If you're starting a small retail business, then it could be an important feature to consider.
If you are going to be accepting credit and debit cards you're going to need a service that can process those payments.
That service is also going to cost you a percentage of your sale. As a result, you will
need to think about your business functionality and how this relates to the POS system that you choose.
If you are starting from scratch, then a POS system that offers a one-stop- shop service can be very convenient. If something goes wrong, then here will be a one call for technical assistance.
If the system crashes at the start of your busy period, then how easy is it to get technical support? You are losing revenue every time an impatient customer walks out of the store.
A backup solution is essential especially, in fact mandatory, in the case of cloud-based POS systems. These systems can suffer not only from software problems but also from Internet connectivity issues. POS systems are built to be as simple to operate as possible and most of them are. But things can always go wrong, especially when you're dealing with back-office functions such as inventory or personnel management. Therefore, it's always a good idea to have a reliable support system in place and ensure a professional support contract is negotiated in your licencing agreement.
Your POS system vendor must offer a wide range of support, starting with articles, videos, and tutorials on how to use their products. They must also provide all hardware and software setup assistance. If you operate a business that has weekend or late hours, then you must have a POS system supplier that offers 24/7 support.
Attract More Sales
In the end, a good POS system enables you to easily make sales, track sales, and enhance your ability to attract more Customers specific to your business. Select a system that suits you and the size of your business. Have it demonstrated onsite and make sure that it offers all of the features that won't only fit your