The POS, or point-of-sale, is a crucial part of every retail business. Transparency Market Research found that the global POS industry earned $36.86 billion in revenue in 2013, 34% of which claimed by retailers.
The widespread adoption of the POS can largely be credited to its added features that touch more than just the checkout process, from basic credit card processing to more advanced data-driven operations. And because it can become a command center for your multichannel business, it’s crucial to pick the right POS.
We chatted with Francesca Nicasio from Vend, a POS and inventory management system for retailers, to get her expert advice on how to choose a POS that meets your business needs.
The Value of the Right POS
The POS in a retail business is extremely valuable to the customer: More than half of UK considered a mobile POS to be the top in-store tech for customers in 2014. The right POS will make the checkout process easier and more efficient for customers (and associates). It can save customer data, email receipts, apply loyalty reward program earnings and more — all things that improve the customer experience.
Beyond that, a POS can add value to internal operations. “A point-of-sale solution is one of the most important sidekicks a retailer can have,” says Nicasio. “Aside from enabling you to ring up sales, a POS system (a good one, anyway) lets you sync, track, and manage virtually every aspect of your business — from your inventory and sales to your customer data — all from one program.”
Therefore, finding the right solution can make it easier for you to keep things running, while you focus your attention on growth. “The right solution can simplify how you run your business, make information easier to find, save you time and money, and minimize mistakes,” Nicasio says.
Plus, as you grow and add more sales channels to your business, a POS can keep your data synchronized and centralized. It’s a move that many businesses are already taking: Boston Retail Partner’s 2015 POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey predicts a 663% increase in retailers with a single commerce platform in 2019.
Starting Your Search
Identify Your Needs
“The best place to begin the search for a POS would be in your own business,” says Nicasio. “Before going out there to find a solution, you first have to figure out what you need in a POS.” To do this, consider what your current solution provides, as well as what your existing challenges are.
Nicasio recommends answering a few questions:
- Do you need a solution that can run on a mobile device?
- What types of reports or metrics do you track in your business?
- Are you running multiple stores?
- Do you do offer gift cards, promotions, or a loyalty program?
“These are just some of the questions you should ask when beginning your search,” she says. “Use the answers to come up with a ‘must-have’ and a ‘nice-to-have’ list of features. Doing this will help guide your search.”
It’s also a good idea to consider your budget at this stage as the cost for a POS depends greatly on the features available.
Features to Look for as a Scaling Business
Every business is different, and that’s why there’s no single “best POS” option out there. The answer completely depends on your unique business needs. If you’re a retail experiencing or hoping to experience rapid growth, Nicasio points out a few key considerations:
Centralized retail management: “Having a centralized retail management system is critical. If you’re a fast-growing, multi-channel retailer, you need a system that lets you manage your stores or sales channel (like your ecommerce site) with ease. For example, if you need to transfer stock from your warehouse to your store then your system should enable you to do that.”
Automatic data sync: “Get yourself a solution that automatically syncs your inventory and sales data across multiple outlets so you don’t have to deal with double entry or inaccurate data. If you’re using a different system for your brick-and-mortar and online site, make sure your POS can integrate with your online shopping cart, so information flows smoothly from one platform to the next.”
Cloud-based: “Make sure the system runs in the cloud. That way you can track your numbers and stay on top of your business from anywhere (with an internet connection).”
Short-term contracts: “[One mistake retailers make] is getting tied up in long-term contracts. Today’s retail landscape requires you to be nimble and flexible, so you want your POS or retail management system to be the same. Get yourself a solution that can scale up (or down) easily and can integrate with different systems.”
Identify Specific POS Options to Compare
Once you’ve identified your needs, you’ll want to identify a few options that meet those needs so that you can compare them to find the optimal solution. Nicasio recommends software review sites (Merchant Maverick, PCMag, Capterra, Product Hunt, etc.), as well as more traditional search methods like Google and YouTube.
“I also suggest that you talk to other retailers and ask them about their POS system,” Nicasio advises. “I know that one of our customers found us by doing just that: She walked into a shop and saw that they were using Vend on an iPad and asked them about it.”
Once you’ve narrowed down your list, watch demos and request live demo appointments so that you can ask more in-depth questions and get one-on-one attention. Refer back to that list as you analyze each option to see which POS systems best match your needs and desires.
Nicasio says the biggest mistake she sees retailers make when it comes to choosing a POS is making budget the No. 1 deciding factor. “I understand that, for many businesses, every penny counts, but you have to balance that with an investor’s mindset, in which you recognize that you sometimes have to spend money to get your business to where it needs to be,” she says.
“A cheap and low-quality POS system that lacks critical features may actually cost more,” Nicasio points out. “You might save a bit of cash right now, but the time you spend coming up with workarounds and making up for the system’s shortcomings could end up costing you more in the long run.”
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