Every retail business needs to accurately track their sales and check-out customers in a timely manner in order to be successful. Making sure you have the products on hand that your customers want is critical to keeping them shopping with you. The last thing you want customers remembering about your business is how the items they wanted weren’t available or how long it took them to pay for their purchases.
In the past, these challenges were much more difficult to address and often involved adding more people to your staff. Today, however, we can put technology to work to increase the visibility into your business trends and make it easier to accomplish more with less. Most importantly, you’ll be creating a better shopping experience for your customers and will keep them coming back!
Point of Sale (POS) encompasses every aspect of a retail store from the check-out process and returns to inventory management and product ordering. How you go about managing these aspects really comes down to implementing a system that works for your specific business.
POS of Yesterday
In the past, the electronic cash register was the default option for a check-out station. These cash registers may have been inexpensive, but they provided little insight into what customers were buying because of their limited sales tracking abilities. Many of them even had a limit on how many items could be in the system. Also, barcode scanning support was not common, which had a drastic impact on the time it took to conduct transactions.
When it came time to inventory a store, you were pretty much stuck with a clipboard, paper and pencil. Knowing when something was out of stock or needed to be reordered depended completely on how often you conducted inventory. Clearly, this approach to POS greatly hampered how accurately a retailer could respond to its customers’ needs.
POS of Today
Just like every other aspect of a business, the combination of PCs and software has drastically changed what a POS system is capable of doing. Inventory management, payment processing, returns, loyalty programs, couponing and pretty much every other retail business function are all encompassed in a software-based POS system. Things have advanced quite a bit beyond simply checking out the customer.
The greatest advantage of a modern POS system is the high degree of visibility it provides to your business. With every transaction, you are also tracking inventory and sales trends. You can run reports on what the most popular or most returned items are and when your busiest sales cycles are. Keeping the right inventory on hand when your customers want them is a breeze.
The consolidation of all these processes into a single system allows you to do them faster and more efficiently while knowing exactly what products and services your customers want. Regardless of your business size, you’ll see an immediate return on your investment when implementing the right POS solution.
You can now throw away that clipboard!
A POS System Checklist
A POS system consists of 7 core components no matter what your business is. The system revolves around a PC running POS software with various supporting peripherals. Making sure you have all the right pieces in your system will ensure that you are getting its full potential.
The POS software is the brains of any POS system and making sure you use one that fits your business type is crucial. Some applications can be industry-specific, like restaurant POS, with features not found in others, while others can be customized to fit your needs. Choosing POS software ultimately comes down to how many lanes and stores you want connecting to each other and the type of business you have.
A PC is where everything comes together in a POS system. Many businesses can use a standard PC as long as it meets the memory and processor requirements of the POS software and provides the needed USB ports for all the peripherals. There are also POS-specific PCs that offer sealed cases or low power operation as well as all-in-one units with integrated touchscreens and card readers to take up less space.
At the very least, you’ll need a basic monitor at your POS to see what you’re doing. Touchscreens have become a more popular and affordable option these days since they are a user-friendly option that can help speed up the checkout process. Adding customer-facing and pole displays will offer a clearer customer experience and are a great way to promote special offers to customers while they are in line.
Scanners are a crucial part of every POS system to quickly enter items and speed up the check-out process. The standard laser scanner will read all the UPC codes on products but with the expanding need for age verification, couponing, and loyalty card scanning, 2D scanners have become more commonplace. Many scanners have a handheld form factor but for POS, you can take advantage of in-counter and presentation devices for even faster, hands-free reading and even shorter lines!
Every transaction ends with a receipt for the customer straight from a receipt printer. Having a printer go down is one of the most crippling things to any POS system. Making sure you have a printer that’ll support your print volume and is easy to use is essential. Most printers are thermal based so you don’t even have to deal with ribbon cartridges anymore. Just load the paper and you are back up and running! Whatever your receipt size or type requirements are, there’s a printer to fit your needs.
MSR Reader/Payment Terminals
The prevalence of credit and debit card payments today means supporting them is a must for any business. When you consider that customers spend more on average when using plastic over cash, how can you afford to not use them? With the addition of the right reader/terminal, you can be taking safe, secure payments for every transaction.
They may be the simplest peripheral in a POS system, but cash drawers are still an essential part of your system. You need to have a secure place to keep cash, checks, and credit card receipts. Choosing a durable unit that will interface with your system easily will ensure the longest life from your drawer.
Extensions of your POS
All the daily tasks involved in running a successful retail business go beyond just processing transactions. Inventory management, product re-labeling, and customer support are also big parts of the picture. While the core components of a POS system are at the check-out station, there are additional devices that will help extend the efficiency and usefulness of your POS.
Though many of the products you’ll be scanning will probably have barcode labels on them, there will be times when these labels are damaged/unreadable. Also, shelves and locations in your store can benefit from barcode labels, especially when managing inventory. In either case, labels are commonplace at any retail store. As a result, having a dedicated label printer on hand will ensure you can make durable, long-lasting labels for any use. The great thing about software based POS systems is that many of them already support barcode label printing out of the box!
The prominent use for a mobile computer in a POS system is for basic inventory collecting. You’ll have sales data of what inventory you should have on hand, but you’ll also want to confirm what is actually on the sales floor as well. A mobile computer makes it easy to scan all your items with quantities to make sure you don’t have any shrinkage issues. Likewise, when you restock the shelves, you can quickly scan the items to update your POS system inventory. These devices can also be used by sales reps on the floor for stock look-ups for customers or even line-busting during your busy seasons. Given their flexibility, mobile computers can be used for a variety of tasks on the move in your business.
They may not be the most common part of a POS system, but kiosks are a great tool to assist your customers during their shopping experience. In the past, kiosks were custom made and were generally reserved for special applications only. Today there are several ready-made kiosk devices that have integrated scanners and network connectivity. They can be used as price checkers, gift registries, or product look up stations on your sales floor. A kiosk can even direct a customer to other store locations that have stock of the item they are looking for. The uses for a kiosk are really only limited by the software running on it.
Point of Sale in your Business
A POS system is much more than a basic check-out register. It’s the core tool to accurately manage your store operations while staying focused on keeping up with your customers’ needs. Regardless of the business size or what you are selling, an integrated POS system is a must to be competitive and retain customers.
Every business has unique needs and processes. Whether you are a storefront retailer or a new restaurant, the efficiencies and visibility provided by a complete POS system are the first steps towards success.
All you need is the right software, a PC, and a few peripherals to create a robust POS that will support your business with greater sales and customer satisfaction.