Point of Sale (POS) encompasses almost every function done at a retail store from order processing and returns to inventory management and product ordering. A POS system is much more than a basic cash register. It is now the core management tool for any retail business. The most valuable retail POS system is one that will run your business your way.
With the properly matched software and hardware, your business can improve sales through better and expanded customer services like couponing and loyalty programs. Gain deeper insight into sales trends and customer preferences so that you can provide a positive experience for your clients while maintaining a lean and efficient backend. A robust POS system allows you to efficiently manage your store operations while staying focused on keeping your customers satisfied.
What are the Key Benefits of a Point of Sale System?
A POS system improves the customer experience and provides efficiency with the benefits of:
- Speed – Process transactions faster for shorter lines, happier customers and more sales.
- Customer Retention – Track customer information to better provide services like a loyalty program to keep them coming back.
- Accuracy – Ensure the correct price very time using scanning. Reduce shrinkage and costs by tracking each sale and having clear inventory data.
- Visibility – Adjust stock levels to improve profit margins and drive efficiency by having exact data on what and when your customers are buying.
- Compliance – Quickly verify ID (e.g. alcohol or tobacco purchases) using imaging technology that can also snap a photo if necessary.
What is Point of Sale?
As technology improves each year, it’s no surprise that retail point of sale systems have quickly become the new benchmark in all forms of retail–from big box retailers to trendy boutique shops. The features found in electronic cash registers of the past pale in comparison to the advanced features available today. Regardless of their size, retailers will see an immediate return on their investment when they implement the right POS solution.
Historically, the electronic cash register was the norm for a check-out station at a retail store. Though they were inexpensive, they had very limited tracking abilities for everything you sold. Many of them even had a limit as to how many items could be in the system and often didn’t support barcode scanning. As computer costs became more affordable, the software POS system became the new standard. The single greatest advantage with a software POS is the degree of visibility it provides a business. Inventory tracking, payment processing, returns, loyalty programs and pretty much every other retail business function are all encompassed in a POS software. The consolidation of all these processes allows a business to do them all faster, more efficiently and know what products and services their customers want. These advantages help a business create a better sales experience to gain long-standing customers, not shoppers.
Every business is unique in its needs and processes, but any capable POS application can be set-up to work for any business type. Whether you are a storefront retailer or a new restaurant, there are several key features any POS system will have:
- Quick and simple checkouts – With support for barcode scanning and payment terminals, your checkout process will be faster than ever. A few scans and your customers are on their way without the hassle of long lines. The less time your staff is behind the register, the more they can help your customers.
- Immediate inventory information – Every transaction you conduct is removed from the internal inventory of your POS software. You will always have up-to-the-minute, accurate inventory data that allows you to keep stock levels exactly where they need to be to meet your customer’s demands.
- Reporting – The real value of a POS system is what it can tell you about your sales and customers. Any POS software will have built-in common reports as well as the means to create custom reports to get the best picture of your business.
- Automated purchasing – Since you are tracking inventory with every sale, the POS software can also let you know when stock levels are low to order more. Many applications can integrate with your accounting software to generate purchase orders immediately when needed. Faster, more informed ordering means never having to say you’re out of stock.
- Customer accounts – POS software will give you the means to track all of your customer’s information to better serve them. Loyalty programs and customer specific promotions are possible when you know who your customers are and what they are buying. Personalizing the customer experience helps keep them coming back.
- PCI compliancy – The fact is that most transactions are paid with debit or credit cards today. Supporting cashless payment is a must for any business. In order to accommodate your customers and keep them safe, your POS system should support the PCI DSS standards.
- Return processing – Sometimes customers need to return an item for a variety of reasons. Make the process easy and pain-free to keep their future business.
- External application support – Many times you need to sync your POS data with accounting or warehouse management systems already in place. Being able to share sales, customer and employee data throughout your business keep errors to a minimum with maximum efficiency.
Regardless of the business size or what you are selling, an integrated POS system is a must to be competitive and retain customers. All you need is the right software, a PC and a few peripherals to create a robust POS station that will greatly enhance your sales and customer satisfaction.
What Should You Address When Making a Point of Sale System?
When putting together an effective and suitable POS system there are a few key questions to answer:
- Are you in a retail or restaurant environment?
- How many transactions will you conduct daily?
- Will you need to process credit and debit cards?
- How many lanes (stations) will you need? Do you have a network to link them?
- Do you need the POS system to have mobile transaction options?
- Do you need multiple stores to be linked together?
- Will you need the POS software to sync data with external applications (eg. accounting software)?
- Will you need age verification capabilities?
What are the Components of a Point of Sale System?
All POS systems consist of these 7 core components:
- POS Software – The software is the core of any POS system and making sure you use one that fits your business type is crucial. Some applications can be industry specific with features not found in others while others can be customized to fit your needs.
- Desktop PC – Any basic PC can be used for a POS system as long as it meets the requirements of your software and connectivity for peripherals. There are also POS centric PCs that offer sealed cases or low power operation as well as all-in-one units with integrated touchscreens.
- Displays – A standard monitor is needed at any POS but touchscreens are a user-friendly option that can speed up the checkout process. Pole and customer-facing displays also offer a clearer customer experience and are a great way to promote special offers to customers.
- Barcode Scanner – Scanning has become a basic part of all POS to input product data into the system. You’ll find 1D barcodes on products but with the need for age verification and couponing, 2D scanners have become more commonplace at the POS.
- Receipt Printer – Every transaction ends with a receipt to the customer, so having a printer go down is crippling to any POS system. It is important to have a printer that can support your transaction volume and environment without issues. Options for thermal and impact printers, in a variety of sizes, means there is a unit that will fit your specific needs.
- Credit Card Reader/Payment Terminal – Processing credit and debit cards securely is a requirement for any POS system today. Making sure your hardware is compliant with PCI standards keeps you and your customers safe.
- Cash Drawer – Though they are the simplest piece of a POS system, choosing a durable unit with the connectivity you need, will ensure a long life for your cash drawer.