Retail businesses have long understood the importance of POS systems to speed checkout and record valuable sales information. Even an unsophisticated, punch-key cash register than spits out sales at the end of the day is a form of a POS system.
But astute retailers of all sizes are realizing that a POS system can provide much more value than simply conducting and accounting for sales. With the emergence of POS retail software solutions, you can now capture and analyze customer buying behavior. You can not only know how much you’re selling, you can know who’s buying, what they’re buying, and where they’re buying.
You can also use POS to track and manage inventory, even to provide automated ordering of stock. And a POS system can trigger online marketing such as emails or SMS text messages to let customers know about promotions targeted to their buying preferences.
What is actually occurring is the integration of POS into an overall retail software solutions package that includes strategic management of customers, employees, inventories, and vendors.
What to Look For in a POS System
Speed. The primary initial function of a POS should never be forgotten—it should make checkout easier for the customer. The system should be designed to quickly process sales, exchanges, returns, orders, layaways, payments, pricing queries, requests for inventory availability, requests for buying history, etc. And the system should be able to handle multiple transaction types in a single POS event.
Reliability. When comparing POS systems, do some research to investigate each system’s dependability and customer satisfaction. Obviously, a system that’s constantly crashing is a problem. It’s also important that the vendor provides strong customer support.
Ease of operation. POS systems depend on proper employee use. They should be intuitive and easy to learn (e.g., touch screens). They shouldn’t lead to customers having to wait at checkout while employees struggle to make the system work because it’s too complicated. The system should also make it fast and simple for employees to add relevant comments about the customer and the sale.
Features to engage customers at the POS. These include things such as auto-generated discounts provided to the customer at the time of purchase, personalized messages on receipts, and the ability to sell future purchases (e.g., the next scheduled oil change, reservations at a restaurant).
Readily available customer analytics. This aspect of a POS is crucial in moving POS from simply a service function to an integral part of your marketing effort. Aggregated POS information provided in reports customized for your business can help you track the success of promotions, establish loyalty with customers through personalized social media postings, evaluate your product line and pricing, and reveal numerous opportunities for targeted marketing.
The ability to seamlessly add more features. Don’t buy a system that you might soon outgrow. As your business expands, the ways in which you can make use of POS retail software solutions also will expand. Look for systems that have the flexibility to be adapted to future needs.
Compatibility with current computer architecture. Don’t overlook basic technical issues, which can hamper even the best POS strategy.
True Integration with All Retail Software Solutions
Ultimately, you’ll be making the wrong choice if you buy a POS system that doesn’t integrate completely with marketing, loyalty programs, inventory planning, business intelligence, and all other aspects of your business that rely on POS data. The investment in a truly integrated system will pay off in increased operational efficiency, improved customer service, more-effective marketing, and better informed management decision-making.
The end result will be higher sales and—most importantly—greater profit.