Whether you’re a long time merchant or you’re just starting out, having the right retail POS system in place is important for your success.
A retail point-of-sale system is a management software that helps simplify and manage everything in a retail operation. Today’s modern POS software can even handle sales in store and online, and can include marketing tools designed to help you increase your revenue.
In this article, we’ll take you through the things that you should consider when choosing a new retail POS system.
4 Things To Consider In A New Retail POS System
1. Cloud vs. Legacy
First, you must decide whether you prefer a cloud-based or a legacy retail POS system. The main difference between these two types of software is how data is stored and where you can use the software.
Legacy POS software (also known as on-premise, installed or desktop software) is installed on specific devices and the data created is stored on a database in a physical computer or server in the store. Because the data is stored on a specific computer or device in your store, you can only access the data when you are actually in the store. A user can only use a legacy POS software in the physical store because the software is also saved on computers in the store. You can compare it to having a software program or an electronic document saved on your computer at home – they cannot be accessed from anywhere else.
In comparison, cloud retail POS systems save all data in a secure cloud server located outside of the store with a reliable hosting service such as Google Cloud. Data that is stored in a cloud server can be accessed from anywhere with internet and will have advanced security control over who can access it. A similar example of how cloud systems are different would be to consider traditional video rentals with Netflix. With a video rental, you can only watch it if you have a physical tape or DVD player. With Netflix, as long as you have an internet connection, your favorite shows can be accessed from anywhere because Netflix’s video player and all of their shows are stored in cloud servers which users can access based on login usernames and passwords.
When deciding between the two types of POS software, you must consider which one is a better fit for your retail business. Click here to better understand how cloud POS software is changing the retail industry.
2. Device Compatibility
It’s important to remember that most POS software only work on specific devices. So you must also consider whether you can re-use your existing devices when selecting a new POS software. Otherwise, you’ll need to invest a considerable amount of money (and time) in new hardware devices together with the new retail POS system.
When narrowing down your POS options, look to see if the software works with existing devices and hardware such as your computers, barcode scanners, etc. Some hardware such as credit card terminals don’t need to be fully integrated but there should be ways to use them if you would like to avoid buying new hardware.
Expert Tip: Just because a software is cloud-based, does not mean that it works on all devices. The earliest cloud POS software were built for specific operating systems and can only be used on specific devices (e.g. iPads)
3. Training And Automation
Retailers may be tempted to choose the cheapest POS software option when looking for a new software. But it’s important to consider the cost of training staff to use a new retail POS system in the overall cost of switching.
A POS system that is inexpensive but difficult to use can cost you a lot in the long term. This is especially true for high-traffic retailers that deal with peak periods and long lineups. It is also important for retailers with high turnover rates or seasonal peaks. If you are constantly training new staff members, you need to consider a solution with built-in training tools that are easy to use.
User-friendly software that is easy to operate will speed up store operations and make for happier, more productive employees. This means a faster onboarding process and lower ongoing training costs for you.
At the same time, it’s important to also consider automation features when looking at new retail POS systems. Besides ease of use, you will want to consider POS tools or features that eliminate routine tasks. Examples include managing inventory in store and online. This type of automation helps to reduce staffing costs and overall reliance on trained staff to handle ongoing, repetitive tasks that don’t add value.
4. Scalability Of Retail POS Systems
Many retailers make the mistake of choosing a POS without thinking about long-term growth. While you may only have one retail location with minimal inventory now, there’s no way to know how quickly your retail operations will grow. That’s why it’s important to consider the future cost and expandability of any retail POS system.
This means that your POS software should be able to grow or scale with you. Look out for the following features when selecting a new retail POS system:
The ability to add new sales channels (e.g. online store, Facebook Shop) linked to inventory and customers
The ability to add new stores, selling zones, and stock allocations to split inventory
The ability to see customer history across all locations and channels
The ability to use multi-currency and multi-language
The ability to handle high transaction and inventory volume
The ability to automate tax calculations with exceptions across locations and channels
Some retail POS providers charge based on the number of stores and transactions volume. This means that eventually you will have to invest a substantial amount of money upgrading your POS plan or investing in a new POS altogether when you’re ready to expand. So rather than wasting resources switching to a new POS provider, choose a POS software that supports retail growth in the long-term, right from the start.
Going from a single retail store to a multi-location operation comes with different business challenges. But, at the same time, it also comes with greater opportunities to reach more shoppers and grow your sales.
In fact, with the right technology and processes in place, managing several retail stores is a great way to start leveraging the benefits of scale.
In this blog post, we’ll take you through some of the steps you should take to ensure a smooth transition from a single store to a multi-store operation.
Tips for managing multi-store operations
1) Run your retail operations in the cloud
Managing several retail stores at the same time requires more efficiency and flexibility in running your business. In particular, it requires a retail POS system designed for multi-store management. This is where new cloud POS technology comes in.
Because cloud software isn’t tied to a specific device, as long as you have an internet connection, you can access your POS and the data you need to run your business from anywhere. Whether you’re in store, on the go, at home, or even on vacation, checking in on your stores is as easy as logging in to your POS system from an internet browser.
Cloud retail POS technology also gives you access to centralized, real-time data across all of your retail locations. So important information such as stock levels, sales history, and customer information are always up-to-date. After all, in today’s competitive retail environment, shoppers expect stores to be able to access real-time stock levels across all locations.
Accurate data leads to less stock-outs and lost sales and ultimately, happier employees and customers.
2) Minimize staff turnover risks and simplify employee training with technology
You obviously can’t manage multiple store locations by yourself. So, it’s important to hire competent staff members that you can trust to take charge of different store operations while you are away.
But even if you hire the right people, the fact is, how you manage staff is just as important as who you hire. This is especially true once you have multiple locations.
It’s important for you to be able to trust your managers (and a great manager can make all the difference in a store’s performance), but unless your staff are tied to your business, there is always a chance that an employee will quit. And you need to be prepared for that day.
There are so many examples of companies that have over-relied on one or a few individuals that there is even a term for this: “Key-Person Dependency Risk“. This is a particularly big issue for small-to-medium businesses that often don’t have the resources for back-up personnel or even cross-training of staff.
This is where technology has been able to add real value in terms of minimizing the risk of over-reliance while, at the same time, freeing up staff from doing boring, routine tasks.
A well-managed company is never dependent upon the performance of one or a few individuals. As well, no employee should be allowed to hoard knowledge, relationships, or resources to achieve job security.
This is why it is crucial to consider the built-in security controls and training tools already in place when choosing a retail POS system. Almost everything in a modern retail business flows through a retail point-of-sale system. As such, your ability to manage the knowledge (e.g. reports, costing, margins, etc.) in your business greatly depends on:
Your ability to track the actions and performance of your staff with your retail POS.
Your ability to easily train new staff in different roles whenever there is turnover.
If you’ve worked in retail long enough to expand to multiple locations, you know the importance of POS and how costly it can be to manage and train staff to use a new point-of-sale system.
For retailers who deal with peak periods, long lineups, or high employee turnover rates, it is essential for merchants to consider the real cost of both onboarding and training over time. Because unless you never expect to lose any staff, you will always be re-training some employees.
While you may be tempted to choose the cheapest POS software option or the one with the simplest design, we always ask our customers to take a good look at the type of security and access controls they will have right from the beginning. It is very difficult to control the data of a retail business outside of the POS system and too costly (assuming it is even possible) to get custom features added to a standard system used by many other merchants.
It’s why we put so much time into the design of the access rights and training tools within our own POS. After all, while we design our software for user-friendliness, clean design cannot be simple to the point where it lacks real functionality. And in modern cloud-based POS, it’s possible for even feature-rich systems to be easy-to-use with properly designed UX and practical tools such as built-in product tutorials.
3) Implement standard operating procedures across all of your retail locations
Standard operating procedures (SOPs) ensure that business operations are consistent and predictable across all of your retail locations. Put simply, SOPs make managing a multi-store business easier – and they give your customers a consistent shopping experience.
Standard procedures that should be established at each store include product returns and discounts, order policies, store, and security. Similar to access rights, the easiest and most common place to manage SOPs is through your POS system. So make sure to check if the POS system you’re considering has options to manage returns, discounts, cashouts, sales policies, etc.
4) Choose a retail POS that can scale with you
Many retailers make the mistake of investing in a new POS without thinking about business growth. There are many retail POS providers that restrict the number of users, inventory items or stores that can be added. Meaning that once your retail operations grow beyond a certain level, you must invest a considerable amount of money to upgrade your POS plan or switch to a new POS altogether.
Nowadays, retail store owners need the flexibility to work anywhere, anytime. In fact, you should be able to easily turn any web-enabled device into a POS station. With the introduction of multi-platform point-of-sale software, retailers now have the ability to do just that.
Keep reading to learn what a multi-platform retail point-of-sale system is and how you can sell anywhere, on any device.
What is a Multi-Platform POS Software?
Multi-platform point-of-sale is a type of software that works on any web-enabled device, regardless of the operating system. This means a software that works on your desktop, tablet or mobile phone, even if they are a mix of Windows, iOS, Mac OS or Android devices.
Benefits of Multi-Platform POS Software
Cost savings, re-use existing hardware: If you are looking for a retail point-of-sale system with a low upfront cost, investing in a multi-platform point-of-sale system is the way to go. Because it can work on any web-enabled device, you don’t have to spend time or money replacing your existing hardware.
Sell more with mobile POS: With the ability to sell on mobile, tablet or desktop devices, virtually any place inside of your store can be turned into a checkout point. And because multi-platform POS systems can be used on existing devices, it’s faster and cheaper to set-up temporary checkout points during high traffic and rush hours to prevent long line-ups.
Continue selling even when your internet goes down: Nowadays, credit and debit payments are the most popular payment methods. While some POS systems offer offline capability, because modern PINpads cannot work without an internet connection, even if you can use your POS, you will still lose sales as few shoppers carry cash today. The future of retail POS is multi-platform as merchants now need to have the ability to switch devices seamlessly. With the TAKU platform, it’s as easy as signing in to your POS on a mobile device with data to continue ringing in sales.
Improve customer experience: Employees can serve customers and process transactions from anywhere in the store resulting in shorter lines and better customer service.
Scale cost-effectively, faster: Multi-platform POS systems allow you to scale easily. As any web-enabled device can be turned into a station, growing your retail business is easy and inexpensive.
Sell wherever your customer is: Multi-platform POS is ideal for merchants who operate on different sales channels. Easily sell in-store, on-the-go or online. Don’t miss any sales opportunities.
A point of sale system is demonstrably the most important tool you can have when running a retail business.
In fact, retail stores that invest in a strong POS system are quick to see a huge return on investment.
A retail POS can help you save time and money by streamlining repetitive tasks, maintaining business records, and reducing human error. Even better, it can even help grow your retail business with useful data and marketing integrations.
Keep reading to find out more about how your retail business can benefit from a POS system.
What is a Retail POS?
Traditionally POS stands for “point of sale” – which refers to the place where a customer transaction occurs. Or in simpler terms, the point at which a customer hands over money in exchange for a product that they’ve purchased.
For many retailers, this usually means the area surrounding the checkout line. For retailers who adopt cloud POS or mobile POS solutions, their whole store essentially becomes a point of sale.
What is a Retail POS System?
To better manage in-store checkout, retail POS systems were created. The original POS systems were a combination of hardware and software that retailers used to manage their sales operations. Because POS systems are the only source of all detailed store sales, they eventually expanded to include everything from tracking customer history and taxes reports to advanced marketing and inventory management.
Retail POS Software
Today, there are 2 main types of retail POS systems in the market: on-premise software and cloud-based subscriptions.
On-premise POS software: This type of software is installed on specific devices and usually does not rely on the Internet because the data is stored on the same devices. Because the database is stored “locally” in a specific server computer in your store, you can only access the data when you are in the store.
Cloud-based POS software: Cloud software stores data in an off-site cloud server (often hosted by a major cloud hosting service such as Google Cloud or Microsoft Azure) and is accessed via the Internet. You can compare it to writing a report on Google Docs. As long as you have an Internet connection, you can access your report from anywhere. While there may be some limitations without Internet access with cloud systems, there are major gains in remote accessibility, cost-savings and real-time data accuracy. Click here for more information on the benefits of cloud-based retail POS software
There is also a 3rd type of “hybrid” retail POS system which combines a hardwired local connection with access to data in the cloud. While this type of solution reduces the reliance on Internet, it is often a more complex system to maintain and more commonly used by larger operations. At the same time, because it is designed to allow for longer offline use, there is greater potential for issues with data quality during “synchronization” of online and offline data.
Expert Tip! It’s also important to note that offline usage and “data integrity” actually work against each other. While it is key for operations to have usable salesscreen functions (or alternative ways of processing sales) when the internet or network is down, the quality of the pooled data is lower and less accurate the more often the stations in a POS are “offline.” So if getting accurate, accessible business data from anywhere is a major priority, it’s important to consider a system which prioritizes real-time data accuracy with fast and reliable data sharing and considers offline usage for emergency scenarios only. Systems that prioritize offline capabilities over the data sharing functionality will be designed for infrequent synchronization. While this may not be a concern for certain types of businesses, the reality is that omnichannel retailers that need real-time stock quantity and even restaurants that take online orders need accurate POS data to make better operational decisions. After all, customers now expect real-time information when they intend to shop or order something. It’s another reason why smart POS is now able to automatically help merchants update correct store information or product stock levels in real-time.
Retail POS Hardware
POS hardware includes all of the physical components of your POS system. It is usually comprised of the following items:
1. POS terminal: This is the hardware or device (computer, laptop, desktop etc.) that the POS software runs on.
Traditional, on-premise systems have limitations when it comes to hardware. This is because most on-premise solutions can only operate on certain devices and operating systems (such as Windows or Mac).
To use on-premise POS software, a license must be installed on each device that a merchant wishes to operate on. At the same time, licenses are often tied to the hardware they are installed on and can be difficult or costly to transfer to other devices.
For newer, cloud-based POS software, merchants can use any device with Internet connectivity to access their data – laptops, tablets, desktops and even mobile phones. Cloud POS software does not require merchants to pay per device, rather merchants often pay per active station (or users logged in at the same time). Transferable access offers multi-channel merchants a lot more flexibility when managing store operations.
2. Cash Drawer: A cash drawer is an important yet simple part of a retail POS system. This piece of hardware provides both security and organization to retailers. It is where cash, coins, checks and credit card receipts are stored.
The receipt printer will send signals to the cash drawer, prompting it to open when necessary.
3. Barcode Scanner: Barcode scanners are an important part of most retail stores. Compared to restaurants, retailers carry a lot more inventory and need to use barcode scanners to make checkout an easier and faster process for both store employees and shoppers. Scanners use lasers to read barcode numbers unique to each SKU and enter these numbers immediately in the POS software.
While most retail POS systems should be designed specifically for barcode scanners, it is important for there to be other search methods should barcode tags get damaged or lost. Without scanners, cashiers should be able to quickly search by product codes or keyword for each item in the store.
Expert Tip! Unless a retail store has a very low number of inventory items (e.g. coffee shop), the default salesscreen mode should be designed for barcode scanners. The picture gallery touchscreen mode commonly found in tablet-based POS was traditionally designed for restaurants where the number of inventory items is very low and is generally not efficient in retail stores with more than 500 unique SKUs. While some POS providers will serve both restaurants and retailers, if the default salesscreen is designed for touchscreen picture gallery, most likely the company that developed the original software started with a restaurant POS and later retrofit it for retail.
4. Receipt Printer: Once a customer pays for the items that they have purchased, cashiers will usually hand them a receipt to confirm payment. While email receipts are increasingly popular, the majority of receipts are still printed based on the data received from the POS software.
There are three ways that credit card terminals can accept credit or debit payments:
1) Using chip & PIN cards: Where shoppers insert chip & PIN cards to make a purchase. This type of payment is EMV-compliant and the most secure of the 3 types.
2) Swiping card magstripes: Where shoppers swipe their cards in order to make a payment. This type of payment is not EMV compliant and opens the merchant up to chargebacks on all payments processed.
3) Near-field-communication (NFC): Where shoppers use their devices (Apple or Google Pay) or simply tap their cards to pay. This type of payment is the fastest of the 3. While tap is not as risky as magstripes (it is generally only allowed for individual payments of up to $100), in a busy store, this can be costly as the merchant is still fully liable for any chargebacks.
3 Reasons Why Your Retail Store Needs a POS System
Adopting a POS software that is designed for checkout speed will help speed up store operations and improve shopper satisfaction. This is especially important for busy multi-lane stores as they often deal with long line-ups.
Faster checkout is also key to increasing revenue during high season or rush periods. The longer your customers wait in line, the slower your turnover and lower your sales.
Here are some checkout features to look out for when choosing a retail POS software designed for fast checkout:
Easy navigation: Look for a software that is designed for checkout speed and minimum clicks. You shouldn’t have to leave your salescreen in order to complete a transaction.
Fast scanning speed: Retail POS software should be designed for quick barcode scanning with easy recall of your last search. Make sure that the system you’re looking at is able to handle multiple barcodes per SKU as every retail product commonly has an internal code, a shortcode, a vendor code, a manufacturer code and possibly several carton codes.
Advanced inventory search: Besides barcode scanning speed, a retail POS software designed to handle high volume inventory or a large number of transactions quickly needs to be able to have smart search functions including keyword search by description, barcode or tag should labels not be scannable, etc.
If you want more information about adopting a line busting retail POS software that is designed for checkout speed, click here.
2) Increased Mobility
Retail POS systems – cloud POS software in particular, provide retailers with more flexibility and mobility. As data is stored in the cloud, store owners can access their business information around the clock from anywhere – even if they are not physically in the store. They can view inventory levels, tax reports and sales data right from the comfort of home or even on vacation. Well-designed cloud POS software can also function on any device – from tablets, laptops to smartphones.
3) The Ability to Use the POS Data for Retail Marketing
POS data is critical to the success of any business. This is because data provides retailers with the tools to effectively manage inventory, sales, and finances.
Besides standard sales and inventory reports, modern cloud-based retail POS systems help store owners sell more using their own POS data. Because cloud POS are particularly good at integrating with other cloud solutions, real-time store data can be shared other solutions such as e-commerce platforms, shipping services or listings such as Google My Business, which help improve SEO and drive more local foot traffic to stores.
We will be posting more POS tips in the upcoming weeks.
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