Sometimes the $39 cash register is not enough. Retail small business owners looking to have more control over transactions or who want to simplify the checkout process for their customers might want to consider a POS (Point of Sale) system.
At the heart of each POS system is a computer running specialized POS software. The total system bundle provides the technology to give small business owners an immediate and accurate picture of their inventory; recording changes on the system’s hard drive each time a purchase is made. They also come with accessory hardware, such as a cash drawer, receipt printer, barcode scanner and credit card reader.Different POS systems work better in different types of stores — what’s best suited for a convenience store might not work for a gourmet market or apparel boutique. When you’re choosing a system, look for features that will add value and improve the experience for you or your customers. Here are three things to keep in mind before choosing a system:
Inventory tracking is an extremely valuable feature to look for in a POS system. It allows you to monitor your current inventory and even set alerts when it’s time to reorder, so you’re not caught short in any product categories. Your system should also let you add new items with ease and look at inventory activity for the day, week or even year — this will help you anticipate what you need to order in the short- and long-term.
Ease of use is also a critical attribute to look for, as you will be using this system for every transaction every day. Remember, the more complex the POS system, the more difficult it can be for you and your employees to learn, update and troubleshoot. Try to strike a balance between a system that is easy to use yet offers the features most important to your business. That is why I (The Weekly Geek) like and use Dinerware software for restaurants / hospitality, QuickBooks for some retail stores and the HarborTouch series (stores, quick restaurant, convenience store and drink related options).
Expansion is another factor to consider as you weigh your options. If you don’t have the funds to purchase a sophisticated POS system right now, you may want to look at a system that will allow you to start basic (software, cash drawer and receipt printer) and add on later (barcode scanner, credit card reader, inventory tag printer, pole display, PIN debit pad, etc.). Of course as you expand and grow your business you may need more checkout stations and thus more POS systems. Buying your first one with enough “horsepower” (CPU, RAM and Hard drive) to serve the addional stations is critical.
You need to decide if you want a computer “tower” as the brain or server or an all-in-one system. Along with that you need to decide if you need a touch screen monitor or if a keyboard and scanner will suffice.
Next, how do you want to process credit and debit cards? With a stand alone terminal you have a higher risk of staff incorrectly inputting the customers total which is either a costly loss by an undercharge, or a costly mistake with an upset customer who was overcharged. Most POS systems have integrated capabilities to accept cards, HOWEVER, some only accept certain processors which can (and in my opinion always does) cost you more in Merchant Service fees. Dentrix dental and Sentinel / WinSen (Storage facility software) are two example of where you must use their Merchant Services if you process through their software.
There are some 3rd party solutions, who of course charge a monthly and percent fee to have their software integrate into your processer and POS. Something to consider. This is the reason I promote (“sell”?) Mercury Payment Processing and HarborTouch Payment Processing, less fees and bull cost to your business.
Choosing the right POS system depends on the size, scope and nature of your retail or restaurant operation, so do your research before choosing a solution. Once you determine the right bundle, the system can save you time and money. It will also help maximize the efficiency of each customer transaction, improving customer service and your bottom line.
If you are not sure what you need, contact your Trusted Technology Provider for their knowledge and wisdom on what is best for your business.
If you have questions or need help, feel free to contact me and I will do my best to help you.
Much of the information from this article was combined from Staples and The Weekly Geek.