Retail POS Systems: Best Reasons for Purchasing Not What You Think
A point of sale system can validate or debunk intuitive guesses about how a business is doing overall, what products are selling fastest and slowest, what shifts or individual employees are most productive, which days and times are busiest, where traffic is coming from, and, depending how the system is configured, can even track individual customers buying habits.
Businesses using hard data from a retail point of sale system can make informed decisions about stocking, scheduling, pricing, advertising, promotions and even in store merchandising. Adjustments in any one of these areas can positively affect the bottom line, and taken together, savings can be significant, often providing a return on investment in the POS system within months.
So, while the initial impetus to purchase a POS system might be driven by a need to improve cash management or lessen the likelihood of theft, the wealth of data is often the more valuable benefit to using a point of sale system.
Retail POS Systems: More Work with Less Effort
Retail POS systems can be simple or robust. Fully integrated point of sale systems deliver benefits beyond information and cash management including the capability to: re-price merchandise without touching it, integrate Web site shopping carts, enter sales directly into accounting systems, track payroll, and trigger orders to suppliers. The list of POS services that can be integrated with back end systems continues to grow as software publishers jostle for market share and the market responds.
Retail POS Systems: Software
At the heart of every point of sale system is software, and it should be the first piece of a POS system to be researched. It is not hard to find off-the-shelf POS software that has been written for particular types of businesses including restaurants, bars, hotels, auto dealers, car rental companies, travel agencies, and businesses that use service tickets to name just a few. When industry-specific software is available, it should be seriously considered as it will need less customizing than more generic offerings.
Custom programming is sometimes unavoidable, but it can be more costly and difficult to maintain. Besides the functionality of the software, another purchase consideration is ease of use. Employees confronted with systems that are difficult to learn will often find a "work around" bypassing the system and effectively sabotaging it. Finally, software that cannot be supported by the company that wrote it will eventually have to be supported internally or be replaced. So, research not just the software, but the company behind it.
Retail POS Systems: Putting the Pieces Together
Once the choice of software has been determined, finding the hardware components is relatively easy. Besides a cash drawer, input and output devices are needed. To enter orders or sales, a barcode reader, touch screen, or keyboard is usually used. Magnetic card readers are sometimes integrated into keyboards, but they are also found as standalone devices. Output devices include label printers for tagging merchandise, and receipt printers.
Retail POS systems, depending on configuration, range in price from the mid hundreds of dollars to the low thousands of dollars for a single location.