There are innumerable options in choosing a POS software solution. The challenge is matching the POS software to the needs of the retailer, restaurant, hotel, or service provider. Each POS software package is designed with specific uses in mind, and the POS platform is an important investment for any operation since it serves as the front end for sales projections, taxes, inventory control and a host of other functions.
The actual cost to install and maintain a POS platform varies considerably, but the after cost of hardware for a POS station including scanner, printer, cash drawer, and computer is about $2,500. When you include specialized POS software, peripherals, and services, the initial purchase price of a POS system ranges between 2 and 3 percent of annual gross sales, so if gross sales were $500,000, the POS system could cost between $10,000 and $15,000. Operating costs, including POS software maintenance, is from 12 to 18 percent of the cost of the POS software license, plus additional hardware maintenance and training costs.
Considering the narrow margins of most retail operations, POS can be a significant operating expense. Choosing the wrong POS software platform can be a costly mistake.
To choose the right POS software requires having a firm understanding of the current and future needs of the business and how point of sale can help it grow. Here are eight points to consider when shopping for POS software:
1. Understand the POS business needs
The right POS software depends on the business. For example, the needs of a bookstore will differ from those of a clothing store, or a restaurant, or a hotel, and there are industry-specific POS features to look for. Retailers will want special features to support customizable coupons, product specifiers, tax codes, rewards programs, shipping instructions, customer loyalty programs, etc. Restaurants will want different POS features, such as accommodating and tracking gratuities, splitting checks, reservations, relaying instructions to the kitchen, handling “to go” orders, etc. The first step is to inventory POS needs.
2. Buy on POS software features, not price
Point of software platforms come in all price ranges starting with “free.” Cheap hardware and software will not be inadequate and will quickly need to be replaced. It’s better to invest upfront and buy a better POS platform that can grow with the business.
3. Get product references
There is no reason to reinvent the wheel; talk to retailers who have used the same POS software. Ask them how they like the product and if there are any problems with the POS software. If possible, find other customers in the area and visit them to see how their POS systems work.
4. Know your provider
Be sure to check out the POS software maker and the installer or reseller. Make sure the POS software has an established track record and will continue to be supported. Also make sure the systems integrator is reliable and will be there after the sale.
5. Ease of use
Full-featured POS software doesn’t have to be complicated to use. The system should be easy to understand and readily adaptable. Take advantage of the trial period or free demonstration offered by many POS software providers.
6. Purchase a software platform that can grow with the business
POS software is a mature market that has been serving retailers for decades, which means all the basic features are going to be included. In fact, some retailers are still running DOS-based POS software. As the business grows, you don’t want to be trapped in the Stone Age. Choose a POS software platform that will grow with the business with minimal customization; once the software has been customized it’s difficult to migrate to the latest software release.
7. Cloud versus on premise
One of the tradeoffs to consider is whether to install cloud-based POS software or opt for a solution with a dedicated server. Cloud-based POS can be less expensive to start with, since it doesn’t require dedicated hardware, and it can offer greater flexibility since it is accessible anywhere from any web connection. Cloud-based POS software is also a good choice for mobile applications, such as using an iPad for in-store transactions. For larger businesses, server-based software might be more attractive since it doesn’t require an internet connection. Some vendors also offer hybrid solutions that have the best of both.
8. Support, training, and SLAs
Both the POS software vendor and integrator should offer on-site and telephone support, comprehensive training, and service level agreements. The POS system is the life’s blood of any consumer business, which means new employees have to be trained quickly and efficiently, and the system has to be reliable and online when it’s needed.
These are just some of the criteria to consider when choosing a POS solution. What’s on your list?