What goes into the perfect point-of-sale (POS) solution? The answer varies depending on whether you are managing a restaurant, hotel, retail operation, night club, or any other type of sales operation. The basics are the same for any POS solution but finding a system that is perfect for your unique requirements is the key.
Hospitality Technology surveyed restaurant operators to ask what they want in a POS solution. The findings are not only relevant for restaurateurs but for any business that uses point of sale. The leading feature influencing POS solution purchases was adding mobile POS support (69.6 percent. The second most-sought-after feature was the ability to support new payment options (62.5 percent), such as an e-wallet. Third was the ability to drive custom promotions (46.4 percent). And fourth was tighter integration with e-commerce (44.6 percent).
These new feature options are becoming standard features for the new generation of POS solutions. Here are the some things to consider when shopping for the perfect POS solution for your operation:
The Baseline POS Solution
POS solutions have moved well beyond the simple cash register. POS now serves as the point of interaction with customers, the means to check prices and special sales, calculate taxes, handle returns, and produce sales and inventory reports. But no matter what your POS needs, you have to start with the basics:
- A workstation – Whether it’s a cash register or a computer, POS vendors package solutions as an all-in-one workstation with monitor, keyboard, cash system, receipt printer, credit card scanner, and barcode scanner.
- A back-office server – The workstation is at the point of transaction, but it has to be connected to a back office system that links transaction records to accounting, inventory, and other managerial software.
- Data entry – Some POS systems use a keyboard; others use a touch-screen monitor; or they can use both.
- Pin pad – Customers are now completing their transactions with a keypad to enter their credit or debit card PIN.
- Self-checkout – Another increasingly popular option is the self-checkout system with a touchscreen that allows customers to handle their own purchases.
- Receipt printer – Issuing a receipt is standard, and increasingly POS solutions are adding options to email or text a digital receipt.
These are just some of the basic features to look for in a POS solution. But why settle for just the basics.
Expanding POS Systems Beyond the Basics
Depending on your transactional needs you may want to shop for additional POS features, such as:
- Mobile POS system – Whether it’s an iPad or a custom handheld device, mobile POS systems are gaining popularity in restaurants to speed table service and in retail stores to cut down long checkout lines. In fact, mobile POS systems can be useful in almost any setting from car washes to medical offices.
- Fingerprint readers – Cash register security has always been a problem that many POS users have solved with fingerprint readers. With fingerprint readers authorized employees can access the cash register using fingerprint authentication.
- Electronic signature capture – Using signature pads to complete a credit card transaction shortens transaction time and speeds up credit card receivables for the retailer. Some retailers, such as the Apple Stores, are already combining electronic signature capture with mobile POS systems so an entire transaction takes place in minutes without going to a cash register.
- Check readers – Supermarkets and other locations that accept personal checks use magnetic ink character recognition (MICR) to scan and store paper check transactions.
- E-wallet systems – Google Wallet, PayPal, and other electronic funds transfer systems are becoming increasingly popular, and more POS systems are accepting e-wallet transactions using smartphone scanners.
POS Solutions Need Back End Support
In addition to supporting front-of-the-house transactions, the POS system has to be integrated into back-end operations to manage:
- Pricing – Any POS solution will have a means of tracking pricing, including add-ons, cost of goods, margins, and custom formulas such as discounts. Your POS solution should be an important data source for sales reports and revenue projections.
- Updating product and inventory information – Once a sale has been completed the system should automatically update both inventory and accounting records.
- Sales options tracking – In addition to standard sales, your business may call for a payment plan, group discounts, delivery charges, rent-to-own, or other options. The POS system should be able to support these variations and reflect the outcome in sales reports and projections.
- Taxes – The POS system also should be able to support various forms of tax. For example, in addition to state and local sales taxes you may want additional tax rates for different states to handle mail order.
These are just some of the elements that go into the perfect POS solution. In addition to features, you want to shop for vendors as well. Work with providers that stand behind their POS system with solid warranties and good service. Also consider working with vendors with the technical expertise to assist with back-end integration to make sure your POS integrates with your inventory control, accounting, and sales tracking software.
What one feature do you consider most important in a POS solution?