When it comes to retail POS systems, “basic” doesn’t cut it anymore. Spiraling competition, changing consumer trends and other factors mean that more comprehensive retail POS technology is a better bet for growing merchants. There are four essential features retailers should look for in a retail POS system:
- Support for an Omnichannel retail POS model
- Support for Mobile POS
- Cloud-based Configuration
- CRM/Customer Loyalty/Marketing Component
- Support for an Omnichannel retail POS model – Today’s consumers want what they want, when they want it and don’t accept the excuse of out-of-stock items or wait days for delivery. If one retailer cannot meet their product needs, they instantly seek out a competitor that can and use their own mobile devices in-store to find one. Shoppers have also come to demand the flexibility to begin their shopping in one retail POS channel and complete it in another. For example, they might order merchandise online and pick it up in-store or pick up items that are out-of-stock in one store, but available in another.
Savvy retailers are addressing these trends by adopting an omni-channel model in which their brick-and-mortar stores, websites, catalog divisions, and other components of their business operate as a cohesive unit instead of as disparate entities. To support this model, the retail POS system must have the ability to capture and store point of sale data from every channel in a single database. The retail POS system must also enable easy processing of orders initiated in one channel and completed in another, as well as afford retailers a unified view of inventory availability across all channels.
- Support for mobile point of sale (mPOS) – Increasingly, retailers are equipping associates with smartphones and tablets that allow them to process transactions on the sales floor and/or are developing mobile apps customers can use to complete in-store purchases on their own devices. One reason mPOS is a “must have” retail POS feature is that it comprises a key enabler of Omnichannel functionality. With mPOS in place, store associates can practice “clienteling” – using mobile devices to access customers’ purchasing histories and engage in suggestive selling based on this information. Associates can also harness clienteling practices, powered by mPOS, to upsell and cross-sell shoppers on appropriate merchandise. Clienteling gives associates the power to provide the level of detailed product information that sparks increased sales and the ability to “save the sale” by arranging for items that are out-of-stock at one store to be delivered to another store or directly to the consumer—all at the point of decision. Even retailers that have not adopted an Omnichannel model need to incorporate mPOS into their retail POS. The technology increases customer throughput and satisfaction by minimizing long lines at the cash wrap and freeing up associates for shopper engagement (including locating merchandise, sharing product information at the point of decision and taking payments). mPOS equipment also requires a smaller financial outlay than traditional retail POS equipment.
- Cloud-based configuration – Cloud-based retail POS offerings put mission-critical data at retailers’ fingertips, whether they are at a store location or off-premise. These offerings are accessible directly from the internet using mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Management can access sales and other reports in real time, giving them control over store operations from anywhere at any time.Lower costs and a “pay-as-you-go” pricing model also lend appeal to “retail POS in the cloud.” Cloud-based POS systems carry minimal or no upfront fees, and a monthly subscription includes the software license, future updates, hosting services, and technical support. Other benefits of cloud-based retail POS include reduced risk of data loss through corruption and virus attacks (because all data is stored at a secured datacenter), as well as the ability to easily integrate multiple business and marketing functions (such as payment processing, receipt transmission to customers’ phones, external accounting and digital loyalty programs).
- CRM/customer loyalty/marketing component – Well-executed rewards and CRM programs can encourage loyal customers to spend more, as well as attract new customers. They can even lure back once-profitable customers who have defected to the competition. Such programs also provide valuable insights into customers’ spending habits—information that can be used to create and refine more effective marketing strategies. Retailers that are reluctant to make CRM/customer loyalty an element of their retail POS should consider a few statistics. By some estimates, after five years, a retailer with a 70 percent customer retention rate will have lost two to three times as many customers as a retailer whose customer retention rate is 90 percent. Moreover, the cost of retaining customers through loyalty programs and CRM is far lower than that of attracting new customers.
Today’s retail POS systems have many optional features. However, there are some, including those covered above, that retailers simply cannot do without if they are to properly cultivate customers, control costs and maintain a strong foothold in their market going forward.