Just as offering the right merchandise at the right time is essential to retailers’ success, so, too, is implementing the right retail POS software. Whether a retailer operates one store or multiple stores, deploying a retail POS software package with the appropriate feature set, as well as a variety of other attributes, positions it for success in both the short and long terms. However, not all retail POS software is created equal—so it is important to carefully shop around before making a final selection. Here are five criteria to consider when choosing retail POS software:
- Needs versus wants – You know better than anyone which business processes need to be automated for the greatest return on your retail POS software investment, so create a list of key business processes and features that you require and prioritize them. For example, do you simply need to automate the point of sale process by scanning the bar codes on products, accepting credit and debit card payments and generating receipts? Or, do you also want insight into inventory, and/or to implement gift card, loyalty and customer relationship management programs? Do you have a highly specialized business that requires a somewhat customized solution, or is a more general retail POS software package sufficient? Do you prefer to maintain everything on a local server, or is a cloud-based retail POS software system a priority? Are you planning a move into mobile POS (mPOS)? Do you have plans to expand abroad and need a solution that adheres to the fiscal policies and localization constraints? What are your reporting requirements? The answer to these and other questions will help you to figure out what your business needs and what you want for your business. From there, you can begin the search for the best retail POS software for your particular operation.
- Ease of use – High employee turnover rates and a need to keep customers happy by speeding them through the checkout process make it important to find retail POS software that is easy to use and learn. Look for options that offer a graphical, intuitive touchscreen user interface, good customer support, and the ability to instantly download any future upgrades. Also essential to ease of use are training programs that can have employees up and running within a day.
- Training – Maximizing efficiencies at the point of sale doesn’t just necessitate having a retail POS software system that is easy to use; it also means properly training store associates on how this is done. In addition to offering training programs, the best retail POS software packages are designed to get employees up and running on the system very quickly. Reputable vendors also make hands-on training available to retailers in-store and online.
- Customer support –Top-quality customer support is a “must” for retailers—and providing it is one hallmark of a reputable retail POS software vendor. Of course, you don’t want to contact a vendor’s help center very often. However, you need to know that when you do, a real person will not only answer the phone immediately, but will also have the knowledge to address the issue(s) at hand or connect you right away with someone who can. Support should also be available seven days a week.
In evaluating the caliber of support for retail POS software, inquire about typical response times during regular business hours and on weekends and holidays. Find out what “support” means; for example, does it encompass automatic delivery of upgrades along with bug fixes? Does the vendor offer support through any other channel, such as a dedicated internet portal? Additionally, take a few minutes to test the caliber of telephone and online support yourself. Do this once during regular business hours and again on a weekend or holiday. Remember—even the best retail POS software product is not worth implementing if the support behind it is unreliable and/or of poor caliber.
- Scalability – To maximize the return on your retail POS software investment over time, ensure that the solution you select is highly scalable. In other words, make sure it has the capability to grow with your business and its needs. A scalable retail POS software package will easily accommodate additional users and workstations in existing stores, as well as in new ones as they come online. Its configuration will allow for the integration of new capabilities and features over time and as business conditions dictate; examples here range from inventory control and workforce management solutions to multi-currency support or support for multiple tax rates across different regions. Opting for a retail POS software solution that can store years and years of POS, customer and other data is also a good idea.
Admittedly, evaluating and choosing from among a variety of retail POS software packages can be a time-consuming and sometimes confusing process. Each software vendor will have a different look and feel, but it is essential for you to select a software provider that meets your functional requirements today, and has the ability to scale with you as your business grows. Retailers that exercise due diligence by considering the above-mentioned criteria and carefully weigh their options will reap big rewards from their investment.
Tania Oakey, Retail Marketing Dirctor, Cegid USA