Submitted by Will on December 03, 2015

How to select a POS system:
So you have decided it is time to change the way you ring up sales today, or maybe you are a new retailer looking to select a system for the first time.  We have helped hundreds of retailers select systems throughout the years and wanted to help point you in the right direction. Of course, we represent various systems and would be thrilled to make a sale, but at the end of the day, this is a large investment both in time and money and the system you choose has to fit your business and your budget.

The most important thing is to focus on your specific needs.  To do this, the sales consultant should ask questions about your business and your sales process.  If they want to skip to the demo without gaining an understanding of your business, be careful.  Anyone can make their software shine during a demo, but unless they understand what you truly need, you could end up disappointed in the outcome.

Examples of questions a consultant should ask you:
• Walk me thru the process of how are you ring up sale today
• Do you have orders or special orders in your business
• What do you like best about your current system
• What do you like the least (this is an important question)
• How do you want to track your inventory
• Are you selling off the web?  How do you get these orders into your current system?
• Are you using a loyalty program?

These questions are designed to help you think about your business.  Keep in mind that choosing off the shelf software is a balance between what you need, would like, can afford and what the software can do. Once you understand your needs then you can make an informed decision.

At the heart of any good POS system is inventory management, so fair amount of time should be spent on your inventory needs.  A lot of systems in the marketplace today fail to provide the inventory tracking required.  Whether you sell apparel with sizes or shoes with sizes and color and widths, make sure you understands your specific needs and if the system that you are looking at can handle it.  Of course, you may decide to choose software that is not as fully featured – just make sure you understand what you are giving up.

Next thing to consider is the POS hardware.   Whatever software under consideration will have its specific hardware requirements. Tablet and iDevice based solutions are becoming mainstream and there is a lot to be said for the clean look of those solutions.  It can present a very modern looking system that appeals to younger sales clerks who have grown up on smart phones.  But a slick look will not make up for a system that cannot process sales or track inventory the way you need.  It has been many a retailers’ experience that bad inventory information is worst that no information at all as it may cause you to overbuy or buy the wrong mix of product.

Of course, Windows machines are still the #1 choice for retail POS.  Make sure you understands the minimum requirements for the software that is being presented and ask a quote for hardware that exceeds that. Depending on your environment you may want to consider investing in Retail Grade Equipment.  This is hardware that is designed to work in a more “hostile” environment.  There is a big difference between getting hardware that will run in a woman’s high end boutique and equipment that will operate in an outdoor retail space or warehouse.  Sun, dirt, dust, and water in a retail environment will affect the system.  Ruggedized hardware is more expensive, but generally comes with better warranties and support.  If you can’t ring up sales because the system you bought at a big box retailer failed, you will be hand writing tickets and losing sales, so don’t skimp on the hardware.

Lastly, but probably the most important and over looked component is who will be implementing the software.  Are you going to do it yourself?  What experience do you have?  Does the vendor have online videos that you can view?  Even if there is lots of on line training available, consider getting a POS expert to help you implement the system.  Avoid the mindset that says you can do it yourself.  Also be careful of the general purpose IT company that thinks that since it just software, they can install and train you.  Without a deep understanding of the software you are buying, you or an inexperienced consultant will setup the system up incorrectly, miss key features of the software and make decisions that have unintended consequences.  Consider your health care provider.  Do you really want your general practitioner doing your heart surgery or someone who does the procedure all of the time?  We have done our share of cleanup’s from the do it yourselfers or consultants who don’t have a retail focus.  This is a huge decision for your business, be sure to get it done right!!

Author: English, William S., President of English Management Solutions, Inc. September 2015