Point of Sale (POS) technology has undergone a revolution over the past few decades. With cloud-based applications available on virtually any device, they can handle every area of retail, such as checkout, distribution, merchandising and more. With new transaction methods such as PayPal, Bitcoin and Google Wallet increasing in popularity, the retail software industry is evolving fast.
Common Features of Point of Sale Software
For First-time Buyers:
For retailers purchasing a solution for the first time, the sheer range of POS software can be mind-boggling, but they all share the same common features used by sole traders, large retail chains and everything in between. These are:
- Point of Sale Management - processing payments, printing receipts and updating inventory.
- Inventory Control - managing stock, providing low inventory alerts and producing reports and trends.
- Retail Accounting - all aspects of accounting for the business.
- Retail CRM (Customer Relationship Management) - managing customer information for marketing purposes.
For More Complex Requirements:
Businesses with more than one outlet, and businesses that manage a warehouse and distribution, often have more complex requirements and should be considering one of these two solutions:
- A Retail Software Suite - which is a single application suite that manages everything. These can be scaled and adapted to suit the business and are ideal for those who are replacing existing technology.
- A 'Best of Breed' Stand-alone Retail Application - for retailers looking for a single add-on such as merchandising to complement their system.
Components of Retail Software Suites
Most retail software suites will include:
- Merchandise Management - which manages the levels of SKUs, identifies trends and produces forecasts.
- Warehouse Management - Warehouse Management includes picking and packing of items.
- Transportation Management - for more efficient distribution.
- BI - pulling together internal and external data for analysis. Business Intelligence is also a good example of a stand-alone application.
- Speciality Retail Software - Beyond this core package, retailers' needs differ. For example, while a jeweller might need software to track repairs and quotes, a mobile phone company will want a sophisticated CRM feature to track when customers are nearing the end of their contract periods. Vendors provide for just about every type of business.
The Benefits of Investing in Retail Software
The impact retail software can have is tangible. For example:
- Improving POS efficiency - Just cutting down the time taken for each credit card transaction can reduce customer queues, process payments quicker and save on staffing hours.
- Improving the tracking of stock - Knowing how much stock you have, and which SKUs do well, can help you make more economical decisions on purchasing.
- Centralising customer information - Essential for marketing and for improving customer experience.
These benefits go towards making the business more efficient and successful. Most retailers cite improvements in efficiency as one of the main reasons why they want to invest in a new POS solution.
Software that is cloud-based is often priced per terminal on a monthly basis. This is in contrast with a perpetual licence for the software which is paid for in full up front. Vendors may also offer various versions of the software depending on what the buyer needs.
When evaluating retail software, start by visiting the vendor websites to see what they have on offer and read the customer reviews. Decide on your needs, whether you just require the common functions or something more specialised. Shortlist the software that provides the best fit for your priorities, so you won't be researching software in depth that isn't appropriate for you. Finally, try to get the opportunity to test-drive the software yourself if you can. It's the best way to evaluate any software before purchase