Accomplish more on the floor with mobile POS solutions

Technology is no longer just a means to an end – it’s become incredibly personal. Today, people regard their mobile devices less as tools and more as extensions of themselves; they identify with them, express themselves through them, and use them to form deeper relationships. So it stands to reason that new, mobile Point of Sale (POS) technologies hold significant power to make connections – and make sales – on the store floor.  

Is it really necessary for retailers to have more than a Point of Sale device or access to inventory? It is, because many of your competitors have already discovered how emerging in-store technologies, especially a new generation of mobile tools, can improve customer experiences in- and out-of-store. Mobile POS devices are no longer just a tool for micro-merchants to accept card payments. Increasingly, large U.S. and global retailers are equipping associates with smartphones and tablets that let them respond to customer needs from the sales floor.

The 2014 National Retail Federation Big Show validated that the in-store customer experience should be a huge priority for retailers. Specifically, the volume turned up on discussions around technology’s power to help with this, a departure from recent years where the focus has been more on solutions for inventory and supply chain management. Experts at the event said that the current focus on in-store technologies is driven by two major retail realities:

  • Retailers who in recent years have heavily invested in back-end supply chain technologies are now ready to direct resources toward customer-facing operations.
  • Fierce competition from online channels that offer vast product selections and free shipping is compelling brick-and-mortars to ramp up their customer service processes. Offline stores are realizing that they must do everything possible to improve the variables that can make or break the in-store experience, including register wait times, access to product information, and higher-touch personalized service.
  • Line-busting. During busy periods, associates can reduce the average time spent in a checkout line by processing transactions on a mobile POS device, while customers are standing in queue.
  • Flexible sales environments. For special promotional events, such as sidewalk sales or warehouse clearances, as well as “pop-up” stores, mobile POS eliminates the time, cost and complexity of having to set up conventional registers or move bulky merchandise.
  • Incomparable service. Mobility empowers associates to stay with a customer as the individual moves through the store, supporting the entire shopping experience, from merchandise requests through payment.
  • Inventory lookup. Associates on the floor can answer customer queries about pricing and product availability across the enterprise. They can also do physical inventory counts and cycle counts on fast-moving products.

How does mobile POS trump traditional POS?
Historically, POS equipment has provided value to retailers, but this technology has had limits. With traditional POS, retail associates are tied to fixed locations in the store. Associates are equipped to complete transactions but their ability to assist customers with their purchasing decisions is stifled. Today, mobile devices are omni-present and people have become very comfortable using them to find information and communicate on-the-go, so much so, that retailers using them to enable store associates to better service customers on the sales floor should come as no surprise.

With recent advances in wireless technology, portable handheld POS systems are providing smart retailers with improved ways to serve customers, improve the shopping experience, and streamline inventory and back office functions. The key differentiator from legacy POS systems is the ability for associates using a mobile POS device to truly connect with customers at the most pivotal point – before they arrive at the counter to pay.

Mobile POS can be used in ways that contribute to a consistent brand experience across all customer touch points. This allows a retailer to offer an omni-channel experience without having to sacrifice the brand message based on the channel the customer is trying to shop. Prior to mobile POS tools, retail associates weren’t given the tools that empowered them to fully respond to the full range of customer needs, desires and questions, while still on the floor. Now they are with mobile-enabled capabilities and benefits like:

In addition to these customer-facing advantages, mobile POS solutions deliver operational benefits to retailers. For example, a wireless POS can generate additional savings by cutting hardware costs and, without the need for as much landlocked POS space, can open up valuable floor space to make room for more product promotions and smoother traffic flow. And because mobile POS operates on the network like any other POS system and connects directly into back office applications, associates have access to data for business intelligence, supply chain analytics, work flow processes, shipping and receiving, and inventory management, without compromising the time they spend on the floor serving the customers’ needs.

A retail revolution
Stores that have reduced their traditional POS systems in favor of mobile POS are already realizing greater customer satisfaction, something that makes perfect sense considering our increasingly mobile way of life. Customers are empowered by the information they have access to through their mobile devices and are accustomed to being communicated with in a near real-time manner. Missing out on mobile POS could mean missing out on significant opportunities: to streamline the shopping experience, make the sale, and most importantly, engage with customers in the relevant and convenient manner they’ve come to expect. It is important to remember, however, that the increase in use of mobile POS does not mean that we will see traditional POS systems entirely phased out. There are other aspects to consider, some of them social, and many people are still most comfortable when they have a counter to go pay at. There also needs to be a station to store bags and other items, so wrap desks will never disappear completely. This is an opportunity for retailers to reduce the number of service desks and increase mobility using mPOS, while ensuring that it integrates seamlessly with your traditional POS system.

Creating Point of Sale Magic – How this POS company does it

There’s no doubt that walking into an Apple store is a magical experience.  And part of that magic is the pleasure of the speedy checkout.   In a conversation with Dax Dasilva, the Founder and CEO of LightSpeed, bringing the Apple magic to small business owners has been his mission for 9 years.

Headquartered in Canada, LightSpeed has offices in New York City, Olympia, WA, Ottawa, Santa Cruz and Sydney.  According to Dasilva, at the present time the company has over 150 employees.
There are two products – one is LightSpeed Pro, which is “Apple-based, on-premise and non-hosted”, and the LightSpeed cloud product, which is hosted. Both versions have an iPad app which puts real-time product and inventory information at the fingertips of employees on the showroom floor.

LightSpeed has installations in thirty countries, is processing over 6 billion dollars a year in transactions, and has been growing exponentially. The business was founded in 2005 when Dasilva, was working at a Apple Mac dealership in Montreal.

Their clients and prospects:
LightSpeed now has about 17,000 clients, up from 7,000 a year ago and some of their larger clients have 40 to 50 stores running on it. About 1,000 of the clients are running on the cloud version.  That’s an outstanding growth rate for a company that’s going on nine years old.  I asked about who the average client was.  Dasilva advised me that typically they upgrade clients from an older system like a Retail Pro or a Quickbooks, although some 40% of their clients are brand new stores.  The average LightSpeed retailer does about $400,000 to $500,000 in annual revenue.  The goal is to double the number of clients again this year. Clients also typically are brick-and-mortar first.

The optimal prospective retailer generally has high value inventory – a niche that contains about 1 million stores, according to their research.    I asked about competitors such as NCR Silver, Shopkeep and Revel and other cloud based companies;  he replied that their typical customers have very different needs and as each of these providers has different capabilities, their customers vary. They do not see them or directly compete with them all that often.

“Typically we have very little churn” said Dasilva,  “people rely on these tools day in and day out to manage and grow their businesses.”  “One of the things we’ve realized is that more is expected of the POS system than ever before.”  “Stores today have to be a destination unto themselves

As to the future,and the need for omni-channel capability; “The younger generation of business owners, the sons and daughters that are taking over, want ecommerce to be a part of their system by default – and they know they need to “Wow” the customer.”

Their regional resellers:
LightSpeed has 300+ trained and certified resellers.   These resellers offer a variety of services including workflow analysis, training, configuration, networking, support, upgrades, web customization and POS hardware.

Investors:
LightSpeed has received over $30 million dollars in funding, most notably in June 2012 from Accel Partners ($30 million)  and later received additional funding from  from local venture capital firm iNovia Capital.

The Apple platform – benefits

The Mac platform offers a number of advantages to retailers including a classy design and interface, something that Lightspeed has invested heavily in.  Many businesses are purchasing Macs because there are security advantages.     Virus written for the Windows PC out number viruses written for the Mac by an enormous factor and the recent hackings at Target and other retailers are raising awareness of the need for more security at the point of sale.

Other notable features of LightSpeed POS

Ecommerce:

Today’s retailers have the need to sell not only with a physical retail location, but also a web presence:    “Even the smaller retailers  have e-commerce on their minds.  They want to open their store AND their website on day one.”  said Dasilva.   To that end LS has built a strong e-commerce platform that makes it very easy to get products up and onto the website – the retailer only has to add photos.   “All sales, whether online or in-store, come back to the same system and inventory is being deducted in real-time, so business owners can do purchasing with confidence.”

Integration with other products:

The product integrates with Perkville  – a customer loyalty program that integrates with LightSpeed Cloud.  Perkville motivates customers to come back as well as tell their friends about your business. It automates retention, referrals and social media.

DirectMailManager.com –  this integration provides the ability to easily produce highly effective, targeted direct mail postcards, that are directly linked to LightSpeed Cloud customer data. Businesses can send 1 or 1000s of thank you and promotional postcards with a click of the mouse.  The add-on increases customer relationships with high quality, tangible postcards and tracks the results.

Pricing:
Both products are sold on a subscription basis, the entry level price is $79 for either product for one station, $134 for 2 stations and $229 for 4 stations.   E-commerce is an additional $49 per month.

How LightSpeed sees the future of point of sale:   
* A store where the front cash register is optional, where all the employees are empowered with mobile devices that allow them to easily manage selling, inventory lookups, and ringing up sales).
• Information on items, consumers, and other analytics are at hand.
• A fully informed consumer has a seamless online to in store transition.
• And a powerful cloud system for business intelligence and management help optimize the business.

According to Dasilva, LightSpeed will continue to evolve with the needs of retailers, but its mission remains the same: to provide the easiest way for serious retailers to build, manage and grow their business.

Best Practices For Today’s Retailer through Secure Mobile Technology

The retail industry has seen a dramatic increase in the use of mobile devices. In order to embrace the rapid evolution of mobility, retailers need to provide secure apps that allow store associates instant access to information and inventory. Retailers using mobile devices for check out and customer needs can process sales more quickly and decrease wait times, while remaining Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant. Retailers can implement the below best practices to create a seamless customer experience and a pleasant work environment for all store associates.

Protect customer data
Retailers must meet the requirements of the PCI Data Security Standard, which ensures consumer data is kept secure. The standard includes requirements for security management, policies, procedures, network architecture, software design and other critical protective measures. Though PCI has not yet released formal requirements for accepting payments with consumer-grade mobile devices, mobile device management (MDM) providers, such as AirWatch, partner with leading sled hardware providers to ensure all mobile transactions are secure and meet PCI’s most recent mobile payment security recommendations. In May 2012, the PCI council released an “At a Glance” document called “Accepting Mobile Payments with a Smartphone or Tablet.” It is likely that the guidelines within this document lay the framework for future requirements.

“PCI requirements can be very specific,” says Karl Ma, director of IT Security for a major fashion company and an AirWatch customer. “For example, requiring a seven character password to log into a device – things like that are not natively supported by most devices, so AirWatch was a must for us. AirWatch provides the security to meet PCI compliance and a lot of other state regulated laws. AirWatch has basically come to our rescue and helped us overcome these barriers, that by default, we couldn’t do on our own. We wouldn’t know how to achieve these compliance requirements without AirWatch.”

Lock down unauthorized browsing on store devices
With a comprehensive enterprise mobility management (EMM) solution, retailers can combat mobile browsing threats by using a secure browser on devices, by whitelisting or blacklisting specific websites, or by setting devices to kiosk mode. With kiosk mode, retailers have the ability to display store websites, self-checkout, inventory management or customer shopping apps for an interactive customer shopping experience. The possibilities to personally interact with customers on in-store devices are endless, but so are risks associated with handing a device to a customer. Secure browsing applications allow retailers to configure customized settings to define and enforce secure browsing policies. Implementing kiosk mode capabilities for customer-facing devices allows each user to pick up a device, enter their own login credentials and upon leaving that device, have that secure information wiped and no longer available to the next user.

Minimize time customers spend in lines
Retailers can ensure faster checkout for customers by providing an omni-channel shopping experience. With an omni-channel shopping experience, customers can interact and engage across several channels and platforms (mobile, online, catalog) simultaneously. An example of providing an omni-channel shopping experience includes enabling the customer to purchase an item using the retailer’s app, providing in-store pick up and the ability to process a return via the retailer’s website. This convenience and flexibility enhances the customer experience, increases sales and decreases wait times. In order to truly provide an omni-channel shopping experience, all channels must be fused together to give the customer a seamless experience.

Maintain up-to-date inventory and product information
With mobile devices, store associates have the ability to securely access documents, product information and current store inventory. In order to securely access these documents, retailers must implement a content repository solution within their mobile deployment. Mobile devices enable store associates to access real-time information, such as multi-media files, planograms, training manuals, HR systems and more. The integration with content repositories also enables retailers to introduce marketing campaigns and promotions to ensure visual consistency and proper brand representation. Retailers using a content repository have fulfilled the store associates’ need for easy access to corporate content and the ability to collaborate with others while in the store. A content repository such as AirWatch Secure Content Locker, delivers anytime, anywhere access for end users with two-way synchronization across devices, along with sharing and editing capabilities. These features ensure the right content is to the right people, anytime and anywhere.

When it comes to adopting any new technology, the less time retailers spend worrying about the security on devices, the more they can focus on driving core business strategies and enhancing customer experience. Therefore, understanding the best mobile practices empowering today’s retailer becomes vital to the mobility strategy. With the right mobility tools and secure real-time access to data, store associates can become very effective and persuasive extensions of an organization’s multi-channel initiation when it matters most, assisting a browsing customer. The retailers who do this well are converting browsing customers into loyal brand ambassadors.

Mobile Shopping Solution Streamlines Sales for Event Crowds

Retail stores rarely rely on just one sales channel to succeed. In fact, due to fierce competition from big box retailers and e-commerce giants, survival can depend on creating more sales channels. Whether it’s pop-up shops, a shop on wheels, or selling at events, these additional avenues can be crucial to a retailer’s revenue, but not without some hurdles. Out-of-store sales activities force a retailer to devise a plan when it comes to inventory, payments, and if they’re lucky, dealing with long lines.

Isha is an organization that hosts fifteen major events during the year, showcasing their unique yoga programs and selling yoga-related products during session breaks. With each event attracting nearly 1000 attendees, Isha Shoppe processes hundreds of orders in just minutes. That’s a good problem to have, but the sudden rush of shoppers can create long lines and frustrated customers. So Isha needed a solution to help streamline event sales and ensure their shoppers walk away happy.

Goals

Give shoppers an easier way to shop at events
Most of Isha Shoppe’s annual product sales come from selling at large scale events throughout the year. Isha ships products to the events, creating an on-site “warehouse” to fulfill orders, and sets up a showroom displaying one of every item available for attendees to purchase. During thirty-minute breaks between sessions, shoppers browse the display items and write down the product codes of items they’d like purchase on order forms. Isha staff use these forms to prepare orders for pick-up at the conclusion of the event.ShoppinPal Receipt

Isha Shoppe wanted a faster and easier way for shoppers to submit and staff to fulfill the orders.

Offer fast and secure checkout that decreases wait time
When the day’s events are winding down, attendees who have purchased items from Isha Shoppe stand in line to pay for and pick up their items. Even with multiple registers, long lines form. Isha must process hundreds of credit card transactions and give shoppers their merchandise.

Since session breaks and the windows to shop are brief, some customers want to take more time to shop at the end of the event. But because of the long wait times for picking up items ordered during session breaks earlier in the day, shoppers must get in line to pick up their items before leaving the event, with Isha Shoppe losing these end-of-day sales.

Isha wanted a solution to streamline the checkout process in order to cut down waiting time and capture lost sales.

Solution

Isha uses Vend POS for both its brick & mortar locations and its event sales, and it was important that the solution they chose worked with its existing POS setup.

Isha Shoppe chose ShoppinPal to help streamline both the ordering and checkout processes. ShoppinPal is a mobile commerce app that’s integrated with various POS systems and is designed to enhance the shopping experience inside brick & mortar stores, but can also be used for selling merchandise at events with in-app purchasing and e-receipt functionalities.

Results

Ordering made easy
The display items in Isha Shoppe’s showroom do not have barcodes, but instead have tags with unique product codes. Although ShoppinPal supports barcode scanning, Isha shoppers typed in a product code from an item’s tag to instantly display the product information for easy ordering.

This was important for Isha for a couple reasons: 1) Shoppers didn’t have to manually write down each product code and give it to the staff, which cut down the risk of shopper and staff errors. And 2) instead of processing credit card transactions at the end of the event, shoppers could instantly complete their purchase inside ShoppinPal by taking a picture of their credit card or paying with PayPal. All that was left to do was for the staff to hand over the items at the end of the day.

A streamlined pickup process
Before using ShoppinPal, Isha event attendees ended the day by standing in a long line waiting their turn to pay and pick up their items ordered during session breaks throughout the event. Customers that used ShoppinPal to order their items and pay by phone entered a fast-moving “Express Lane” to simply pick up their bag. Since the shoppers paid as they shopped, the Isha Shoppe staff was relieved of taking credit card payments at the counter, and instead just looked up the customer by name, order number, or event registration number in the point-of-sale system and gave the customer their items.

The last thing attendees want after relaxing sessions offered by Isha is a frustrating checkout experience to end their day. Skipping a long line to simply pick up their items helped mitigate the chance of unhappy customers.

“We use ShoppinPal to speed up the checkout process at events and it works great. It’s like providing our customers a self-checkout register as they are browsing,” said Raajiv Ravi of Isha Shoppe.

Point of Sale System for Farm & Feed Supply

Red Barn Feed & Supply Inc. serves Palm Beach County, located at the heart of a large equestrian area in Florida. Jerry and Betty Case established Red Barn in 1989, originally specializing in horse feed, hay and shavings. Now, as with many farm and feed stores across the nation, Red Barn has grown to provide anything a farmer or his animals might need. Red Barn sells feed, grooming, housing, and bedding products for practically any animal, including house pets, livestock, and exotic pets. They market a wide range of apparel for animal owners, including boots, jeans, shirts and accessories. Red Barn also provides fencing and lawn care products in their now 20,000 square foot retail space.

It is common for farming communities to rely heavily upon their local farm and feed store. For such a business, keeping up with the needs of the animal population and their owners is no easy task. A robust point of sale system suited to the needs of this niche business is central to success. When it comes to the day to day challenges that farm and feed stores face, there are some issues that any retailer must confront: controlling inventory, cash management, customer service, and payment processing. In addition to these common challenges, farm and feed stores like Red Barn have unique needs that require a special breed of POS.

Red Barn Feed & Supply recently upgraded their point of sale to POSexpress by POS Prophet Systems, a fully integrated suite that manages their POS, inventory control, customer management, gift and loyalty, accounts receivable and financial reporting. This case study will demonstrate the ways that POSexpress meets the common demands of retail, as well as the specialized demands of a farm and feed store.

There are five general ways that a farm and feed store such as Red Barn benefits from a well-designed POS system.

      1. Inventory Control

        For businesses such as Red Barn, tracking the thousands of unique products sold, without a POS system, would be time-consuming and tedious. The ability to bar code and scan bar coded items at the POS terminal streamlines the processes of checkout, shipment arrival, and physical inventory time. The reduction in error gives the store owner full control over those processes at all times.

      2. Speed of Service

        Attentive and efficient customer service is key. Especially during peak periods, getting customers through the checkout line quickly helps maintain the existing customer base and makes a good impression on new visitors. A POS system should provide enough speed and accuracy to produce transaction times of one to three seconds.

      3. Customer Accounts Receivable

        Many Farm and Feed stores like Red Barn extend special charging privileges to loyal customers and large farms. The ability to provide internal accounts receivable and invoicing allows for fast and efficient management of all accounts.

      4. Cash Controls

        A good POS system makes daily reconciliation a breeze. Integrated payment processing makes electronic payments error-free, and provides tools to reduce the risk of error for cash transactions. Security features are built in that promote the accountability of every operator and every transaction. Robust reports also help store owners quickly reconcile every till.

      5. Accuracy/Efficiency

        A well-designed point of sale system completely eliminates pricing errors. It also offers real time information so that purchasing and staffing decisions can be based on accurate POS data and intelligent analysis.

In addition to these benefits, farm and feed supply stores such as Red Barn also require their POS to include several unique capabilities.

      1. Integrate a hybrid merchant concept, that would support a mixture of scanned merchandise and services or weighed bulk material. The easy to use touch screen buttons and scale integration provided by POSexpress fulfilled this need.

      2. Include customer tracking for tax exemptions, accounts receivable, transaction retrieval, and tiered pricing based on volume, frequency of visit, etc.

      3. Sophisticated automation in the ordering process. As mentioned above, Red Barn’s inventory includes equipment, supplies, feed, seed, apparel, pet supplies, décor, etc. The ability to monitor and re-stock such a massive array of inventory is necessary for maximizing the ROI on that inventory.

      4. Provide internal communication capabilities. Similar to the way restaurants need to send orders to the back kitchen, a farm and feed store will often process orders at the front of the store (checkout station), while needing to fulfill that order from the back of the store (or the warehouse). POSexpress solves this problem by allowing remote printing to the warehouse, so Mr. Smith’s order of horse feed can be ready to load on his truck by the time he finishes paying.

      5. Strengthen external communication capabilities with email/SMS components, based on POS purchase history, to keep the client base informed and coming back to the store at the right time. Automated POS systems let feed store owners communicate with customers based on the topics and items in which they have already shown interest.

Red Barn’s owner, Beck Hyslop, is pleased with the new POS system. He says, “One thing I’ve noticed is that it is easier to find information, like if I need to find a specific sale, then the new system makes that a lot easier.”

When asked what the most significant difference was for him, he replied, “To me, the most important thing is customer service. With a POS System there is always someone there to help you out. You can call, and someone always answers. They will go in and look at the system with you and help you solve the problem.”

Losing Sales at the Point-of-Sale

I am fortunate to live in a Southern California beach town. I have surfed most of my life because of my close proximity to the ocean. Unlike how it is portrayed in the movies, California beaches get cold in the winter, requiring surfers to wear wetsuits this time of the year.

I needed a new wetsuit this year and my shopping experience at the local surf shops left much to be desired because of their point-of-sale systems. They have the technology to provide outstanding customer service, so why aren’t they using it?

The town I grew up in has a small main street with over ten surf shops selling the same merchandise. This makes it very convenient for me to run down during my lunch hour and grab whatever I may need very quickly. On this occasion I needed a specific size of wetsuit so I made a few phone calls to make sure they had my size. I found two stores right across the street from one another that had my size. The first store couldn’t tell me the color of the wetsuit. The other store told me they had one in black after they put me on hold and physically checked. When I asked each of them if their other store locations had any in stock, rather than looking up stock balances on their point-of-sale systems, they gave me the phone numbers to the other stores and told me to call myself.

Feeling confident, I headed down during my lunch hour to buy my new wetsuit. When I walked into the first store, they had my size, as they told me they did on the phone, but the only color they had was red! Their point-of-sale software couldn’t give them that important information and so they couldn’t relay it to me. I shot the sales person an unhappy look, and he simply said, “I know”. So I left that store with my $400.00 and walked across the street to the second store that had my size and in the standard black color that I wanted.

I found the wetsuit in the second store right away. The time limit on my parking meter and lunch hour were expiring so I was in a hurry. I took the wetsuit to the first counter and the clerk told me the system was down; and then asked if I could move to another checkout counter. At the next one, the girl said the receipt printer was out of paper and she didn’t know how to replace it. At the third counter, the clerk could ring me up but only if I were paying cash because they were trying to fix a credit card machine batch error. Each of their checkout counters are in different places throughout the store, so at that point I was done. They also lost a $400.00 purchase due to their point-of-sale system.

Walking back to my car, I decided to quickly check a smaller store on the same street. Rather than searching myself, I simply walked up to the counter and asked them if they had the black wetsuit I wanted in my size. The clerk looked it up on the screen and then brought it back to me while I never left the counter. That’s service! Their point-of-sale system was quick and efficient. Since I’m in the point-of-sale industry, I also noticed that they had up-to-date hardware, software, and credit card processing. The efficiency of their point-of-sale system made it easy for me to buy and earned them the $400.00 sale.

Driving back to the office, I wondered how many times sales simply walk out of stores because of their point-of-sale systems. The products most retailers sell aren’t unique so the emphasis should be on customer service and making it easy for a customer to buy. Otherwise, a customer can simply walk to another retailer and buy the same item. Follow these tips to insure your point-of-sale system isn’t costing you sales.

Training – Training your front line employees on the proper use of the point-of-sale system should be a top priority. This training should include all aspects of the system that allow them to serve the customer more efficiently. Most clerks seem to know just the basics, and any anomaly forces them to stop production (sales) and wait for help. Just think about how many times you’ve been in a line and are forced to wait while a customer pulls out a coupon, is exchanging merchandise, or is trying to buy an item without a bar code.  And these are just the basics.

Cashier training should also include advanced functions such as checking stock levels for in-store customers as well as call-in customers, checking stock levels at other stores, initiating a store transfer, searching for merchandise in the system, ringing items with missing bar code tags, and any simple hardware malfunctions that may occur (these would include changing receipt paper, rebooting a computer, and so on).

Accurate Inventory – The accuracy of the point-of-sale information is only reliable when the users are reliable and disciplined. Unreliable information is an indication of an undisciplined user. How many times have you heard store employees say “the system shows we have one, but I’d call first to verify.”? Or worse, a store tells you the system confirms they have several, and you make the trip, only to find they have none.

To insure accurate and reliable on-hand inventory levels within the point-of-sale software, the user must:

  1. Perform a regular physical inventory. These should be performed quarterly as part of the auditing process when preparing quarterly financial statements.
  2. Cycle Counts – If a quarterly inventory process is too much of a challenge, perform cycle counts within the best selling departments or vendors lines.
  3. Do not allow employees to sell goods classified with a miscellaneous SKU (Stock Keeping Unit). Inventory levels will never be adjusted properly.
  4. Scan the bar code of every item sold. Entering an item number manually into the system will never account for size and color based items. An item UPC (Universal Product Code) bar code is different for each size and color.
  5. Insure the store locations are communicating with each other flawlessly. Whether your system is a real-time configuration or a polling configuration; proper communications will either make or break the reliability of the point-of-sale information. Sales, returns, receiving, adjustments, and transfers all affect stock levels. A store location can never know if an item is in inventory or has sold out unless it is communicated to them.

Modern Hardware – You should pay attention to the aesthetics of the point-of-sale hardware just as you would to any other store fixture. You will interact with customers more at the cash wrap than any other area in the store; so make sure to make it a pleasant experience.

Most name brand hardware today is a bargain compared to a few years ago. It also gives your store an updated appearance. Although it will cost slightly more than “cheap” hardware, it will more than pay for itself with the reliability it offers. Modern hardware also requires less real-estate at the cash wrap; touch screens and flat screens don’t require a mouse and take up less space. An all-in-one type of unit offers all of the components, including the computer, built into the monitor.

The best part of name brand point-of-sale hardware is that it works reliably. POS hardware companies have industrialized their computers and peripherals to meet the rigorous demands of the retail environment. These types of computers and printers will cost more, but their duty cycles vastly outperform any comparable consumer level device. Consumer level computers are not designed to operate non-stop for 12-24 hours per day.

Integrated Credit Card Processing – Save yourself and your customers the frustration of those little grey boxes. Anytime you can minimize devices or suppliers, your quality will always improve. Most point-of-sale systems today offer a credit card processing feature within the application. Using the software versus dedicated hardware allows you to speed transaction times, reduce costs for paper and dedicated phone lines, decrease training confusion, reduce theft, and free up valuable counter space. It’s a winner on all levels.

Easy To Load Receipt Printers – The days of 2-ply and 3-ply receipt paper are long gone. Most point-of-sale software today allows you to recall a receipt onto the screen for reprints. If your software has this feature, dump the slow dot-matrix printer and get one of the faster thermal printers on the market today. In addition to being fast and quiet, they also offer lower paper costs and can be loaded with the press of a button. When the paper runs out, cashiers simply press the open button and drop in a new roll. Anyone can learn this within seconds, and they will no longer have to wait for a manager to perform the old task of threading multi-part paper through the maze of spools.

Having a point-of-sale system and using it strategically are two very different things. Rather than using the point-of-sale system as a glorified cash register; use it to provide superior customer service. The difference will earn you the sales that are walking out of your competitor’s doors.

The Process of Computerizing Your Business

All too often, business owners seek computerization as though it were something that could be acquired “off the shelf” from a local store, as though it were something that could be chosen, financed, and installed upon demand. In reality, computerization is an objective, a pursuit, an evolving process. It is best accomplished in stages: evaluation, discussion, selection, and implementation.

Computerization must be a gradual process, with one area running well before you can move on to the next. Over time, as you see what a computer can do, you begin to see many possibilities for your business. As each area is automated, your understanding of your computing needs will increase. For a retail or service operation the logical place to start is with invoicing. But before even starting with a computer system, we must gain the support of the people who will be using it for 8 hours a day, five days a week – the staff!

The entire computerization process is much easier if all of the individuals who will have to use the system are supporting the decision to implement it. Before you even begin shopping for a computer system I encourage you discuss it at length with the staff. You may be amazed to find out that even the most competent employee can be afraid of computers or be reluctant to use it. Some employees may be secretly afraid that the computer will replace them – or even expose things that they would prefer to keep hidden.  Allow at least three to six months for review and discussion (debate?) about the computer system. Bring the staff into the selection process by asking them to critique demo programs or sit in on presentations by vendors.

What a computer cannot do:

Computers cannot turn a poorly run, disorganized business into a thriving one – if your business is in a state of disarray, matters will become even more confused after computerizing.

Computers do not necessarily reduce your workload immediately – What usually happens is that you invest a considerable amount of time up front -entering inventory or service descriptions – for example. This may take weeks or months. Eventually, the data is in the system and other parts of your business begin to benefit.

Computers do not run the business all by themselves. Computer systems are tools to be used. The effective use of the data collected still requires interpretation by a human being.

What a computer CAN do:With the use of point-of-sale or business automation software to replace the cash register, the computer can simultaneously: print a complete invoice instantly, automatically reduce the stored inventory data, update a customer’s sales history, update a salesperson’s records, record a receivable, alert you if your inventory level is too low and many other things. Let us examine each of these in detail.

Replacing the cash register – with the use of a point-of-sale system (so called, because it is used at “the point of sale” ) the computer will print out a clean legible invoice showing what was purchased, how it was paid for, what the sales tax was, and even include an advertising message or coupon on the receipt if desired. The computer has intelligence that a cash register does not have. Say, for example, that you are using a system that keeps track of customer sales. You might have some special frequent customers that get a discount, like a hardware store does with building contractors. Wouldn’t it be great to know that the discounts are correctly applied, and not rely on a salesperson to have calculated that? Most point-of-sale systems are capable of doing that.

Tracking the Inventory – When you start using the system, you will enter all of your inventory levels in and the computer will automatically reduce the level each time an item is sold. For businesses with hundreds or thousands of items or SKUs (stock keeping units) this is a boon. Many systems can produce a “Reorder Report” on demand. Such a report will tell you which items need to be reordered.

Calculating reorders – Depending upon the industry, the proper computer software can suggest the correct amount of merchandise to reorder. Some computers systems track seasonality and can automatically adjust recommended purchase levels based on that.

Tracking sales by Customer – A point-of-sale system can track which customers purchase the most, and even which customers are the most profitable – two important details which are not the same. A Sales report showing Year to Date (YTD) purchases, or YTD profits are helpful to a business owner. Similarly, a report showing which customers have stopped making purchases, say a reduction of more than 30% from one quarter to the next, can signal a sharp business manager that something may have happened. Did the customer have a bad shopping experience? A good manager can pick up the phone and find out and perhaps get that customer back. A feature like this is especially good for keeping abreast of problems with customers who buy over the Internet, or for distributors who may be shipping goods to clients across the country or the world.

Updating a salesperson’s records – keeping track of how much each salesperson sells is an important management tool. Knowing just how much sales and profit each person generates is very useful data. Business owners I have helped are often surprised that the quiet salespeople frequently outsell the very verbal ones.

In summary, the properly selected and installed computer system will save time, money and help you make better operational decisions. It is WELL WORTH the effort and cost. Just allow plenty of time to select and carefully implement this technology.

Best Practices For Mobile Point of Sale

MasterCard recently introduced their global Mobile Point of Sale (MPOS) Program which outlines the best practices for mobile point of sale transactions. The guidelines should be of particular interest to small businesses that have traditionally been slow to enter the mobile POS arena, and to larger companies that felt there were security issues and other barriers to entry for mobile technology.

Mobile payment processing is not restricted to brick-and-mortar businesses, but is also compatible with sales transactions conducted door-to-door and by street vendors, allowing them to easily accept MasterCard payments via their mobile devices. In fact, MasterCard WorldWide selected the El Ñaqui gourmet food truck in Puerto Rico as the Caribbean region’s sole participant in its “Cashless Pioneers” international series. It was chosen because of its owner’s willingness to challenge the perception that street food is a cash-only business, company officials said.

Simply stated, with MPOS, the mobile device is used as a merchant point of sale terminal when consumers use their debit, credit and prepaid cards to pay for goods and services.

The company developed the best practices guidelines based on the rapid proliferation of mobile commerce. James Anderson, Group Head, Mobile, MasterCard Worldwide, noted, “With nearly 6 billion mobile subscriptions around the world, there is tremendous potential to grow merchant acceptance – it’s imperative that manufacturers, vendors and merchants maintain the highest standards to enable a seamless and secure purchasing experience.”

MasterCard estimates that of the 1.2 million mobile POS solutions shipped in 2011, approximately 75 percent went to merchants who had no previous experience accepting credit or debit cards.

As noted on the company’s website, the MasterCard MPOS Best Practices document outlines best practices regarding:

1. Securing MPOS Payment Applications

2. Securing Transaction Data Captured by an MPOS Card Reader Accessory

3. Securing Personal Account Numbers (PAN)

4. EMV Chip Transactions

5. Display of the MasterCard Acceptance Mark

6. Merchant Confirmation

7. Cardholder Verification Methods (CVM)

8. Receipts

To illustrate the rapid growth of mobile POS technology acceptance, MasterCard estimates that at the end 2011 approximately 1.2 million MPOS solutions were shipped to MasterCard merchants globally, and approximately 75 percent of those merchants had previously not accepted payment card transactions.

Providers of mobile POS solutions will be able to assess their products against the MasterCard MPOS best practices and apply to be listed on MasterCard’s website. Registration for the program is expected to open in summer 2012.

Mobile Devices for POS Retail Expansion

Consumers are spending more time engaged (some might say, enslaved) digitally, and retailers have taken note. Never before have retailers paid closer attention to consumer technology. The benefits of mobility combined with processing speed and power have ushered in a new paradigm for retailers – in a business where up-to-the-minute access to data necessary to drive decision-making is essential.

Part of the beauty of mobile POS (mPOS) is the new power that retailers can tap into to improve in-store productivity, from aisle-based customer service straight through to back office processing and inventory management. And recognizing the need for customers’ instant gratification, stock can be ordered directly from a distribution center or other stores and sent directly to the customer or shipped to the store of their choice.

Today, many of the world’s leading retailers, including JC Penney, Urban Outfitters, Macy’s, American Eagle Outfitters, Ann Taylor and Zale’s turn to some aspects of mobile POS solutions and services to become more profitable, productive and competitive.

Tablet devices have, for the past couple of years, driven this technology and sales strategy. The Apple iPad and other tablet devices have lead to a growing trend on the sales floor. The portability and graphics capabilities of the tablet render it a powerful tool for creating more efficient transactions and improving customer engagement.

Epicor is one company that has embraced the trend toward mPOS, promoting the technology to retailers as a way to more effectively place orders, process sales transactions, and support other retail applications such as business intelligence, enterprise selling and CRM (customer relationship management) with only an iPad device and a small Bluetooth® barcode scanner.

Offering a powerful computing platform that combines an attractive form factor with relative low cost and ease-of-use, tablets offer retailers a vital tool to improve productivity and decision making from the back office to the point of order entry on the retail floor. What’s more, the graphics capability and expanded “real estate” of tablets offer retailers the ability to provide a visually appealing and rich, contextual and collaborative purchasing experience for shoppers.

The benefits of mobility combined with processing speed and power have ushered in a new paradigm for retailers to help them become more profitable, productive and competitive.

What You Should Consider For Sporting Goods POS Software

Sporting goods stores run the gamut from golf shops to fitness and exercise equipment retailers, to gun shops, to full line sporting goods stores. Whether they are retailers or wholesalers, they all have their own unique requirements for a sporting goods POS (point of sale) system.

Sporting goods POS software needs to be able to keep up with the demands of the sporting store. Sporting goods stores have many different types of merchandise to keep track of, such as exercise equipment, apparel, firearms, accessories and others. Products can be further categorized by sport, such as running, swimming, hunting, tennis, baseball, skiing, golf and more. The sporting goods POS software needs to be sophisticated enough to handle varied types of products and their attributes. Sporting goods stores typically have huge inventories, different product catalogs and ever-changing product lines.

We talked to several experts in the industry on what makes a sporting goods POS software work best for sporting stores.

An integrated sporting goods POS software is vital. The POS system for the sporting store should be able to cover you from point of sale to inventory management to reporting. “It has to meet your core requirements,” Justin Laing from MerchantOS says, “Track sales and payments, keep accurate inventory levels so you can reorder needed products easily and in time to meet demand, and give you the reports you need to analyze your performance and do your accounting and taxes.”

Accuracy is very important, particularly for specialized items that are tightly regulated such as firearms. “When the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) comes to your store, it is as serious as an IRS audit. It can be distressing for the store owner,” says Gary Ellis, Account Representative at Celerant Technology. “They want to see all of the activity for guns that have been sold as well as guns in stock. Specific reports are required showing history and current status/location of a gun. They will expect to see that gun in the inventory if your system shows that it is there. If a certain gun can not be located, consequences are rather serious.” Sporting stores need to be able to depend on their sporting goods POS system to be reliable sources of information.

Being able to create reports for your sporting store and analyze them is crucial. Sherrie Holiday, Director of Marketing for CAM Commerce Solutions, says “Data, data, data – there are so many calculations to consider when measuring success or failure by product, size, vendor, department, etc.”  Being able to zero in on the best-selling products and identify problem ones helps the sporting store be more profitable. It also assists in preparation for seasonal products or holiday items. Generating advanced and customized reports helps sporting goods stores analyze data better.

An excellent sporting goods POS system should make managing a sporting store easier. The software should be integrated, intuitive and easy to use. It should produce helpful and insightful reports. The POS software should be versatile enough to handle different scenarios.