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POS Systems Introduction
Few purchases can have as dramatic an impact on your retail or hospitality business as being a point of sale (POS) system. The proper POS system will provide you with a new degree of control over your operations, boosting profits, increasing efficiency, and letting you fine-tune your business model. A bad system, however, can be quite a waste of cash and a supply of ongoing frustration.
Switching from your traditional cash register to a computerized POS system can be tough – there are lots of factors to consider plus some pitfalls to stop. However the return and advantages to your business will surely make it worth your efforts.
In the most elementary sense, a POS method is a glorified cash register. Our most basic POS system consists of a computer, a money drawer, receipt printer, a monitor, plus an input device for instance a keyboard or scanner. However, and also more efficient than cash registers, POS systems create detailed reports which can help you make more informed business decisions.
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POS systems save money, provide productivity gains, and will cut down the amount of time you spend outside the primary focus of the business. This POS System Buyer’s Guide will walk you through the process of evaluating multiple POS vendors and selecting the right system.
Do you want a POS system?
As with any other significant business purchase, buying a POS system should involve careful research into what are the market can give – along with what your personal needs are.
An automated POS system often will pay for itself inside a year or two when you have annual revenues close to $700,000 to $900,000. Smaller businesses, with revenues around $400,000 and above, may also get considerable advantages of a POS system, although it may be less direct. Below that, an electric cash register can probably meet your needs for considerably less money.
Most of the time, new businesses decide to invest in a POS system before reaching those revenue levels – or before having any appreciable revenue in any respect.
They may need a POS system only for the reporting features, or they could see it being an investment that could boost efficiency starting on opening day. A POS system is rarely totally unnecessary – generally, the only question is how soon it could pay for itself.
Lower your Expenses
Eliminate shrinkage. A computerized point of sale system can drastically reduce shrinkage, the inventory that disappears from the store or restaurant due to wastage, theft, and employee misuse. Because employees know that inventory is being carefully tracked, internal theft will continue to dwindle.
Improve accuracy. Regardless of whether you use barcode scanning or not, POS systems be sure that every item inside your store or on your menu is sold for the correct price. Your workers will never mis-enter or guess prices again, and you will change prices with just one tweak in the computer.
Recover margins. Detailed sales reports will help you focus on higher-margin items. By moving items inside a retail location or promoting under-performing dishes in the restaurant setting, you can help boost sales of the high-profit items.
Acquire more Information
Know status. At any point for the day, a POS system can instantly let you know how many of a certain product have sold today (or yesterday, or recently), how much money you might have in your cash drawer, and how much of that cash is profit.
Better manage inventory. Detailed sales reports ensure it is much easier so that you can keep the right stock readily available. Track your remaining inventory, spot sales trends, and employ historical data to raised forecast the needs you have. Often, the program can alert you to reorder when stocks run low. Many store managers who think they understand exactly what trends affect them discover a couple of surprises if they have this data.
Build a customer list. Collect names and addresses of one’s best customers included in standard transactions. Then use your list for targeted advertising or incentive programs.
Reduce paperwork. POS systems can dramatically lessen the time you must spend doing inventory, sales figures, along with other repetitive but important paperwork. The savings here: some time and peace of mind.
Extremely effective transactions. In most retail settings, barcode scanners and other POS features make checkout much, faster. Restaurants will see their order process greatly streamlined as orders are relayed automatically towards the kitchen from the dining room. In the two caser, your customers get quicker, more accurate service.
Keep in mind that realizing these benefits needs a commitment to while using POS system capabilities with their fullest. Without appropriate training and recurring analysis, perhaps the most sophisticated POS system won’t be any more useful than a basic cash register.
Hospitality vs. Retail POS Systems
There’s two kinds of POS systems open to businesses. You can find retail POS systems and there are hospitality POS systems. Learn which kind your organization needs.
Retail POS Systems
Of these two groups, retailers have simpler POS needs. Their transactions are completed at the same time, and there is often less variation from the types of products you can choose from. Some POS features retailers may specifically want add the ability to support kits (e.g., 3 for $2 deals), exchanges and returns, and support for digital scales.
A possible complication in most retail environments could be the need for a product matrix. Your retail POS system should support matrixes if you sell items that can be found in a variety of styles, like clothing or shoes. For instance, matrixes let you create one inventory and price entry for a specific sweater, but still track sales as outlined by size and color.
Hospitality POS Systems
Based on the type of establishment, restaurants and other hospitality businesses have different requirements from POS systems.
Efficiency is paramount focus for casual restaurants. For retail restaurants like sub shops, POS systems that relay inputted orders reduce time-per-transaction and reduce the errors that will happen when hastily-scrawled orders are passed back to the kitchen. For fast service restaurants, POS systems are practically a requirement for living up to their name: orders taken on terminals in the front are automatically shown on monitors in the food preparation area, prepared to be quickly assembled and shipped to the customer.
For table-service restaurants and fine dining, POS requirements are fairly different. They include the need to be able to create then store open checks, as parties order more over time, as well as track which server accounts for each table. The efficiency is gained from better management may be impressive. If your restaurant with 20 tables and an average check of $45 can increase turnover by one party per table, that’s a supplementary $900 on a busy night.
Well-integrated hotel POS systems enable you to transfer meal charges in the dining room to guests’ rooms with only a button or two. Hotel managers need to be aware that its not all POS systems integrate effortlessly property safes).
Basics of a POS System
The central component of a POS terminal is the computer than runs the application form. Most resellers prefer to sell that you simply computer along with the rest of the POS system, rather than having you supply your personal – in which charge another fee in case you supply the computer. This is because setup and recurring support is much simpler when the reseller knows the hardware involved. Getting all the hardware derived from one of source lets the reseller assume responsibility for the entire system.
If you undertake want to buy the computers separately, be sure to coordinate purchasing with your reseller. When you get exact specifications from the POS reseller and follow them closely, you should be able to avoid most of the compatibility problems.
POS applications are certainly not that demanding using the pc, so the average to low-end computer will often get the job done – a $500 to $800 computer should be enough to own a POS terminal. Most POS software does require newer systems, usually Windows XP, Vista, or 7. Remember that the availability of POS software for Linux, Mac, or other operating systems is extremely limited.
Having “clean” electricity is a POS system necessity that lots of businesses underestimate. When you have set up various POS terminals, they may be networked together exactly the same as computer systems in offices. Fluctuations in the electrical supply as a result of blenders, meat slicers, microwaves, along with other mechanical devices attached to the same electrical circuit can readily cause enough noise inside the power supply to wreak havoc with POS personal computers.
There are two common ways of the problem. Power filtering can eliminate troublesome spikes and noise prior to them getting to your computer terminals. The greater robust option would be to install a dedicated circuit with an isolated ground and then use it only for your POS systems.
Power issues are among the single biggest factors behind problems in POS systems. Ensure that your vendor analyzes your power situation and suggests appropriate safeguards.
In choosing your POS system, you might want to look for a system whose software can run on any type of PC so you are not restricted to a particular platform or vendor. Some manufacturers use proprietary hardware, which provides you less flexibility to get upgrades and other equipment off their sources. The primary advantage of proprietary systems is the software is written specifically to use one little bit of hardware, ensuring seamless compatibility.
Input Devices and POS Equipment
The most frequent types of input devices for pos equipment include monitors, keyboards, receipt or invoice printers, bar code scanners, and handheld terminals.
POS Equipment: Keyboards and Touch Screens
The primary choices you will have to make relating to your point of sale products are whether to go with a programmable keyboard or a touch screen. Most businesses choose touch screens. The only market where keyboards tend to be popular is grocery stores, where the power to program individual keys for particular item codes and prices is appreciated.
Touch screens are more intuitive to work with than keyboards for several users. Additionally they provide more flexibility in the user interface and programming. Most touch screens sold currently are based on flat-screen LCDs as opposed to older CRT monitors. While LCD touch screens are better expensive (typically $600 to $1,000 as opposed to $400 to $500), they keep going longer, reflect less glare, use less electricity, and take up less space. In addition they look superior. With both CRT and LCD displays, avoid “overlay” touch screens which are added to regular monitors – they may be more prone to breakdowns and add a needless complication in your system.
In terms of keyboards, some models are standard 101-key appliances you find with any computer. Others are a bit smaller, more POS-specific devices, such as a flat-panel membrane keyboards common in fast food outlets. Often, POS keyboards come with built-in magnetic stripe readers for processing cards. Programmable keyboards usually opt for between $150 and $300.
Whichever you choose, make sure you consider the environment where it’s going to be used. Both keyboards and touch screens can be found with varying degrees of spill- and dust-proofing.
All scanners are employed in the same simple manner, reading a barcode and sending the resulting numbers returning to the computer. They usually connect to the system through Y-connectors called wedges that produce them be an extension from the keyboard. Barcode scanning improves speed and accuracy during checkout.
Low-end scanners are based on charge-coupled device (CCD) technology. These scanners are inexpensive, truly have a very short range – the item being scanned must be 1 to 3 inches through the scanner. In a typical retail setting, that ought to be fine.
Laser scanners, who use a laser beam to read barcodes, offer better scanning ability which enable it to scan at longer distances. Some laser scanners are “autosensing,” meaning they turn on their own when an item is placed looking at them, scan the code, after which turn off again. Omnidirectional scanners mail out 15 or 20 lasers simultaneously, letting you scan a barcode from any angle. And also the top of the line are embedded scanners, that are omnidirectional scanners which are installed below a counter, as is also common in supermarkets.
Select a scanner determined by your customer volume. Unless you usually have greater than a customer or three in line, CCDs or entry-level laser scanners should fit the bill. A fairly constant flow of consumers might necessitate an autosensing model, and incredibly high volume businesses should investigate omni-directional or embedded scanners. Prices range from below $100 for basic CCD scanners to $350 or maybe more for omni-directional laser scanners.
The newest type of input method is a handheld, wireless terminal. Essentially a PDA, each terminal handheld wirelessly transmits orders to a base station. A definite advantage for restaurants is because they increase the period of time servers devote to the floor taking orders and reaching customers, simply because they never have to get back to a terminal to enter orders.
Some buyers prefer write-on handhelds: rather than trying to compress a touch-screen interface onto a little PDA screen, these devices allow servers to merely write down the orders. Handwriting recognition software parses the order then sends it on to the kitchen and bar as needed.
Handheld terminals are understandably more expensive than traditional touch-screen order terminals. Nevertheless they can make up for your cost by getting your servers to shell out more time upselling more desserts and drinks. In case you are evaluating handheld terminals, make sure you ask about the “drop test” – units are rated for toughness in accordance with how much of a fall they can survive. To determine if your business is a candidate for handheld POS terminals, compare various POS equipment vendors to find out what services and products they offer.
Additional POS Hardware
There are a number of additional forms of POS hardware which may be necessary to meet the requirements of your business.
Every POS system needs a printer to make credit card slips and receipts for customers. Many restaurants also have printers for you orders to kitchen and bar staff. There’s 2 main varieties of receipt printers: dot matrix and thermal.
Dot matrix printers, also referred to as impact printers, use pins with an ink ribbon to print on regular or multi-part paper. Dot matrix printers are pretty inexpensive, usually $175 to $350. They may be better suited to be used in kitchens, where the ambient temperature can be enough to avoid thermal printers from working effectively.
Thermal printers use heat and special heat-sensitive paper to create receipts. They may be slightly more expensive, ranging from $300 to $500, but you are faster, quieter, and often more reliable given that they have fewer moving parts.
Over a long period of use, the higher costs for thermal paper are merely about balanced out by the need to buy both paper and ribbons for dot matrix printers.
Cash drawers are. well, drawers you keep cash in, as well as credit card slips, on line, exchange receipts, and then any other important paperwork. It is essential to look for in a cash drawer could be the sturdiness of the construction. They please take a lot of abuse from constant frequent lowering and raising, and they also frequently function as a shelf for any display and other heavy items. Look for eighteen gauge steel like a good benchmark minimum.
Generally in most cash drawers, the signal to open up the drawer originates from the receipt printer. If you purchase your entire system derived from one of dealer, you do not have to worry about compatibility, however this can be a concern if you are purchasing components separately.
Some money drawers are more easily serviceable than others. Although the life span of a cash drawer is measured in the millions of cycles, ensure you can replace the rollers, bearings, and also other parts whenever they do break before then. Cash drawer prices range from $100 to over $400.
Also called pole displays, these accessories show item and price information towards the customer. Some can display advertising also. There is not much you have to know about displays – take a peek to compare size and the way the display looks. You do need to make sure your software is compatible with the display’s emulation, nevertheless, if you buy a complete system derived from one of dealer, this may not be an issue. Average pricing is around $200 to $600. Or get multiple quotes for business credit card machines.
Magnetic Stripe Readers
Plastic card processing is handled with the POS software so you do not need a different credit card terminal. However, you are in need of a magnetic stripe reader to read the card itself. Often times, keyboards and touch screens have readers built-in; if your input device will not, you will need to get a standalone reader, that may set you back $60 to $150.
Using magnetic ink character recognition (MICR), automatic check readers can quickly help you prevent fraud by verifying essential account information. Since personal checks are getting to be a much less popular approach to payment, few retailers find them these days. However, you may notice a significant amount of checks, a reader could be a real time saver. Ensure your software supports check verification before getting one.
Security to limit employee use of POS terminals is crucial. The two most anxiousness are simple PIN codes and magnetic swipe cards, however these are both at the mercy of abuses: PIN codes could be read over someone’s shoulder, and swipe cards have been forgotten by employees, stolen, or lost. A brand new add-on many POS systems now offer is a tiny fingerprint ID box – just sufficient for a thumb, the information ensures that the best employee has the capacity to log on – and no one else will.
Additional Hardware: scales, signature capture pads, PIN pads, and change dispensers
These devices ‘re normally used in supermarkets and other high-volume retail environments, where they assist boost checkout speeds and provide additional security or flexibility for the customer.
Principle functionality of pos software will not vary much from package to the next. However, when you add more features, the aim of sale software gets more complicated and costly.
Make sure you understand what you need the software program to do before comparing long lists of features. Set up a list of the standards that make your small business unique. What unusual purchasing programs have you got? Do you offer incentives that want very detailed or specific tracking? A great POS salesperson will ask you these varieties of questions to figure out what software would be best for you — do your favor and ask them of yourself beforehand.
Most pos software supports a large number of common functions: displaying the things and prices inside a sale, handling taxes, returns, voids, payment options including charge card processing, discounts, layaways, inventory tracking, and accounting reports. Restaurant POS software allows coming of checks by table or dinner, special orders, tracking orders per server, moving diners from your bar to a table, waiting lists, and much more. It is safe to visualize that any standard customer transaction will probably be handled by all major POS software.
Capabilities for multiple locations
Some time of sale software has an “Internet data board.” That is essentially an overview of the day’s business that you could access everywhere you go with a net connection. For franchises or another businesses with multiple locations, this could provide significant peace of mind. Other systems may be set to download daily totals into a central server.
For businesses with branches in various regions, “multimanagement” may be particularly useful. Multimanagement lets you share some settings but vary others between sites – for example, offering the same menu but different prices in different locations.
Frequent Diner Programs
POS systems can make frequent diner programs about to small restaurants, which up to now have primarily held it’s place in the domain of enormous chains. These programs, which reward return visitors with incentives or discounts, are rapidly expanding in popularity. For example point systems that really work much like frequent flyer miles – each item on the menu includes a point value associated with it. Diners accumulate points which can be later exchanged for any free desert, half price special, or dollars business meal. By assigning higher point values, you are able to give a boost to low-performing items or high-profit. You can also market to customers based on their typical purchase or use of visit.
Image viewers that relate actual pictures with the products being purchased. This is helpful in price verification so customers can recognize the item they want.
Age verification: basically automatically asks for age verification for purchases that carry age limits.
Customer information capture records phone numbers, recent purchases, e-mail or home addresses, and more. This is very valuable information for marketing and also allows you to better serve your web visitors.
Questions to ask about POS Software
Should it interface with my accounting software? How extensive is always that integration – would it be simply an export of journal entries of waking time, or is there a complete integration of these two programs?
How easy can it be to make changes on the programming? You simply must be able to change prices, items, and employees regularly – be sure to can comfortably help the setup interface.
Will the credit card processing feature assist my current merchant card account?
What type of reports is the POS capable of producing? Each piece of software will provide you with basic reports – obtain samples so you can compare.
Will it support gift certificate transactions? How thoroughly – can cardholders check their balances online?
Are you able to make modifications in advance? By way of example, can you create a Christmas menu between October, as well as set it to automatically be effective December 1? Does it interface with liquor control devices? (LCDs track each pour of your bottle, reducing shrinkage and free drinks.) Along with asking vendors queries about POS software, you may also instantly compare POS products and services from different suppliers direct from your PC.
Most POS systems can be bought through resellers, not manufacturers. These resellers possess the expertise to setup, program, and support your POS system. Other vendors sell complete systems on the internet or the phone – they tend to concentrate on less-expensive and one-size-fits-all solutions that are ready to go once you plug them in. To secure a sense of typical costs, check out what other Mr Surveillance users found for POS system prices.
Costs for POS systems may vary significantly. A full scale POS system, installed and customized to your business, ranges from $1,800 to $6,000 or higher per terminal, including software, hardware, and support. You can buy a complete off-the-shelf system from the discount vendor for a smaller amount – as low as $1,000 and even less – but you will have to install and program it yourself, and won’t have the you probably need.
Price mustn’t be your most crucial consideration comparing POS vendors. The machine will pay for itself soon enough through reduced expenses and increased sales, and that means you should be making sure you get a system that really meets all your needs. It’s particularly important that you’ve confidence within the vendor you select. (See choosing a vendor to get more.)
If you’re thinking of buying a used system, be careful. While you can help to conserve money purchasing a used POS system, many software licenses are non-transferable, so you won’t have any support or upgrades through the software provider unless you pay them one more fee. Most even cause you to be pay the full final cost of the software. This can quickly eliminate the savings of shopping for used hardware.
Virtually all POS systems can be bought outright; hardly any are leased. POS vendors frequently have arrangements with third-party leasing agencies if you’re interested in spreading the costs out after a while; you can also simply have a small mortgage to purchase the entire system.
Upgrading POS systems as your business grows isn’t just easy – it can be almost expected. Regular software updates enable you to get access to the most recent features. Upgrades could possibly be included in your service contract, or may involve a little additional fee. Adding new hardware – entire new peripherals, or new terminals or for existing terminals – is also generally easy, provided the hardware you add is completely compatible with your software. Buying “more of the same” is a good way to make sure everything connects smoothly.
POS Service and Support
Consider how are you affected if your POS system falls. Chaos? Closed doors? A blizzard of hastily-scrawled receipts? Although it does not happen often – most reputable POS systems have very good overall reliability – shutdowns can lead to unhappy customers, loss in revenue, and considerable headaches. The support policies of your POS vendor can certainly determine whether for you to do business with these or not.
You should get an in-depth explanation of how your potential POS system vendors handle support. Most will diagnose problems over the telephone first — many basic problems may be solved in this way. Some vendors have telephone support available 24hours x 7days, while others are available only during business hours. Restaurants should side towards vendors that have 24 x 7 support, since their busiest times usually are outside normal business hours.
For conditions can not be solved on the telephone, there are different selections for escalation. Mr Surveillance always offers field service technicians that can come to your local area and make repairs. When they can not repair the problem on site, they will be able to provide loaner equipment that may keep your business running. Usually you may get a guarantee that site repairs can happen within a day.
Some vendors would not have field technicians – they could not even have an office in your area. Often, they’re going to set up direct Internet access to your system, to allow them to dial in to make changes remotely. Others will be sending you a replacement component once you call in having a problem, then maybe you have send the broken ingredient of them for repair. If you have many terminals, this is fine – you will get your new parts in a day or three. For smaller business with only a few terminals, losing one for 2 days might not be an option.
Vendors provide widely varying guarantees. Some provide materials for one year; others include free phone support for your first year, also. Many charge per-incident for calls beyond business hours. Some charge for annual support agreements, and costs range from a cheap $100 to over $1000 annually. In short, there isn’t much consistency in how vendors structure their support plans. This will make it hard to compare someone to the next, but ensure you do: POS systems are too critical to day-to-day business to risk under buying support.
On going training ensures that you get the most from your investment. The provider you select should always offer classes to build up your expertise. Find out they have user groups and hold regular meetings.
User get together are one of the best places understand the newest features within the software, to achieve new ideas, and network together with your peers. Often times a peer will offer a new way to accomplish a task using the current software.
Certain vendors and systems offer online training and support with training manuals, user guides, FAQs, searchable knowledge bases, forums, blogs, and also IMs or instant chats. If online features like these are important to you, check with all vendors you are thinking about employing.
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