One of the benchmark moments for any retail business is when it moves to a software-enabled POS system. For some retailers, it happens the day the doors first open for business. For others it may occur after many years spent relying on an electronic cash register set-up.
I spoke with small business accountant Laura Styles to find out what retailers considering an upgrade to point-of-sale software should know. Over the last seven years, Laura has provided technology guidance to many of her retail clients and was kind enough to share her insights on the retail POS software opportunity.
How can the right POS software save retailers time?
Laura: There really should be no downside to POS software from a retailer’s perspective. Bringing in POS software means amalgamating all of the essential services required to keep a retail business running smoothly.
Retailers are able to automate stock tracking and ordering, generate quotations,and produce and distribute invoices—all in one place. In my experience, carrying out these tasks either manually or using individual platforms can be an extremely time-consuming and tedious task. This is particularly relevant in light of the current financial situation in the retail market, where business owners have to work with much tighter profit margins than they were 5 years ago.
Simply put, people don’t have the time or manpower to keep on top of their paperwork manually. This can lead to all manner of problems, from forgotten invoices to stock waste or shortages—things which can be extremely detrimental to business growth. In that respect, having a helping hand from POS software can save retailers a lot of money as well as time.
Do you recommend an all-in-one accounting/POS solution or pairing a standalone POS with accounting software?
Laura: As you might expect from my reply above, I am of the belief that if you are investing in POS software, you should be getting maximum efficiency from it. If a business is able to purchase a package specific to their trade industry, then it makes complete sense to go down that route. It means that users can forgo features that are not relevant to their industry, and benefit from tailor-made applications and options which are designed to make running that exact kind of business easier. I’ve worked with companies using both types of systems, but those using an all-in-one solution often find that they have greater knowledge and visibility of how their business is performing on both a broad and product-specific level.
Can POS software really help retailers sell more product?
Laura: Yes, I believe it can in several ways—both directly and indirectly. Directly, it can help to keep track of stock and ensure that supplies do not run low. Namely, there is less margin for error in stock-taking and ordering. Also, giving customers ease of purchase is likely to generate repeat transactions in the future. From an accounting perspective, clients with POS software are generally more likely to hit sales forecasts as the software ensures that figures are put through in a timely manner. Crucially, some of the best systems will let you recall information about different customers at the point of order—so you know who your most profitable customers are, whether they settle invoices on time and what discounts you can offer that still bring in significant profit.
What’s the learning curve like for a retailer adopting POS software for the first time?
Laura: This largely depends on what software you choose to use and how willing you are to put aside the time to understand it. Don’t just go for the biggest brand or the cheapest option; hunt around for the package that suits you best. If you’re at all concerned about adopting POS software, choose to buy from a company that offers strong customer support and that looks as though it has been (and will continue to be) well established. If you’re buying on more than price or brand and making the right decisions about what your company needs, it can be as easy as you want it to be!
What features do you advise retailers to look for in POS software?
Laura: Find the problem areas that are holding your business back and look for a package that caters to those. Perhaps most importantly, software can help keep all of the important figures in the right place. This is particularly important in retail, where different team members all carry out a variety of tasks. Having one go-to information system helps everyone understand the running of the business better.
For more information on purchasing point-of-sale software and determining which options are best for you, make sure to check out our POS software guide. Or, if you are considering a complete accounting or ERP system for your business, check out our retail industry software guide. Have questions for Laura Styles? Email her here.