Blog post

Finding the best POS system for your business

The top questions you should be asking potential vendors when looking for a new POS system.

  • Topic
    Store operations, Mobility, Customer experience, Unified Commerce

Deciding to invest in a new point of sale system and platform is a big decision for any retailer - even more so if you’re thinking about unifying all your sales channels, global expansion and a system you can use in all your markets.

Introducing new systems, or even changing existing ones, will require effective change management, employee ‘buy-in’ and an initial investment of time and resources.

But where should you start?

Whether you’re changing solutions or investing in a cloud-native POS system for the first time, we’ve put together the top questions you should be asking potential vendors.

1. Is it designed for store associates and easy to use?

POS processes should be intuitive and fast and even complex processes - like cross-channel partial returns - should be easy. If you’re still using a legacy system or have limited mobile functionality within your POS, you’re making your own life much more difficult and compounding this for your employees and customers.

If you give your associates tools that are easy to use, it means they can spend more time serving and helping your customers. Empower your store associates with a POS system that gives them more information to service your customers like rich product information, high resolution pictures, recommendations, cross-selling and assisted selling functionality.

Furthermore, by having an intuitive solution, you’ll eliminate all the frustrations your associates face when trying to deal with tech that doesn’t work or isn’t doing its job properly. This leads to happier, more engaged associates who, in turn, will provide a better service and experience for your customers.

Look for a vendor that can deliver a solution where things like stocktaking, cycle counts, receiving inventory, printing labels, runner functionality, service orders and the CRM are an intuitive part of the POS - something that becomes a reality when you take a best-of-breed approach to your IT architecture. This means your associates can perform all their tasks through one app and one device.

2. Is it mobile-first and flexible?

You need the mobility and flexibility to be where your customers are and serve them anywhere in the store.

Having your POS as a native app, for either iOS or Android, gives you completely new possibilities. You can station a mobile-first POS behind a counter whereas you can never make a stationary POS mobile. You can supplement your traditional payment methods such as cash and credit card with mobile payments (perfect to help with social distancing) and give customers the option of having a digital or physical receipt, perform fly-by cycle counts, easily find enhanced product information, use the same POS for pop-ups or to have at events, and much more.

A native app makes the POS mobile-first and intuitive, and it gives store associates working with it, and customers using the CRM interface or the self-checkout a superior user experience.

3. Does it have built in redundancy, is it secure and does it have an offline mode?

You should look for a cloud-native POS that gives you a high level of performance and security, fast processes and a responsive interface.

When a POS app is optimized for respective platforms (Android and iOS), it delivers an extremely high level of performance. The native app uses the device’s processing speed, and with all information stored on the device, POS processes become very fast and responsive. By using the native UI standards the POS app looks and feels like an integrated part of the device, resulting in an intuitive user experience. Real-time data is stored both on local devices and in the cloud. Data is encrypted in transit between client and databases and all cross-channel returns and transactions are verified.

The best systems will have an offline mode as it’s important that a POS system is not completely dependent on your internet connection working. There will be disruptions and your store associates should always be able to complete a sale - which they can always do with an offline mode. The native app and its offline mode also ensures data consistency.

4. Is it cloud-native and delivered as a true SaaS model?

Look for a supplier that has a cloud-native approach so you can take advantage of all the power, flexibility and cost efficiency of modern cloud-native technology.

Many say they are using cloud-technology but very few providers are providing cloud-native technology. If an app is cloud-native, it's specifically designed to provide a consistent development and management experience across private, public, and hybrid clouds. Put simply, cloud-native is about the service whereas cloud-based is about the servers.

Cloud-native applications take advantage of a ready-to-use infrastructure - such as caching services, APIs, and workflow engines - that simplify the development process.

Software delivered through a true SaaS mode - where there’s one single code base and platform - uses a multi-tenant architecture, which enables multiple customers to share one infrastructure in a highly secure environment. It’s fully redundant, scalable, and secure, and is monitored at all times for high availability. The cost distribution also allows SaaS vendors to charge customers a lower rate, returning the cost savings back to the customers.

Using a SaaS vendor will future-proof your solution as you’ll always be running the most up-to-date version of the software with updates being rolled out on a regular basis and requiring. This dramatically reduces your maintenance costs and requires minimum effort on your part.

5. Is it easy to implement and scale?

Historically, one of the biggest drawbacks to companies taking on new software has been the time it takes to implement. Many solutions remain too complex to set up and then to use effectively, leading to many businesses abandoning them or not using them to their full potential.

That’s why any solution you choose should be straightforward to set up and easy to use, requiring minimum training and working straight out of the box.

If you’re ambitious and want to grow, you need to find a software provider with the ambition to match your own and a product offering that can grow with you. The system you use should work just as well whether you use ten or several thousand points of sale.

With mobile points of sale it becomes very easy to scale up and down in step with seasonal fluctuations. You can activate an extra POS within minutes and easily set up or open new stores - including pop-ups. With all the built in functionality and access to the same information everywhere you activate a fully operational POS just by downloading an app on a mobile device.

6. Is it globally compliant?

While we’re talking about scaling up operations, if you’re looking to expand internationally (or continue your international expansion) you can save a lot of money by using a system that is compliant in all your markets

Your POS should support local languages and currencies, and be compliant with legal requirements in a large number of countries.

POS software that’s built with modern cloud-native technology and originates in a market with strict and modern regulations, is usually quite easy to adapt to new markets.

With POS regulations around the world tending to change to make point of sales systems more secure, many traditional POS providers are unable to adapt to new regulations or they have to deal with costly updates. With a modern POS platform built for global compliance it’s easy to continuously stay up to date with changing cash register regulations across the world.

7. How well will it integrate with your other systems?

To unlock the benefits of real-time retail and unified commerce, you need a POS platform that talks to all the other areas of your infrastructure and is easy to implement. Vendors with an API first approach create solutions that are built to play well with others.

It should work out-of-box and have pre-built integrations with other leading retail IT systems which leads to seamless, plug-and-play set ups.

However, if you need additional functionality, you need to find a vendor with the mindset of ‘openness as a religion’ and an API first approach. To connect best-of-breed solutions, you have to have this mindset. APIs and webhooks are the baseline of this mindset.

What comes next is the SPI (service provider interface) approach.

Rather than pulling data - as we see with REST APIs - or the provider pushing data when triggered by an event - as we see with webhooks - an SPI also expects data to be returned and therefore enables real-time interaction with a third party system. The use of a SPI for CRM, for example, can allow an external CRM provider to take over the entire CRM process within the POS software in real time without interfering with the code base of the POS. Rather than the CRM and POS simply talking to each other, this approach means the CRM software operates by itself within the POS.

This modern approach to customization means your entire IT architecture is integrated in real-time.

8. How important is research and development to the provider?

Before committing to a vendor, find out how important research and development is to them. Ask them what their roadmap is, what their vision is, what features they are developing and where they are going as a company. Features aren’t the be-all and end-all of a piece of software. However, feature-rich, best-of-breed products can save you huge amounts of time and eliminate the need for using additional, unnecessary systems.

9. Are you going to enjoy working with the provider?

Your POS system is going to be a crucial part of your business. Not only do you want it to be the best fit for your business, you want to work with a provider who values you, understands you and wants the best for you.

Look for a supplier with positive reviews, who has a quick time to market, a reputation for constant improvement and pushing new technology, are up front about their costs and don’t include hidden consultancy hours.

In short, find someone you will enjoy working with and you will become an integral part of your success.

10. Will it help save you time and money while delivering a return on investment?

Cloud-native POS systems have significantly lower running costs than legacy systems. They require less maintenance and field service, are quicker and cheaper to install, can run off standard hardware, and come with updates included (meaning you won’t have to constantly pay for additional features or upgrades)

You need to find a solution that will save you time - both in your head office and in-store - alongside being cost effective and saving you money.

When it comes to measuring your new platform’s effectiveness, you should measure metrics like customer satisfaction, employee happiness, time savings on areas such as inventory management, average order value, cross-channel conversion, turnover, store visits, and cost-savings in your IT budget.

11. Will it enable you to deliver real-time retail and unified commerce?

Customers are more informed and knowledgeable than ever before. They also have higher expectations of the in-store and online experience.

From the customer’s point of view, there’s no difference between online and in-store. They expect them both to act and operate in the same way and together - whether that’s for payments and promotions, delivery, loyalty programmes, or inventories.

This means, as an ambitious retailer, you need to have the right systems and technology in place so you can meet these expectations. Real-time data - like the kind you can get when you have a cloud-native POS and unified commerce platform in place - gives you the power to sell everywhere and fulfil anywhere as well as transforming other aspects of your business like inventory management and employee engagement.

In Summary

  • POS systems that are mobile by default are the future of retail. You’ll need to invest in one sooner rather than later. Give careful consideration to the above questions before.

  • Find a vendor you can trust, grow with and build a strong relationship with.Invest in a solution that is cloud-native and delivered as a true SaaS model.

  • Partner with a vendor that has an API-first approach and develops software that can integrate seamlessly with other best-of-breed solutions.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions regarding the vendor’s road map for the product or about the technology they use. It’s important you find a solution that will meet your needs now and in the future.

If you have any questions about what to look for in a POS system or would like to find out more about the Sitoo Unified Commerce Platform and POS, we’d love to speak to you.

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