Today’s point of sale (POS) systems bear little resemblance to their predecessors. Just ten years ago, small business owners would have never dreamed of how much these systems would have to change and adapt to face new market challenges.
These devices have gone from functioning as simple machines that ring up purchases, calculate taxes and produce change to multi-functional systems that guide the future of the business itself. In order to fully appreciate how point of sale systems have evolved, it’s useful to examine the changing nature of running a small business.
Evolution of small business
Larger markets – The emergence of the global economy and ecommerce capabilities have created new opportunities for small business owners. Sales are no longer confined to small geographic regions. Today, businesses of all sizes can sell to anyone who has an Internet connection, regardless of where they live.
Mobile culture – More than anything else, mobile devices have changed the way people shop. People use smartphones and tablets to research their options, look for places to buy and shop for the most competitive price. A business that successfully guides a customer through all stages of the sales process has a huge competitive advantage.
Security threats – Cash and check businesses are going by the wayside. People expect the option to pay with debit and credit cards, and that means business owners have to take precautions to protect personal customer data. Security is a huge liability for small businesses.
How today’s POS systems help
Modern POS systems are often comprised of one or more sales terminals that are linked to a main computer, sometimes as small as a tablet. Systems include credit card readers, bar code scanners and a cash drawer, but checking people out is only the beginning of what a modern POS system can do for your business.
Managing employees – New systems today offer customized features for specific industries, like restaurants, retailers, cafes and bars. Each business type has unique needs, and the interface employees use reflects those needs. Using the touchscreen dashboard, workers can easily log in and out of the system while the POS keeps a running tally of employee hours. The system tracks this data so that managers can use it for processing payroll.
Mobile payment options – Mobile payments are expected to triple in 2015 (1), adding a whole new dimension of convenience and flexibility for customers. Restaurants can settle bills with patrons right there at the table. Retailers can check out customers on the sales floor the moment they decide to buy. As long as you have a secure Internet connection, you can offer mobile payments. This saves time for your customers and can increase revenue for your business by enabling you and your staff to serve more people at a faster rate.
Tracking inventory – Managing inventory is a huge burden on small business owners, yet success depends on it. POS systems simplify the process by tracking items that pass through the checkout, automatically deducting them from your existing stock. Employees can pull this information at any time and see the inventory status of any item. If the product is out of stock, a sales rep can also check the POS to see if the item is available at another store location.
Sales convergence – Many retailers have online and offline revenue streams, and bringing all that information together into a single report used to require manually collating data. A POS system will now do that for you. By configuring a few settings, your system will deliver comprehensive sales information for your entire business in a single report so you can get accurate information quickly.
Customer service – Businesses need to analyze customer behavior in order to respond to changes in the market. If you have a customer relationship management (CRM) program, you are already one step ahead of the game. A CRM will help you identify the best prospects for growth, and by linking your POS system to it, you can track the purchases people make and evaluate the effectiveness of your sales offers. You should also share this data with your marketing team, giving them the intelligence they need to create better promotions that will be more profitable for the business.
Security – All good POS systems now come with advanced security protections. This is an absolute must for any business that accepts electronic payments. Your system should come equipped with encryption and EMV technology that helps safeguard customer information.
POS systems have adapted along with the changing needs of small businesses, emerging into one of the most indispensable tools for entrepreneurs today. They simplify the effort it takes to run a business in an increasingly complex world by offering you data security, marketing intelligence and real-time sales reporting that would otherwise take hours to compile. Investing in a good POS system is an investment in the future viability of your business.