Retail stores replaced nearly all conventional cash registers with computerized point of sale (POS) systems and for good reasons. POS assets provide detail record keeping that is great for both front end and back office customer service efforts. Additionally, POS machines enhance the customer experience by providing an efficient and accurate check out as well as collecting and tracking customer metrics that help guide future marketing and sales. Those future sales driven by effective marketing campaigns keep retailers afloat while the operational and logistical efficiencies gained are the oars needed to propel the business forward.
Types of POS Systems Available
POS systems differ by company’s target market and preferred system design. All POS systems consist of a suite of hardware and software. POS hardware has a conventional central credit card processing unit and peripherals like scanners, keyboards, and touch screens. The system’s software varies by the manufacturer and the needs of the business. Although businesses could create POS applications themselves to customize their systems, it is usually not necessary because off the shelf POS software packages provide adequate data input, collection, analysis, and reporting features. A business may purchase industry specific POS applications tailored to improve service for its unique customer. For instance, large retail stores require scanning software that allows scan reader hardware to capture universal product codes from store items.
Company managers buy some POS equipment in parts, but mainly they purchase POS assets as a system. Managers must ensure system compatibility when they purchase POS hardware and software separately. It is often easier in the long-term to purchase POS assets as a system.
POS Reporting Provides Valuable Marketing Metrics
Sophisticated POS systems potentially capture important customer data to be used for marketing and sales. Marketing managers use data to target individual customers or customers who fall within a certain demographic profile. POS systems automatically collect information about a customer’s purchases, and many times a store clerk asks for additional information like a phone number that will act as a unique identifier for the customer. When the system collects enough data points about that customer, one can conduct analysis to anticipate up sell opportunities. Also, stores can offer customized sales offers to its customers. For instance, a person that buys pet food twice a month may receive a special discount on pet care items that the store wants to move from its shelves based on POS data.
Improved Supply Chain Management
The POS system’s ability to track trends in customer purchases goes far beyond fodder for marketing campaigns. The information is also used to direct buying decisions and inventory management efforts. Store managers assess quickly whether a product is a hot selling item or a dud with the data collected by the POS system; this data will determine things like shelf position or even discontinuing a product. Huge retail stores like Wal-Mart link their POS systems to their suppliers; when inventory reaches a certain level, the POS system sends an alert to signal the need to restock the item. This feature contributes to a positive customer experience because theoretically the desired products are always available.
Gaining Operational Efficiencies
Computerized POS systems save employees time as the automated processes free them to concentrate on pleasing the customer. Some POS systems also provide customers with real-time info about products when store clerks scan their product codes. Without a POS system, employees must look up information about a product manually which takes extra time that some customers appear not to have.
POS systems evolved over the years from simple systems that collected money and printed receipts to those that integrate with business social media accounts to enhance the customer experience. Overall, POS systems enhance the experiences of all business stakeholders.