Magazine Article | May 1, 2002

Factors To Consider When Selecting A Point Of Sale Software Solution

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

Follow these time-tested principles to ensure you're getting the most value from your technology investment.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, May 2002
Roger Sholanki

Choosing the right POS (point of sale) software solution is a major decision for retailers. Considering the time and money spent on this process, it is mandatory that you achieve maximum return on your investment and deploy a solution that will continue to grow with your business. The following article is meant to assist you in your quest for the ideal POS system by highlighting some key criteria to consider prior to purchasing.

Real-Time Access To Information
Retailers must be able to trust that their data is accurate and up-to-date. You can't be satisfied with yesterday's data. Polling systems are based on 1970s technology. Why invest in a system that is soon to be outdated? Real time is the way of the future.

Real-time technology lets you leverage the power of the Internet to gain information across the chain at any given time. Whether you want to find out where an item of inventory is available, what the sales are across the city, or the current sales and cash deposits of the day, real-time technology can provide all of this and more.

Architecture And Scalability
It is extremely important that the software you choose is written to open operating systems and standards. You need to be confident that your POS software provider will not force you to continually upgrade hardware in order to receive enhanced functionality.

Open architecture will enable retailers to interface other applications with their POS system. A well-known programming language such as Visual Basic or PowerBuilder is the suggested route to take, rather than going with proprietary code. You want to use something that is tried and proven, so that you are not left with little support should the solution or vendor no longer be around down the road.

Open architecture allows the use of standard "off the rack" PCs. By using standard PCs you are not held hostage to the pricing, availability, and servicing of both current and future proprietary hardware.

Choose An Intuitive System
It is imperative that the system you choose is not going to turn your everyday business activities upside down, while your employees struggle to learn how it works. A front office application should be intuitive and require only 30 minutes of training before employees can begin using it.

How configurable the system is "out of the box" prior to customization is also a key factor to consider. Beware: some POS vendors will tell you that their system is highly configurable, but in reality their system may require plenty of customization in order to make it configurable. This results in a more time-consuming and expensive implementation phase. Vendors that use forward thinking with respect to flexible feature designs, features that may be turned on and off, and large proportions of soft coding (definable fields) versus hard coding (indefinable fields) when building their systems are likely to offer a much more configurable software solution.

Know Your Customers' Buying Habits
The ability of a solution to not only capture customer information, but also mine it extensively, should be a prime consideration when choosing your POS system. Knowing your customers and their buying habits is key to effective advertising and sales practices.

Information should be made available through a central database, allowing everyone within your organization to share pertinent information seamlessly. Capturing customer profiles and sales histories from all locations will allow your company to respond faster to market demands.

Your chosen POS software solution should also permit you to define what customer information is collected based on the needs of your company. Furthermore, a strong solution will allow customer profiles, purchasing history, and preferences to be accessible by the front line salespeople, regardless of which store the customer purchases from. This centralized view of data is a powerful feature that allows you to provide optimum customer service.