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FAQ – Retail POS Management

  • What is a point-of-sale system?

    A Retail Point of Sales system typically includes a computer, monitor, cash drawer, receipt printer, customer display and a barcode scanner. The POS system software can typically handle a myriad of customer based functions such as sales, returns, exchanges, gift cards, customer reward programs, BOGO (buy one get one), quantity discounts and much more. POS software can also allow for functions such as date sensitive promotional sales, foreign currency handling and multiple payment types.
    The POS unit handles the sales to the consumer but it is only one part of the entire POS system used in a retail business. Other functions of the POS system include inventory control, purchasing, receiving and transferring of products to and from other locations. Other functions of a POS system are to store sales information for reporting purposes. Customer information may be stored for receivables management, marketing purposes and specific buying analysis. Many retail POS systems include an accounting interface that "feeds" sales and cost of goods information to an accounting package.
  • What are the benefits of computerizing a store?

    The number one job in retail, of course, is serving the customer. A point of sale system is a tool which makes that job faster, easier and more profitable, but there has to be a cost benefit to computerizing. With today's technology the benefit is there as long as the retailer commits to using a system's full potential. Computerizing your business does not necessarily give you an advantage over your competitors - you may have to do it simply to stay competitive. Three areas where immediate benefits can be seen are:
    • Increased margins due to better inventory management and reduced shrinkage.
    • Increased sales due to prompted suggestion selling, staff performance tracking and targeted marketing.
    • Speed and accuracy in the chores surrounding reports, invoicing, purchase orders and inventory control.
  • Should I choose a retail software package that was designed specifically for my industry?

    Not necessarily. While there are many industry-specific software packages available, many of them don't offer all of the features available in a general retail software package. Often times, a general retail software package can do everything that industry-specific software can do, plus a whole lot more. Ask yourself what features you need now and in the future. Do you want a customer loyalty program? Do you need faster credit card authorizations over the Internet? What about a Dashboard view of your key performance indicators?Make sure that you don't lock yourself into industry-specific retail software that can't handle all of your needs. So before proceeding forward for deployment of any Retail POS software, please consult with industry experts.
  • There are so many different retail POS systems out there. How will I know how to choose the right one?

    First and foremost, take the time to understand the specific needs of your store. Establish your total technology budget. If necessary, break it down into the things you need this year and things that can wait until next year. Find reputable technology companies with years of expertise in the retail industry. Ask for references and call them. Many customers are happy to talk about their business challenges.Consider all factors, such as retail software, technical support, service after the sale, point of sale hardware, and integration with accounting packages or other business software you use. Last but not least, the Industry Exposure and expertise of the team offering the solution.
  • Should I buy the point of sale hardware or the retail software first?

    The single biggest mistake retailers make when choosing a new retail POS system is buying the point of sale hardware before the retail software. The retail software you choose to run your retail business may not be compatible with your new point of sale hardware. Not all scanners, weight scales, or card readers will work with all retail software packages. Buying both the point of sale hardware and the retail software from the same vendor can reduce or eliminate compatibility issues and can often reduce your overall technology costs.
  • How will a retail POS system help me make more money?

    A retail POS system can help you increase your profits in many ways. Quicker, more reliable checkouts mean less manpower is needed. Sales reports allow you to maximize you inventory levels and control costs. Built-in loyalty programs encourage higher ticket averages and repeat business from your customers.
  • How can a retail POS system help me run my business more efficiently?

    A good retail POS system increases your efficiency by eliminating unnecessary work. Instead of using separate systems for your retail, mail order, ecommerce and wholesale divisions. Choose one retail software package that can manage your entire business. Choose a retail POS system that increases your speed of service with faster ticket entry, on-the-fly data entry, and data-driven lookups.
    Make sure that the retail software you choose can automate all of your process-oriented tasks, such as physical count, purchasing, label printing, and customer loyalty.
  • I already have an electronic cash register, why should I spend the money for a retail POS system?

    While an electronic cash register is a suitable way to track money, installing a retail POS system will simplify your life as well as your customers'. With a retail point of sale system, you'll streamline operations, increase checkout times, make more money, increase efficiency, keep better inventory records, and have the most robust reporting capabilities right at your fingertips. The right retail point of sale system will pay for itself over and over again with its functionality.
  • Is my store too small to benefit from a retail POS system?

    More than likely, you can't afford not to have a retail point of sale system. Today's retail POS systems come in all sizes and are designed to fit businesses of any size—from single location mom-and-pop shops to the mega-chains with thousands of locations. Do your researches, distinguish your wants from your needs, and talk to your technology Advisor. You'll find that there is a retail POS system out there that meets your needs—and your budget.
  • What type of database should I choose?

    Any retail software package with inventory management and reporting features will have some underlying database. This database is where all of your items, customers, and sales history are stored. The underlying databases differ among various software manufacturers.The key to choosing the right database lies in its format. You want to choose a broadly-understood data format that offers compatibility with third-party software applications. With the right data format, you can view your data just about any way you want to. For example, retail software based on Microsoft SQL may offer compatibility with Reporting Tool or Microsoft® Excel. Compatibility with third-party applications gives you unlimited reporting and analysis options.
    Be sure to choose a database architecture that ensures data integrity, so you know your data will always be accurate and reliable.
  • How important are backups?

    Backups are critical. They protect your valuable business information from the unforeseen. Disasters—from hurricanes and floods to system failure or theft—can strike anyone, anytime, anywhere. Choose a retail POS system with easy-to-perform backup procedures. Keep a running log of your backups and make sure that someone is responsible the backups. It's also important to store your backups off site.
  • Why is scalability important in retail software?

    A scalable retail software package will grow with you as your business grows. Choose a retail point of sale system that can readily accommodate additional users, additional workstations, and additional stores. When considering your future growth, keep in mind features you may one day need, such as multi-currency support or support for multiple tax rates across different regions. If history is a concern, make sure that the retail software you choose can store years and years of data.
  • Is it best to start with the accounting system and tackle inventory control later?

    Computerizing the accounting functions will have a very small impact on your profitability but inventory is your number one asset. Managing it well is a key factor to business success. Good inventory control means balancing the expectations of your customers and your bankers, so you have to avoid being either under or over stocked. Some systems offer both inventory control and accounting modules but most successful retailers use completely different systems for each one. This is because software that tries to do it all usually ends up doing some of it badly, and the few that don't are extremely expensive. If you computerize your inventory control first you will get a much better return on your systems investment. Timely details about sales, inventory, invoicing, margins, orders and customers will help you earn more money than a new accounting system will save.
  • Is taking inventory more complicated once a POS system is installed?

    No, it can be done much faster and more accurately if the POS system can read data from a hand-held barcode reader. These units are carried to where the stock is and the counts are scanned or punched in. The information is later transferred to the computer by cable. The computer then pops up a table showing where the shelf counts do not match the computer data and gives you a chance to correct it quickly and easily.
  • What are the advantages of having bar codes on the stock?

    Barcodes greatly increase the integrity of the point-of-sale transactions. If cash personnel have to enter a stock code for each POS transaction the chances of making mistakes are higher. Good retail management software should print barcode labels in two sizes and can automatically print a label for every item in the last shipment. Since the UPC barcode is industry assigned, you should use another barcode scheme for your own stock such as Code39. There is no problem associated with having UPC and Code39 labels in the same store because barcode scanners can auto-recognise which type of label they are reading.
  • What reports should we look for in a good system?

    There should be a dozen to choose from, though most retailers use only three of four on a regular basis. Which ones you use will depend on the nature and style of your business. Better systems can limit the scope of a report to a given department, supplier, stock code range, etc.
  • Does entering a customer name and address take too long and annoy the customer?

    It might, and it is important to be very sensitive to a customer's reluctance. However, this information is so valuable that not trying to gather it may be a mistake. Experience shows that it costs a lot more to get a new customer into your store than getting an old one back. This kind of marketing has proven to be the most cost-effective way to drive up sales. Better software systems allow for a variety of customer data and mailing capabilities which can identify customers by last purchase date, birthday, purchase history, customer type and salesperson. This is powerful information for the retailer because it gives us the ability to target promotions where they count, measure advertising results, purge inactive names from mailing lists and do follow-up phone calls. Once people are in the system they do not have to be re-entered, but can be called up by name, phone number, company or customer number. A good system will also give you the option to avoid re-typing the city, state and pin-code for every new customer.
  • How long does it take to get a point of sale system up and running?

    The setup phase can be a headache if it is not properly planned and then rushed through. Don't decide on Saturday that the system has to be installed and fully integrated into the business by Monday. Allow lots of time for you and your staff to get used to a new routine. It would be ideal to run the new system in tandem with the old one for a week or more, but this is a luxury that many stores cannot indulge in. The POS system should start providing useful information about inventory control and customers after a month of full-time use.
  • Do I need a software subscription service or AMC?

    Yes. When you purchase new retail software, you get the latest software release that's available on the date you purchase it. As new features are added to the retail software in subsequent releases, only those users with active subscription services with active AMC will receive those updates. And no matter how good the retail software is, it may have a few bugs in it all.
    Your subscription service will provide you with product updates, new features, and bug fixes for as long as your subscription service is active. Subscription services also encourage software companies to continue to invest resources in improving their retail software.