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Buying a Retail POS System? Here's How to Choose the Right One

Joanna Furlong
, writer
Jul 27, 2017
Image Credit: Patrick Daxenbichler/Getty
> Business Basics

What to look for in a modern, and technologically advanced POS system for your business

The retail industry is undergoing a massive revolution, thanks to new technologies and a spike in data analytics platforms and usage. At the center of the retail technology environment: point of sales, or POS.

POS systems have evolved far beyond being just the point of transaction. Today, they're the foundation for running a successful business, giving retailers the ability to run everything from promotions and customer rewards to in-store signage and inventory management.

Dick Calio, founder of R.J. Calio Consulting, a full-service consultancy that specializes in retail technology strategy, regularly performs retail POS implementations for retail chains. He typically focuses on retailers with 30 to 35 stores and up.

"The retail industry is undergoing a dramatic disruption. They're focused on how to keep the customers engaged. Customers want to buy whenever, however and wherever they want. Retailers now need to engage on customers' terms," Calio said.

Must-have features in retail POS

Integration is absolutely critical, Calio said. Retailers need a reliable POS system that easily integrates with third-party applications. POS is only as good as the other applications it interacts with and integrates with; it's just one piece within your shopper engagement toolkit.

"Thirty-five years ago, POS systems used to be just that: point of sale. But now it's the hub of a store's entire IT infrastructure. And its main goal now is to drive shopper engagement."


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Top features to consider when evaluating retail POS systems include:

Robust eCommerce capability. Look for a system that can support and integrate with other technologies, giving you full control of how to display, manage and customize your online presence.

Integrated warehouse management. This is critical to streamlining your operations (and reducing headaches), including tracking inventory and stock locations. This is your key to moving faster and working smarter.

Omnichannel experience. Retailers no longer have the luxury of operating in silos. Customers want an omnichannel experience. The right POS system can help you achieve that by providing insights into the entire customer buying journey — no matter where, or how, they like to shop. This includes customer experiences such as "buy online, pick up in store", "buy online, ship from store", "buy in store, return to another store" and more.

Open API. An open API gives you increased flexibility, with benefits like easy integration with third-party systems and easy access to data.

SaaS-based programs. SaaS (software as a service) gives you the software, support, upgrades and more, in one monthly flat fee. It also eliminates hurdles retailers previously faced with credit card compliance and security.

Other trends in retail POS

Handheld POS systems continue to be favored by retailers, as they have been for a while. "Tablet-based systems are on the rise. It creates a convenient customer experience," Calio said. He recalled Nordstrom leading the way with handheld devices, bringing POS functionality to wherever the customer was, regardless of what they were buying.

"Mobile POS is how retailers are attempting to bridge the gap between buying online and buying in store," he said.

Additionally, like nearly all industries, retail hasn't shied away from the advantages of the cloud.

"The real-time aspect alone is huge. Retailers can manage inventory real time. A woman can buy a dress online, pick it up in store the same day and wear it that night," Calio said.

But what about using your phone to make a purchase? Near Field Communications (NFC) makes it possible. NFC-enabled phones act as a mobile wallet, allowing retailers to replace in-store POS hardware, so customers make fast and convenient purchases with a mere phone swipe.

While the retail landscape is changing fast, one thing remains certain: "The smaller retailers are going to have to adapt to these new technologies," said Calio. "If they cannot adapt, they will go away."

Photo credit: Dmitry Kalinovsky

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Joanna Furlong
Joanna Furlong
Joanna Furlong is a freelance writer and content strategist based in Southern California. Her background is in digital marketing, but she’s been writing professionally for more than 10 years. She partners with startups, technology companies and small businesses across the U.S. to tell their brand stories through compelling content. And, she loves to report on the intersection where business, management and technology collide.
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