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Selecting a Point of Sale System for Modern Retailers

Innovation, disruption, evolution… these are all words that describe the change the retail industry has experienced over recent years. As we moved through the “retail apocalypse” (which is not really an apocalypse) we’ve seen new technologies emerge that have made the in-store shopping experience better for the consumer. Whether it be clienteling or mobile in-store companion apps, there’s no denying that stores have moved forward in creating personal, relevant, and convenient experiences to draw their customers into the store. But even with investment into all of these technologies, the one that remains the most vital to the in-store experience is the core point of sale system that allows modern retailers to do the one thing they care about most – generating sales.

Point of sale (POS) systems don’t get the same publicity as the emerging technology in the retail industry. However, the point of sale system is still critical to fundamental retail processes, and POS solutions have gone through an evolution themselves in recent years. We’ve seen the major players in the industry upgrade their foundational technology to modern API-based frameworks, and new players enter the industry with lean, agile systems. There is a clear focus on building intuitive user interfaces and highly customizable software that is capable of running on both traditional registers as well as mobile devices to simplify training for digitally savvy associates. The newer, sleeker systems can make a great first impression on retail buyers but are less proven at scale – creating some uncertainty to their efficacy and ability to hold up under Black Friday pressure.

For retailers looking to upgrade their point of sale system, the current environment makes a technology vendor selection especially challenging. We’ve found that there are a few key elements in ensuring your Point of Sale system selection process is a success:

  1. Build Alignment with the Correct Stakeholders – While point of sale might seem like a straightforward piece of software, it can cast a wide shadow of influence across the organization. The obvious impacts are to store operations and the IT organization, but marketing, digital, innovation, retail, real estate, and finance could all be impacted (among others). Ensuring all the correct groups are involved from the start is key to ensuring that the organization is aligned with strategic priorities and evaluation criteria for the selection process.
  2. Align on Evaluation Criteria and Risk Tolerances – There is no such thing as a perfect solution – each vendor’s technology is going to have positives and negatives when it comes to their current offering. In order to facilitate an effective selection process, it’s important to create alignment across the organization of the evaluation criteria that will drive the process. Do you care more about the look and feel of the system or built-in international capabilities? Does the vendor’s client list matter more or less to you than their broader product suite? These questions need to be answered, but risk areas should be identified as well. Are you willing to select a new, less-proven player in the POS landscape? Or are you only willing to move forward with an established vendor? You’ll likely be faced with trade-offs in vendor capabilities, so understanding areas where you can be flexible versus capability gaps that are non-starters is important to establish up front.
  3. Capture Essential Requirements – Blueprinting is the most important part of any technology implementation project, as a system is only as good as the requirements that are identified and documented. When it comes to the selection of a point of sale system though, the more you can capture earlier, the more open and transparent your selection process will be. Every retailer has unique in-store requirements, and each software vendor will likely have a few gaps with their core solution. Being able to identify gaps and understand level of effort to customize the solution to meet your needs should help drive your selection process. The deeper you’re able to dig in early on will save you from surprises as the project kicks off in earnest post-selection.
  4. Understand Your Mobile Strategy – With hardware technology improving and in-store shopping experiences changing, your organization is probably evaluating your mobile device strategy. Whether you plan to use them only for occasional line-busting, or you plan to remove the cash-wrap entirely, your vision for mobile is a large factor in selecting a point of sale system provider, because capabilities vary widely. Make sure that the vendor you select will support your long-term goals, especially as the impact of 5G technology starts impacting retailers.

Your point of sale system is a fundamental part of the shopper experience and the technology landscape in this area is continually changing.  As new technology emerges and traditional POS systems evolve to meet the criteria of a modern retailer, your decision becomes even more complicated. For more information on how to select the right point of sale system for your business, contact us today.

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Coauthor and contributions by Katerina Baduk.

Tags: Specialty Retail, Vendor Selection & Advisory, Point of Sale