The changes that are occurring in the merchant services industry, specifically with the implementation of EMV standards, have been dramatic. Everyone is being bombarded with sales calls, flyers, etc. talking about how now it is the time to take advantage and upgrade your point-of-sale (POS) system. We also have a storm of articles and ads surrounding all the new tablet-based point-of-sale systems (MPOS). In this article, I'll attempt to cut through the noise and create a list of things to consider when upgrading your countertop terminal to an MPOS.
[Full disclosure: My company sells MPOS systems such as Clover, Shopkeep, and NCR Silver. This article is not intended as a recommendation of one brand over another. It is merely to be used as a guide for my fellow entrepreneurs interested in upgrading their POS systems.]
It used to be that buying a POS system was reserved for those businesses with the cash flow to handle the investment. But now, especially with the EMV changes taking hold in October 2015, getting a new POS system has gotten easier, even for startups. From the newer Square and Shopkeep to the more-established NCR and Clover, MPOS has facilitated finding an affordable system for your business.
So, how do you pick? What do you need to know?
An MPOS system can be viewed as a tool that supports two different parts of your business: marketing and operations/finance. And it is within these two departments that you need to break down which MPOS to choose.
This is the part of the business in charge of getting the word out--creating environments that attract your target market and create a customer experience that helps you maintain your client base. This is where you need to think about all your marketing efforts both online and offline (promotions, retention programs, social media, customer service, branding, etc.). Ask yourself the following:
Can I run the programs already in place, and can I create more?
Think of this in terms of gift cards, loyalty cards, refer-a-friend promotions, punch cards, etc. Consider how you’ll transition these programs to your new MPOS and how flexible the system will if you decide to create new ones.
Does the reporting provide the information I need in a format I can use?
Reporting is your only real way to measure the results of your business efforts. Look at the reports, then visualize yourself deciphering those reports to figure out if you’re getting a good return on your investments. Do you have what you need to get the job done?
Does the POS allow me to effectively monitor the growth of my customer base?
Again, visualize yourself monitoring the growth of your business. Does your point of sale make that easy for you? Does it tell you if you’ve had any new customers this month? How much control does it give you over your customer relationships and interactions?
From the customer's perspective, will this give the right look and feel in my store?
This last one is about your brand. If your main message is wrapped around the idea of making your customers feel at home, then don't get a system that says the opposite. As simple as it might seem, make sure your point of sale system matches your store’s vibe and the voice (brand) you want to convey.
This is the part of your business that deals with execution and efficiency. It makes sure that all the cogs that make up your business fit together to keep everything moving. That the processes of how things happen in your business--from purchasing supplies to collecting payments--runs smoothly and efficiently. Operations is the backbone of every company.
There is an article by People, Process and Profit that gives a great overview of what operations is. With this definition in mind, the first question you need to answer is:
Does this POS system capture and manage all the information my business deems important in a manner that I can use and work with?
Think of this in terms of your accounting software, CRM, payroll, inventory, cost, time frame of delivery, integration with outside partners, etc. A POS system should make running a business easier, not more complicated.
Does this POS systems give me the ability to develop and grow my business?
Operations is not only concerned with the present, but also with achieving future goals of the company. This second question addresses that aspect. No one wants to be boxed into a purchase that won't work for them in the future. But this doesn't mean that you can’t purchase a simple POS today and then find a more sophisticated one later on down the road. Some companies, like North American Bancard, give businesses a free simple POS. Which brings us to the next question.
Does this machine make financial sense now and in the future?
Answering this questions is easy. Based on money in and money out, does your business have the resources to absorb the added cost of having an MPOS system? Most MPOS systems are cloud-based point-of-sale systems that charge a monthly fee for cloud storage and other perks. Does the cost you'll incur, whether in an increased percentage rate or a monthly fee, still add value to your business? And will it still make sense in the future? Some MPOS systems, like Clover, are highly customizable because they rely on an open market to add different apps. But there are subscription fees for those apps. And Clover isn't the only one. Many of the MPOS systems have partnerships with outside third parties, such as LevelUp, that integrate into their systems. But there are fees, so be aware.
Finally, one last thought:
Who will be using the POS on a daily basis?
This is a fundamental question, and it supersedes every other question in this article. Some things to consider: Can your employees use it comfortably? Is it easy to teach and learn? If something goes wrong with the system, what support system is in place?
If you explore all these questions, you will be on the right path to finding an MPOS that fits in with your business.