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Frequently Asked Questions about Retail POS Systems  
   

At Point-of-SaleSystems.com, you'll find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about retail POS software, point of sale hardware, and retail inventory management systems.

If you have additional questions, you can ask our experts either call us at 877-POS-3210, or email at info@point-of-salesystems.com

 
   

Choosing the Right Retail POS System for your business

•  Should I choose a retail software package that was designed specifically for my industry?

•  How much does a retail POS system cost?

•  There are so many different retail POS systems out there. How will I know how to choose the right one?

•  Should I buy the point of sale hardware or the retail software first?

•  How will a retail POS system help me make more money?

•  How can a retail POS system help me run my business more efficiently?

•  I have a lot of young people and older people that work at my store with little computer experience. How complicated is it to teach them how to work a computerized retail POS system?

•  How can I get a live demo of a point of sale system software?

 
   

Features of Retail POS Systems

•  Should I get integrated credit card processing through the technology vendor, use my existing merchant services or get merchant services through my bank?

•  I've seen retail software with hundreds of reporting options. Why do I need so many reports?

•  What type of database should I choose?

•  Why is scalability important in a retail POS system?

•  What is PCI DSS and why is it so important?

•  How important are backups?

•  If my server goes down, can the clerks continue ringing up sales?

•  Do I need a software support / subscription service?

 

 
   

Upgrading from Cash Registers to a Retail POS System

•  I already have a cash register, why should I spend the money for a retail POS system?

•  Is my store too small to benefit from a retail POS system?

 

 
   

Ecommerce Systems

•  I want a web store. Should I use a separate system for my ecommerce store?

•  How can I integrate my new retail store with my existing web store?

 

 
   

Working with Technology Vendors

•  How do I choose a vendor?

•  Should I buy or lease a retail POS system?

 
   

Should I choose a retail software package that was designed specifically for my industry?

Answer: 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. That being said there are some industries which can benefit from some fairly specialized features not always available in a general POS application. A good example is the salon and day spa industry, where appointment scheduling and appointment reminder features while not perhaps completely required are real timesavers and really would be important features to have for better management of the business. In general then ask yourself what features you need now and in the future. Do you want a customer loyalty program? Do you have serialized inventory? Do you need separate credit card authorizations for different contractors?

Make sure that you don't lock yourself into industry-specific retail software that can't handle all of your needs.

 
   

How much does a retail POS system cost?

Answer: Like buying a house, it just depends on what you want. What features do you need? How many bedrooms? How much work do you want to do to get the house ready to live in? Should you purchase on going support? The more features you want, the more your retail POS system will cost. On the cheap side you can find all the hardware and software bundled or in pieces on ebay or similar sites for around $3000. What do you get? A box of stuff (computer / monitor / keyboard / mouse, electronic cash drawer, barcode scanner, magnetic strip reader and receipt printer) . Some problems: to be cheap the barcode scanner will probably be CCD (Close Coupled Device) which works for large format barcodes but not high density (see our hardware section for details), receipt printer may be an impact style which works but is slower and noisier than a thermal style (but cheaper). While these deficiencies may not be critical, here will be the biggest problem, support. You see that box of stuff, does not put itself together and unlike turning on a computer and opening a word processing program ready for you to type a letter, a point of sale application must first be configured to work with all the hardware components and then you need to set up your inventory which means creating departments, vendors and actual inventory item you sell. It is not that easy.

Alternatively, there are companies (okay, like point-of-salesystems.com) that do NOT just sell you a box of stuff and give you a support number in India. To have an experienced company configure your system and give it to you ready to use, with training and ongoing support in case something goes wrong (hate to admit it, but let's face it “stuff” does happen) will cost you at least $1000 to $2000 more. Is it worth it? How much is the headache, frustration and potentially weeks of not having your POS system worth? It is a choice.

Before you buy any retail point of sale system, do the research. Or engage the assistance of qualified POS consultant with a proven track record that knows different software applications and different hardware configurations. Choosing the wrong retail POS system can cost you thousands.

 
 

There are so many different retail POS systems out there. How will I know how to choose the right one?

Answer: Most retail POS software is, admittedly, similar. That is because the process of selling an item is fairly straight forward. Select a customer, select the items from inventory, total the invoice, tender the sale. But, not all businesses are that simple. So, first and foremost, take the time to understand the specific needs of your business. Establish your total technology budget. If necessary, break it down into the things you need and things that would be nice but you can live without. Do you sell serialized items, Televisions, guns, appliances? Do you rent items? Not all software can handle those transactions. Next find reputable technology companies with years of expertise in the retail industry. And that sell more than a single, one size fits all solution. Then ask for references.

Consider all factors, not just the software: hardware, configuration, installation, training and training (yes you will get the most out of your system if you have someone who knows retail business operations and their system show you the fine points the use of your POS system) technical support, service after the sale, and integration with accounting packages or other business software you use. Learn more about how to choose the right retail POS system for your business.

 
 

Should I buy the point of sale hardware or the retail software first?

Answer: The single biggest mistake retail business owners make when choosing a new retail POS system is buying the point of sale hardware before the retail software, or visa versa. 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.

See our POS hardware for more information on point of sale hardware.

 
 

How will a retail POS system help me make more money?

Answer: 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. Integrated ecommerce services generate additional revenue from Internet sales.

Talk to your technology consultant about other ways a retail POS system can help increase your bottom line. Also view our articles: Why a POS System Makes Dollars and Sense , and Marketing Ideas using your Point-of-Sale System .

 
 

How can a retail POS system help me run my business more efficiently?

Answer: Simply put good retail POS system makes you more efficient., allowing you to provide better customer service which in turn provides greater profits as more, happy customers return to your business to spend more money. Instead of using separate systems (manual or computerized) for different aspects of your business, your promotions, coupons, store credits, gift cards, mail order, ecommerce, and wholesale divisions, your one retail POS package can manage your entire business.

See our download article on Why POS? for the whole list of details.

 
 

I have a lot of young people and older people that work at my store with little computer experience. How complicated is it to teach them how to work a computerized retail POS system?

Answer: Learning the basics of a retail POS system is actually easier than learning to use a cash register, because the system is for forgiving and more intuitive. If someone makes a mistake, it's much easier to correct that mistake on a point of sale system, plus you'll have a detailed transaction record of the mistake.

A modern POS system is not even like a computer if it features touch screen technology. For some reason the concept of using a mouse and keyboard is not 100% natural for all users. When your cashiers can use their fingertips to touch the large, color-coded buttons to process sales, they will find it very natural and easy to do.

Importantly, you need to have adequate training. Get your POS system from a vendor that offers training and on-going support. Designate one person in your business to be the lead expert and “go to” person when your users have questions.

 
 

How can I get a live demo of a point of sale system.

Answer: Ask us. (Follow this link to Point-of-Sale Systems.Com Contact Page ) Honestly, the best way to determine if a software application will work for you is to “test drive” it. We offer a variety of different software packages and invite you log into our computers and let us show us different options, and actually use the software before you buy it. We do not know of any one that does this, but believe it is the best, and only way to make the right purchasing decision.

 
 

Should I get integrated credit card processing through the technology vendor, use my existing merchant services or get merchant services through my bank?

Answer: Depends on the technology provider. If they have an established relationship with a number of different processors they can most likely guarantee to get you low rates and even meet or beat any existing service you have. Most importantly is their on-going support and technical service. If you have integrated credit card processing in your POS system and that system is fully supported by your technology vendor, you have a “single point of contact” to resolve any and all issues that relate to processing credit cards. If one vendor has the POS system and another vendor the credit card processing, getting them to work together will be problematic. Even if overcome initially, if problems later arise (and these are BIG problems if they happen because that is your money that you are not getting) one vendor pointing to the other saying the problem is, “Not me, it's the other guy” , and the “other guy doing the same thing, is NOT a solution for you the retailer.

 
 

I've seen retail software with hundreds of reporting options. Why do I need so many reports?

Answer: The extensive reporting capabilities built into better retail software packages offer business owners and managers an in-depth look at their businesses. The ability to sort and put information into a spreadsheet application or to create your own reports will enable the business owner to have a greater understanding of their business. You really can not have too many reports or information..

While you may not need every single report available in a particular retail software package, you do want to choose the retail software package with the most flexibility. Retail software that both allows importing into a spreadsheet application like Microsoft's Excel and that uses the industry-leading Crystal Reports® engine offer the most customization capabilities.

 
 

What type of database should I choose?

Answer: 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, a retail software based on Microsoft Access or SQL will offer compatibility with Crystal Reports® 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.

 
 

Why is scalability important in retail software?

Answer: 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.

 
 

What is PCI DSS and why is it so important?

Answer: PCI DSS, or Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards, is a strict set of standards designed to protect the cardholder's data from credit card fraud and misuse. The PCI Security Standards Council is an organization dedicated to the development and implementation of security standards for protecting credit card data. PCI Data Security Standards are developed and implemented by a collaborative effort from American Express, Discover Financial Services, JCB, MasterCard Worldwide, and Visa International.

If your retail software isn't compliant with PCI DSS, you may be subject to hefty fines. It's critical that you choose PCI-compliant retail software that will protect your customers' credit card information as well as your business.

Learn more about the 12 requirements of PCI DSS .

 
 

How important are backups?

Answer: Very. Backing up data should occur on a regular basis. Having data stored protects 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.

Get in the habit of backing up your database every night as part of your end-of-day procedures. You can easily use a CDRW and a CD to copy your database. Keep the back up off site, take it home with you, in case something physically happens to the business.

 
 

If my server goes down, can the clerks continue ringing up sales?

Answer: If you want your clerks to be able to process sales without a server, choose retail software with lane redundancy or an offline mode. Generally you will have one, single database, in a point-of-sale system, that single database “lives” on a dedicated server in larger installations or, if the installation is no more than 3 sales stations, one of sales stations.

Some software and POS systems offer a “work-off-Line” option . When point of sale workstations are 'offline' (i.e., not connected to the server), clerks can continue ringing up sales. That is because there is a back up of the main database on each computer. Your inventory items will all be there as well as customer information but that back up is likely from last night so quantities will need to updated when the connection to the server is reestablished. The application will need to take data from the local workstations and synchronize those database changes; you input a transaction time frame, you want the application to take offline workstation data and merge it with the data on the server. Times like these, it is probably a good idea to have a support contract, see next FAQ.

 
 

Do I need a software Support or Subscription service?

Answer: Honestly you really do not “need” what is variably called a “Software Subscription Agreement or Service”, “Technical Support Agreement”, even an “Annual Benefits Package”. Is it a really good idea? Yes. And even more so when you get additional “Benefits” beyond software updates. 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 will receive those updates. And no matter how good the retail software is, it may still have a bug in it.

That said. Look for those companies that offer more than just software updates. How about advance shipping on warranty replacement hardware? Most people do not realize that while a piece of hardware may be under warranty, that part will have to be taken out of the POS system and shipped at your cost to a repair facility which may take weeks to return to you. Also, what about 24 / 7 / 365 access to support technicians? A process to encourage submission of new software improvement ideas? Special access to additional training, support and technical resources?

Ask about what on-going software and system support is available before you buy.

 

I already have a cash register, why should I spend the money for a retail POS system?

Answer: While a 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.

Talk to your technology consultant about other ways a retail POS system can help increase your bottom line. Also view our articles: Why a POS System Makes Dollars and Sense , and Marketing Ideas using your Point-of-Sale System .

 
 

Is my store too small to benefit from a retail POS system?

Answer: 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 research, distinguish your wants from your needs, and talk to some technology vendors. You'll find that there is a retail POS system out there that meets your needs—and your budget.

 
 

I want a web store. Should I use a separate system for my ecommerce store?

Answer: No. You should choose retail software with integrated ecommerce features. With an integrated system, you can use one retail software package to manage both your web store and your brick-and-mortar stores. An integrated ecommerce solution eliminates the extra effort and expense of maintaining inventory in multiple systems.

Here is the technical reason why you can not use those e-store solutions you see advertised on some major web portals, if you also have a brick and mortar store. Those e-stores can not be integrated into a stand alone computer system and database because ports on those commercial servers would have to be open to data requests and transfers from the brick and mortar store. Due to possibility of security breaches those commercial could not possibly develop protocols for the thousands of different POS systems out there.

But putting your e-store on the server of the POS system provider is, no problem.

 
 

How can I Integrate new retail store with my existing web store?

Answer: You probably can not fully integrate an existing web store to a retail POS system unless you are hosting the web store yourself. If so, you may find a POS vendor that can customize a solution for you.

Alternatively you would simply treat the existing web store as an ordering point and the physical store as a fulfillment house/store. In this configuration your inventory would be tracked in the retail POS system as well as the payments. The web store would merely email you the customer order, what items they want, shipping information and payment information. All items on the web store site would assumed to be available and if not you would have to contact the customer.

This would be a workable solution until your web store get hundreds of transactions a day.

 

How do I choose a vendor?

Answer: Talk to a technology vendor. Just talking to vendors doesn't cost a thing, and you'll learn a lot about retail software and point of sale systems in the process. Don't just consider the hardware and software that is available from the vendor. You also need to consider the vendor's services as well.

Configuration, installation, training and support are some of the most important factors in a Point of sale system. Do they offer to configure the software? Can they create your initial database? Do they offer on-site installation? Importantly, do they provide training and on-going service and support? Or do they just sell hardware and software and leave you with, maybe, a support phone number in a different country?

Importantly also are their areas of expertise, and number of years in business. Make sure that the vendor you choose can grow with you as your business grows. Choose a company you trust. The company you choose will be responsible for keeping your retail point of sale system running for the next 5-7 years.

 
 

Should I buy or lease a retail POS system?

Answer: Whether you buy or lease a retail point of sale system depends on your budget. Many technology vendors today offer flexible leasing options for retail POS systems, including 100% financing. By leasing the retail software and/or the point of sale hardware, you can reduce the initial start-up costs associated with a new retail point of sale system. On the other hand, you will pay more for your POS system in the long run with a lease.

The best most flexible financing is going to be found at your current business or personal bank. They know you, they have your money, and using a traditional loan or credit line will more likely cost less and allow variable repayment options. Click here for more leasing information.

 
 
Check back with us we are always updating our FAQS  
   

 

 

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