A POSitive Investment
Point-of-sale systems have evolved to become more useful and functional than ever before, and every pet store should have one that best suits its unique needs.
Anyone who remembers—or can at least imagine—the days when the typical point-of-sale (POS) system consisted of a manual cash register and a Rolodex knows that today’s POS technology has revolutionized retail operations in a number of ways. Many of these systems seem designed to do anything and everything except for maybe mop the store’s floors at night. Yet, all too often pet store owners and managers, who already have an overflowing to-do list on most days, are either underutilizing the POS systems they currently have or are in need of a new system and upgraded hardware that would allow them to leverage all that the latest business software has to offer.
Still, retailers that have been putting off their search for a quality POS system should keep in mind that you cannot underestimate the impact that a quality, well-designed system can have on a business.
“A truly good POS system—or a POS-based Pet Store Management System—shouldn’t be viewed as an expense,” says Mark Kann, vice president of sales for Comp-Ware Systems, Inc., which works exclusively with businesses in the pet and feed industry. “To the contrary, it is an investment to help the storeowner increase their margins, decrease store waste, save them time, increase their sales, get a handle on payroll percentages and free themselves up from paperwork that they shouldn’t have to do.”
In other words, a good POS system can conceivably help retailers work more efficiently and increase revenue. “The big picture they need to take a close look at is their return on their investment,” Kann adds. “A truly great system should pay back its cost in the first year using the tools provided.”
Of course, finding the best, the most appropriate POS solution may take some time and research. Options abound, ranging from off-the-shelf systems to highly customized software, and retailers should take the time to vet different systems and determine which ones present the greatest potential to best serve their needs. For this reason, Brian Strasser, director of strategic alliances for Lightspeed—a provider of POS systems, ecommerce and omnichannel solutions—urges business owners to do their due diligence when selecting a POS system.
“Researching more than one solution and comparing their features based on the merchant’s requirements is key,” Strasser says.
The process may involve watching a product demo, taking advantage of free trials and asking POS-provider representatives a lot of questions, he explains, adding that retailers should ultimately be completely comfortable with their final decision and confident that the provider they chose to work with shares their values.
One way that retailers can help ensure that they make a wise decision is by fully taking stock of the business’ needs. Of course, how effective a storeowner or manager is at being able to draft such a wish list may depend on their level of experience in retail. A new entrepreneur, for example, might not yet know what they will need in terms of POS software and hardware. However, every retailer should brainstorm at least a few ideas of what they think they will want and expect from a system, as well as come up with a list of questions to pose to potential suppliers.
“When shopping for a POS, retailers should keep their business goals and objectives in mind,” Strasser says. “Since inventory is the heart of any business, a POS [system] needs to provide a straightforward way to manage inventory, ensuring that retailers have the right products when they need them, and at the right price.”
Nathan Novelli, who handles global business development at SAP Anywhere, a longtime provider of business software, concurs that inventory control and traceability are key components and “should be the strongest part of a POS system.” In fact, retailers would be unwise to underestimate inventory-related functionalities that can prove to be particularly critical at times.
For example, “if a vendor recalls a product, the retailer must be able to contact every customer that will be affected within two hours,” Novelli says. “Failing to do so may permanently destroy your reputation. Remember, it only takes one negative post on social media to go viral.”
Kann touts Comp-Ware’s proprietary DARTS POS system as being singularly equipped to take the load off retailer’s shoulder in various ways. Inventory control is chief among them. “It will automatically adjust stocking levels of each item in your inventory for seasonality, adjust levels as sales increase and cut down levels as their sales taper off,” Kann says. “It will do this with 98 percent accuracy.”
However, while inventory control is among the top functions associated with POS systems, today’s options often offer a host of other features that may help a business run more efficiently. Automatic collection of customer data, the implementation of loyalty programs and the ability to deliver targeted marketing messages to those customers is becoming increasingly important to retailers that are in the market for a POS system.
“Customer management, loyalty, and digital marketing are the ‘right now’ when it comes to point of sale,” Novelli says. “Retailers need a way to store their customer’s information, and more importantly their customer’s pet information. By tracking purchasing habits and data like birthdays, retailers can send relevant marketing to their customers, which is more likely to convert to sales.”
Other POS features may also potentially help stores run far more cost effectively. Kann says Comp-Wares’ system includes a number of tools and functions intended to help level the playing field between independent pet specialty retailers and their big-box competitors. These tools include functions that automatically monitor distributors’ price lists; enroll customers in frequent-buyer programs and keep track of customers’ standing in each program; retain customer records so employees can instantly see what a customer bought, when they bought the items and how much they cost; and help retailers cut down on staff training time and prompt employees to perform tasks at appropriate times.
Meanwhile, pet retailers that are venturing into the services side of the pet industry may find themselves with a new set of business needs that can be met by a well-rounded POS system. Lightspeed, for example, leverages partnerships with other apps and services to offer added value to its customers. “Lightspeed has a partner called booxi that has developed a solution allowing retailers to create appointments online,” Strasser says. “It integrates directly with the Lightspeed Retail platform, so pet retailers can take appointments for grooming, etc. in real-time.”
He adds that Lightspeed has more than 40 partner-built integrations that extend the capabilities of its POS systems. “Where services like grooming are offered, Lightspeed has the ability to create and track these work orders straight from the POS dashboard,” Strasser says. “Support for multi-location retailers is also key. This enables retailers to transfer stock from one store to another, for example.”
More Bells and Whistles
Another POS element that retailers might seek when vetting systems may be mobile solutions, according to industry experts. “Mobile POS systems allow retailers to serve their customers better,” Novelli says. “Being able to transact almost anywhere in the store or check stock without having to leave the customer creates a better customer experience and will create repeat sales.”
Cloud-based systems are also increasingly in demand, as online capabilities continue to become more important to doing business in any retail sector. “Pet retailers would most certainly want a cloud-based system that offers solid inventory and cost management, reporting, the ability to sell online in an omnichannel environment—where the brick-and-mortar store and online store share sales, inventory and customer data in real time— and customer relationship management (CRM) tools,” Strasser says.
However, while all the bells and whistles are surely important, experts urge retailers on the hunt for a great POS system to also consider the company behind the system. Kann says it is critical that the vendor understand the specific needs of pet specialty retailer, and be able to establish a long-lasting partnership that will serve the store well into the future.
“You need to look for a system that runs all aspects of your business,” Kann adds. “Look for a company with people that are experienced in your business, that can not only offer you training on how to use the system but also how to get the most benefits out of it. You should be able to call them up and ask questions not just at the beginning, but through the years you own it.”