One thing all retailers can count on regarding point-of-sale (POS) systems is that there is no shortage of options from available. More vendors continue to introduce new POS products to the marketplace, ranging from small cloud-based systems to sophisticated programs that incorporate multiple business tools.
Beverage Dynamics reviewed the current POS landscape to give readers an overview of some of the different options currently available. Keep in mind we’re only showcasing a small portion of what’s available (see the accompanying buyer’s guide for details on even more vendors). When selecting a POS, there’s no one-size-fits-all for every beverage retailer. Multiple factors must be considered, including cost, functionality, and technical support, among others. Take the time to research various providers to determine which POS is the best match for your business.
One complaint many beverage retailers share about their existing POS systems is that it often contains a variety of features and tools that are irrelevant to their business. That’s one of the things that makes Innovative Computer Solutions distinct. The company has been in business since 1980, first offering the now discontinued Control Plus POS, then featuring the Vision system, which originally launched in 2000.
“Our system was written from the ground up with retailers in the liquor industry,” says company co-founder and president Tony Pitale. “You won’t find unnecessary fields in Vision that are related to shoe stores or auto stores, or any other business. We do our own in-house development and have a unique understanding of what people in this industry need.”
Vision is currently in use across 34 states in more than 1,000 stores. Unique features include a built-in time clock system to help retailers keep track of employees coming and going from work or taking breaks. A label-printing process allows businesses to easily design and print their own labels. The POS also offers a variety of features designed to let retailers discount products in different ways. Mobile solutions include a wireless tablet function that offers a subset of features from the main system, including the ability to pre-sell to customers from anywhere in the store.
Pitale says that one of the best features of Vision is that it is already Payment Card Industry (PCI) 3.0 compliant. The new PCI mandates will require all retailers to adopt chip and PIN credit card technology, which is already the standard throughout Europe and is widely considered to be more secure than traditional magnetic-strip credit cards. Although the new standards for retailers aren’t required until October 2015, Vision customers benefit from knowing that the POS hardware and software they are using in their stores is already PCI 3.0 compliant, and therefore they won’t be in danger of receiving any compliance failure fees come next fall.
Brian Gauthier has been using the Vision system since he opened the Oakton Wine Shop in Oakton, Virginia, in June 2011. Initially, Gauthier was wowed by Vision’s intuitive user interface, which he thought would make it easy to train his staff. Pitale’s company sent a representative down to Gauthier’s shop for several days, setting up the POS and helping to train staff. According to Gauthier, it’s been a seamless process ever since. Vision’s special attention to PCI standards is an added perk.
“Anyone who is a small business owner knows that when there’s something that someone else can take care of that you don’t have to worry about, it makes such a huge difference,” Gauthier says.
Vision is a license-based system that is available to retailers for a minimum cost of $5,000. Along with the system itself, customers receive access to 24-hour technical support and also benefit from automatic downloads of updated versions of the system, which are pushed out every four to six weeks.
Another option for retailers looking for an industry-specific POS is mPower Beverage. Created in 1998, the company started out as a general POS provider, but after being sought out by multiple beverage retailers to customize the system for their businesses, the company shifted its focus to the beverage industry.
“Everything about the software is industry-specific,” explains Patrick Mooney, Vice President of mPower Beverage. “You’ll see a lot of custom features built in. For example, looking at wine listings, you can sort items based on vintage, regions, etc. mPower is also great at handling split-case options, so if you want to sell a beer as a single item or as part of a pack, it’s easy to set that up.”
Recognizing the specific beverage laws of different states, mPower Beverage is set up to easily notate any legal distinctions into its system. Additional features include remote access, a touch-screen interface, an I.D. checking system, and the option to integrate the use of rewards cards into your business. The system automatically checks for any updates and will prompt the retailer to download the latest software.
Pricing of the mPower Beverage system is based on the number of store locations and the number of registers used. Generally, the cost is $2,000 for the first register and $1,500 for each additional register. Hardware and installation are available at an additional cost.
Retailers who are interested in the latest and greatest POS features may want to look at Spirits 2000. A product of Atlantic Systems, Inc., Spirits 2000 has been serving beverage retailers for over 30 years. The latest version of the system, Spirits 2000 3.0, is currently in beta testing with select customers and will be fully released by the end of 2014.
Ajay Reddy, Marketing Manager with Atlantic Systems, Inc., says that one of the highlights of the new Spirits 2000 3.0 system is a new feature that helps retailers do a better job of tracking seasonal beer varieties.
“So many brands, like Sam Adams, offer fall ales and winter ales, but a lot of these varieties all use the same UPC code, making it difficult to keep stock of,” Reddy explains. “The new version of Spirits 2000 offers a way to keep track of individual beers that share a UPC code.”
Additional features of the new Spirits 2000 3.0 include real-time functionalities on mobile devices, and a “wine-busting” feature that lets retailers total up sales on the floor in an effort to save customers time once they get to the cash register. A new data mining feature allows retailers to target their marketing to customers by offering in-depth reporting that targets very specific audiences.
“You probably have some customers in your systems who are wine buyers, and specifically cabernet buyers, and then either $10 to $20 bottle cabernet buyers or $20 and up bottle of cabernet drinkers, etc.,” Reddy says. “The new reporting methods will let you tailor your reports as much as you want so you can do much more targeted marketing.” Spirits 2000 pricing varies by retailer.
Seamless POS integration: A one-stop shop
Another consideration to keep in mind when selecting a POS provider is how well the new system will integrate with existing databases. AccuPOS is an accounting-anchored POS solution designed to merge all POS transactions with a retailer’s existing accounting software. If your business already utilizes QuickBooks or Sage, you’ll be able to use those existing databases with AccuPOS: there’s no need to set up a separate database.
“This is a very important feature to any QuickBooks or Sage user,” says Joe Pergola, Vice President of Sales and Marketing with AccuPOS. “With our system, every single sale that is made in your store will instantly become a corresponding line item entry in your accounting program.”
AccuPOS boasts an impressive unit-of-measure system, allowing beverage retailers to stock items by cases or in other units of their choosing. Add-on features such as eCommerce options and payroll are also available. A new AccuPOS system for retailers is available beginning at just under $2,000.
Retailers may also be interested in POS systems that offer QuickBooks integration as an optional add-on feature. ShopKeep is a cloud-based iPad POS system that recently doubled the size of its engineering and product development teams, resulting in a constant stream of new features being made available to customers every two weeks. Earlier this year, ShopKeep partnered with the company Retail Intel to offer an optional feature that lets retailers automatically transfer data from their POS into QuickBooks on a daily basis. This new optional feature costs $30 per month on top of ShopKeep’s basic cost of $49 per month per register (equipment costs incur an additional fee).
In addition to the new QuickBooks feature, ShopKeep has a number of additional options that will be of interest to retailers, including full integration of gift cards with proper accounting as liabilities; a new e-mail receipt function allowing retailers to add logos and promotional text to e-mailed receipts; 24/7 technical support; and an “open tabs” function that allows cashiers to hold a transaction in a queue and return to it later.
“It’s so common for customers to come up to the register with 12 items, and then as the transaction is being rung up, they remember that they wanted to grab something else,” says Jason Richelson, ShopKeep’s founder and CEO. “That can be a problem if someone is waiting in line behind them. With this new feature, a cashier can put the first transaction on hold, ring up another customer, and return to the initial transaction after the first customer comes back with the missing item.”
While many retailers integrate multiple systems into their business, others may desire to incorporate everything into one program. NetSuite is a cloud-based system that incorporates POS, eCommerce, inventory management, CRM and marketing, finances, and more. With more than 20,000 organizations using its program, NetSuite is a proven leader in this category and has experience working with businesses of all sizes, from small family-owned retail operations to giant Fortune 500 companies.
A key benefit to utilizing a single system is that all the information you want is instantly at your fingertips. This is especially beneficial for retailers seeking to connect with their customers as much as possible.
“Using one system gives you a greater level of insight into who your customer is, and what that customer is most interested in,” explains Branden Jenkins, General Manager of Retail with NetSuite. “With so much information easily at their disposal, your associates will be able to create a more personal experience for customers.”
NetSuite pushes out two major system updates per year, which are immediately downloaded to all customer systems. Retailers don’t need to worry about handling any installation themselves, and will never be in danger of failing to upgrade and not having access to the latest technology.
Pricing for NetSuite is subscription-based and is set using several variables, including the number of user accounts needed and the number of POS terminals deployed.
Support and security
You could end up with the fanciest, most state-of-the-art POS system that exists, but all those bells and whistles won’t do you much good unless you know how to use them. In addition to researching POS systems that have all the features you’re looking for, make sure you also look into the kind of customer support and security measures that each vendor has to offer.
Warren Scheidt owns Cork Liquors, a chain of 11 stores located in Indiana. A third-generation family business owner, Scheidt needed to replace his outdated POS. He researched multiple vendors for several years before finally selecting Keystroke POS, which he purchased through CCR Point of Sale, a company specializing in the Keystroke system.
“This is such a major part of your business, and you need to make sure you have a great working relationship with the company you’re buying from,” Scheidt says. “We liked that the company is located pretty close to us; we’re about 60 miles away from our headquarters. They were very knowledgeable, they had experience working with not just other liquor stores, but other liquor chains, and we got the impression that whatever we needed, they’d be there for us.”
Cork Liquors began converting its stores to Keystroke in October 2013. During the start-up period, it wasn’t unusual for Scheidt and his employees to be on the phone with CCR six or eight times per day, asking questions and getting help troubleshooting.
“When you’re a chain, it’s not a seamless process getting everything up and running like it might be if you have just one store,” Scheidt explains. “Each location seems to have its own issues, like hardware not working or Internet connectivity problems. Also, with 65 employees spread out across multiple locations, training became a big project, and we needed support with that.”
Although Scheidt appreciates CCR’s Keystroke customer service most of all, the system also boasts some impressive state-of-the-art features, including a biometric thumbprint recognition login system that is unique to each employee, eliminating the need for a separate timecard system (and making it impossible for anyone to steal someone else’s password). Keystroke also integrates with Cork Liquors’ security system, so you can view security video in sync with cashier transactions to make sure everything matches up.
Mike King, owner of CCR, says that one of the reasons his company specializes in Keystroke is because it offers such great security features. Not only does the POS offer an enhanced timecard system, but it can also help eliminate product loss.
“The issues that face liquor store owners are numerous, and unfortunately store owners have a constant battle with employee theft,” King acknowledges. “A lot of what Keystroke does is focused on inventory management – helping the retailer get and keep what’s theirs.”
Additional Keystroke security features include a drawer compulsion feature, which forces a system shutdown any time a drawer is opened: the POS won’t begin functioning again until the drawer is closed. A specialized linking system allows stores to easily break cases into different selling packages that are linked back to the original case inventory, resulting in more accurate operations processes.
Other features of the system include digital signage. Cork Liquors installed 12-inch monitors so that both cashiers and customers can easily see every item in a sale totaled up on screen, instead of just one item at a time. Additional room on the screen allows retailers to showcase other products and special offers to consumers. A scripting feature offers suggested items to the cashier based on the items that they are currently ringing up for customers.
“With the script, your cashiers can offer supplemental items to customers, such as a tub of ice for multiple cases of beer. That way the cashier instantly knows to suggest the item without having to remember it,” King explains.
Keystroke pricing is based upon the hardware itself and the necessary software a retailer chooses to install. There is an additional charge for extra registers. No ongoing contract is required.
Systems Technology Group (STG) is another POS vendor that focuses closely on security, encryption, and support. STG is a versatile system that offers customization, modernization, and some of the strongest security features available. The company has experience working with retailers and organizations of all sizes: STG can be implemented in large facilities such as stadiums and arena, across large retail chains, and also at smaller independent retail operations.
Set up with Point-to-Point Encryption (P2PE), STG’s POS assures that no customer data is ever stored by the retailer or transmitted during a transaction, virtually eliminating the retailer from any potential PCI compliance risks. The company partners with Shift4, a leading payment solution gateway, on its security features.
“Retailers are paying very close attention to PCI and security in general,” states Jeff Davis, Project Manager with STG. “It’s probably the most important feature that any business owner should start with when investigating a new POS system. STG is unique because we offer a top of the line secured system that’s also extremely customizable.”
STG partners with Microsoft to offer a seamless user experience with the same familiar look and feel of other Microsoft products. Additional features include an age verification tool and 24/7 support.
Davis says that STG’s commitment to the system implementation process makes transitioning to a new POS a relatively seamless process for retailers. At the start of a new contract, STG performs a comprehensive needs analysis with the retailer in order to get a thorough understanding of the way the business operates and what its specific needs are. Detailed project planning, software set-up, and training result in a smooth transition when the “go live date” finally arrives.
“If proper preparation is carried out, go live is a non-event because we have taken all the steps needed to prepare everyone for it in advance,” Davis says. “Of course, STG supports the retailer during every step of the transition process.”
Pricing for STG POS systems is determined by a number of factors and is assessed after an individual consultation.
Finally, remember to consider data back-up as part of your security and support needs. If something happens to one of your computer terminals or registers, will you be able to access your old data?
That won’t be a problem for Wolf Track Software customers. Their Liquor POS has been focused on the beverage industry for more than 20 years. Although the company is a SAS provider, the software isn’t housed online: it can be downloaded to retailers’ own machines. And if anything happens to those machines, Wolf Track Software is ready to assist.
“Our main selling point is that we make sure that we keep working for our customers, and we make sure they can keep on working, no matter what happens,” assures Chris Kindred, a Developer with Wolf Track Software. “If anything happens, such as an employee spilling coffee all over one of your local computers, call us and we can get them back up and running within a matter of minutes; no data will be lost.”
Wolf Track Software is available for $35 per month, per register. The off-site database backup feature costs an additional $20 per month, per store.
With so many POS options to choose from, retailers should take some time determining what their primary business needs are. There’s no one-size-fits-all POS option: every system and business is different. Interview multiple vendors to find the right one that works for you.