What beverage retailer doesn’t look for ways to positively impact their sales?
So here’s some good news: Thanks in part to improved technology, today’s retailers can make their sales processes more efficient and effective with the latest and greatest in POS systems.
In recent years, POS has become more accessible to retailers, in terms of both affordability and practicality. The bulky and cumbersome POS systems of old have given away to sleek, mobile devices.
A retailer nowadays can manage transactions, customers, inventory, employees and analytics all through an iPad POS system.
“Today’s systems are smaller and pack a much greater punch with the integration of numerous features outside of the actual checkout process,” says Justin Guinn, market researcher at Software Advice, which reviews POS systems on the market.
In a recent study conducted by Software Advice, they learned that 76 percent and 74 percent of buyers are requesting sales reporting & analytics and inventory management features, respectively. Additionally, more retailers are embracing the move toward mobile POS systems. In fact, 86 percent of buyers are interested in mobile POS systems, according to Software Advice, with 74 percent of those interested specifically requested iPad-based systems.
Indeed, today’s POS technology has come a long way. Yesterday’s old-fashioned POS systems were more expensive, a burden to install, stored data locally, and often crashed during hours of peak usage — much to the detriment of the business owner.
A Better Mousetrap
When Jason Richelson — Founder and Chief Strategic Officer of ShopKeep POS, a provider of cloud-based, point-of-sale software for managing retail shops and restaurants — first opened his wine store in Brooklyn in 2004, he used a legacy POS system.
Jason had many problems with his PC-based POS system and, while on vacation, his store servers crashed, essentially crippling the business. This was the turning point. It inspired him to build a reliable, cloud-base POS system for small businesses just like him.
With the advent of new technologies, cloud computing and new software solutions, most POS systems, like ShopKeep, are now cloud-based. This means that all data related to transactions is stored remotely and more securely.
As Richelson says, these systems also offer solutions beyond just “point-of-sale.” They can essentially serve as an IT department for small businesses, providing inventory management, customer CRM, and the ability to track employee hours, data and payroll.
“Cloud-based POS solutions also protect customer credit card data better, as they provide point-to-point encryption, whereas legacy solutions stored this data locally on internal servers,” Richelson says. “This is a key enhancement as security is now a real concern for small businesses.”
Age verification technology with POS systems is also top of mind for today’s retailers. Historically, IDs were manually checked to verify age, prompting a high risk of miscalculation and longer wait times.
“With the technology out in the market today, IDs can now be scanned, improving efficiency,” says Taufiq Mithani, CEO & Chairman at Merchant Solutions. “Specific products can be marked as age sensitive, alerting the cashier that an ID must be scanned to proceed with the sale.”
As the technologies used to verify age on state IDs have evolved, POS systems have had to adapt to keep up with these changes. This includes methods for checking age using both magnetic card stripe and 2D barcode scanning, depending on the state.
As explains Jared Isaacman, CEO of Harbortouch, when the POS system recognizes an item as age-restricted, it will prompt the cashier to check or scan the customer’s ID to ensure that they are allowed to purchase the item.
Harbortouch custom-programs each POS system to fit the needs of the business. This includes customizing the various order entry buttons on the system, importing and organizing inventory, and adding custom product attributes as needed.
“We are constantly researching new advancements in age-verification technologies in order to keep up-to-date with new verification methods being implemented in each state,” Isaacman says.
Another unique requirement in the liquor/beverage retail industry is the need to set up complex order entry and quantity tracking for case breakdowns. A POS system must be able to differentiate between cases of varying sizes (i.e., 30 pack, 12 pack, 6 pack) as well as single servings of the same beverage.
“One of the most time-consuming tasks when setting up a POS system is inputting inventory if the business doesn’t have an inventory list already created,” Isaacman says.
“Harbortouch has addressed this problem with a mobile app to quickly and easily set up the business’s inventory,” he adds. “The app uses the phone’s camera to scan each item’s barcode. It pulls product information from a number of databases to quickly populate the item details. Simply enter the quantity on-hand and then move onto the next item. Once all items have been entered, you can easily upload the inventory list directly to the POS system with a single button.”
Cindy Peña, manager at Moon Dance Wine & Spirits in Round Rock, recently transitioned to a Harbortouch POS system.
“First, the transition from our old terminal to the Harbortouch POS System went very smoothly,” Peña says. “With the help of the Harbortouch technical support team, we were able to easily load the inventory from our old terminal to the new system. As a wine and liquor store, this was a very important feature for us since we have such an extensive inventory.”
Onsite installation and training also went well, according to Peña, and the employees were able to quickly learn the Harbortouch software.
“The Harbortouch system has really increased our ability to handle customers faster and more efficiently,” Peña says. “Having everything at my fingertips definitely makes my job easier and saves a lot of time. With Harbortouch, we’re able to spend less time working on daily reports, evaluating inventory and initializing POS to vendors. The system handles these functions so we don’t have to do them manually. There are countless features that have been extremely useful. For example, I can keep track of employee hours and see who our best customers are. The system also allows us to easily manage discounts.”
Over the past year, ShopKeep has made several enhancements to their technology in order to help small businesses operate more efficiently.
“We launched ShopKeep Payments, allowing us to expand our merchant service offering into credit card processing, which is a service that merchants need and have been asking for,” Richelson says. “Now, merchants can receive credit card processing and other point of sale needs from a single trusted source.”
ShopKeep also released ShopKeep Pocket, their first iOS mobile app (available for free in the iTunes store with a ShopKeep account) that works in tandem with ShopKeep Register. This offers small business owners the ability to monitor business operations remotely via their mobile devices, giving them more flexibility and increasing connectivity and productivity on-the-go.
ShopKeep also now offers a direct integration with QuickBooks software rather than going through a third party, allowing merchants to streamline and automate their accounting. And shortly after Apple Pay was announced, ShopKeep updated its technology to accept Apple Pay on its register, helping merchants speed up transaction time at POS.
The team at Merchant Solutions is also consistently evaluating and enhancing their products and services.
“With this, we currently offer Transarmor which encrypts credit card transaction data to minimize the risk of fraud along with EMV,” Mithani says. “To stay in touch with the latest technology, we continually upgrade our equipment to provide merchants with sleeker, faster POS Systems and/or give them the mobility with a tablet POS.”
Customization is Key
First Data recently unveiled Clover Mini, the latest device in its Clover point-of-service solutions portfolio. Clover Mini provides business owners with an “all-in-one” business management tool to streamline operations, expand business intelligence and improve the customer experience. Further, the Mini facilitates payments in a safe, secure environment.
For example, Mark Schulze, head of the Clover App market for First Data, says it’s easy for business-owners using Clover to customize their experience with the Clover App Market. One of the largest POS app markets currently available, the Clover App Market has more than 100 applications. These include Homebase, which manages employee scheduling, or Age Verification, which makes it easy for employees to check age requirements before selling alcohol or cigarettes.
Merchant Solutions also customizes its solutions to meet the requirements of each retailer. This includes, but is not limited to, the setup and layout of multiple departments, adjustments to sales reports, and inventory tracking.
One thing that is always top of mind for liquor and beverage retailers is inventory. Having a POS service with the capability to monitor top-selling items and provide other real-time reporting and analysis is essential.
As Richelson explains, some bars and liquor retailers run inventory checks multiple times a week to make sure they are properly stocked with the most in-demand items, and ultimately manage their business better. Inventory shipments are almost always in bulk, so it is also critical for POS systems to be compatible with a barcode scanner that enables the bulk upload of items into your inventory database.
“For liquor/beverage vendors, specifically in the hospitality industry, being able to open and close checks from multiple registers, and have those orders seamlessly updated across all devices in real-time with or without an internet connection, is important,” Richelson says. “This negates the need for servers to run back to the original register where they started the order, which is especially important during peak hours of traffic.”
As liquor tax rates vary, it is also crucial for a system to automatically determine the appropriate tax for a specific item at point-of-sale. Recently, ShopKeep launched a new feature whereby merchants can determine the tax rate at the item level, rather than just the previous ‘global’ tax rate that would automatically apply to all taxable items.
Square recently announced a new contactless and chip reader to prepare business-owners in advance of the EMV liability shift. This new technology allows users to accept new authenticated payment technologies affordably.
Business-owners also are increasingly looking for advanced point of sale features.
Leora Madden — who runs New Orleans-based Pearl Wine Co., both a retail shop and a bar/tasting room — needed a POS that could solve for both types of businesses. Square was the POS she found that could accomplish this, while also allowing her to go mobile for wine tasting, events, food trucks, farmer’s markets, etc.
“We offer the largest wine selection in the City of New Orleans, with over 600 different labels,” Madden says. “We also sell a wide variety of beer and specialty liquors. Adjacent to our wine store is our wine bar with vintages by the glass ranging from $5-$35. Fresh craft cocktails, beer and dessert wines are also available.”
“Sure, there are plenty of point-of-sale systems out there that are great for retail, and there are plenty of point-of-sale systems out there that are great for a bar — but not for both,” she adds. “Square allows us that flexibility on top of mobility. For my retail operation, it’s a great option. Inventory and barcode scanner ability allows for ease of use on the front of the sale and the back.”
Changes on the Horizon
Richelson says it is a dynamic time within the point-of-sale industry, as new technologies continue to come into play, new regulatory standards are being put into place, and as consumption is happening at a faster pace than ever.
“We’re also moving towards a society where things are increasingly done on-the-go and through mobile devices,” Richelson says.
Two of the biggest changes currently underway in the POS industry are EMV and NFC. EMV “smart cards” include an embedded chip that provides powerful security features not possible with traditional magnetic stripe cards. As of October 1, 2015, merchants who don’t accept EMV will be liable for any fraudulent transactions at their business.
EMV is a safer form of credit card processing that’s been used across the globe for some time. Rather than reading the magnetic strip on the back of the credit card, credit card processors will read a chip embedded into the card. The major difference, aside from increased security, is that cards will be dipped into a reader as opposed to swiped.
With Near Field Communications (NFC) technology on the rise, consumers are starting to embrace mobile payment solutions, like Apple Pay or Android Pay. POS systems will also need to adapt. As Isaacman explains, NFC allows consumers to simply wave their phone in front of a special reader to pay for goods using a mobile wallet app.
“As many retailers replace or upgrade their systems to support EMV, we will likely see an increase in NFC acceptance as well,” Isaacman says.
A consumer being able to purchase items through their preferred form of payment is an important part of a good customer experience, so retailers and POS providers should prepare themselves for a more mobile future.
“POS Systems are the future of the retail industry — it’s changing the way business owners do business,” Mithani says. “These systems have become so advanced that it has the ability to analyze a business and determine the most and least profitable items, the top selling sales person, and the items with the highest risk of theft.”
“With these cloud-based systems,” Mithani continues, “the software can be accessed from anywhere around the world, so now you never have to physically be at the location to pull reports or analyze the profitability and efficiency of your business — it can all be acquired with a touch of a finger on a tablet.”
Maura Keller is a Minneapolis-based writer and editor. She writes for dozens of publications on a variety of business-related topics. When not writing, Maura serves as executive director of the literacy nonprofit, Read Indeed.