Editor’s note: For more info, check out our 2016 POS Buyer’s Guide.
What is the ideal POS system?
Elma Wine & Liquor is a neighborhood wine and spirit store catering to the town of Elma and surrounding communities in the suburbs of Buffalo in New York. The store is about 2,200 square feet and they have 2,000 unique products in stock at any given time. They sell wine and liquor only in accordance with New York state law—no beer.
For store owner Tim Delaney, the most important elements of a POS system for include inventory tracking, ability to access the back office from anywhere without expensive licenses, quick and easy (yet robust) reporting features, and the ability to choose our own merchant processor.
“I have owned the store of about three-and-a-half years,” Delaney says. “From day one of owning the store I implemented Shopkeep POS—an iPad-based register system with a backend in the cloud. The previous owners of the store used an old-fashioned cash register. I went with Shopkeep because of its flexibility in managing the backend from anywhere and like the look and feel of an iPad as the register.”
Delaney is not alone. Evaluating and incorporating the latest and greatest in POS systems within the beverage retail industry is key for many retailers.
Just ask Adam Tolsma, general manager of Tap on Ponce, a retail spirit bottle shop with an emphasis on growlers in Atlanta, GA. Tolsma’s primary focus when evaluating POS systems is tracking sales and keeping inventory up to date.
“You have to have a POS system,” Tolsma says. “There would be no way to track inventory by hand. Reporting and data are also instrumental to us.”
After evaluating the current POS systems available, Tap on Ponce settled on First Data’s Clover POS systems for a couple of reasons.
“We like the cloud-based software so that we can check in on sales remotely on our phone. Being able to take offline payments is also great. We lost our Internet for five hours one day, and all of the payments came through. It’s also EMV-capable, which prevents chargebacks.”
Clover POS also handles electronic gift cards and Apple Pay, and Tolsma needed a program that would help him understand how much beer they were pouring as part of their growler program.
“We’ve been able to link each keg to multiple inventory items from an app in the Clover App Market, called Stock. It’s great to have the app market, because if there’s ever a problem, there is probably already a solution in there or at least one in the works.”
Delaney’s current system works very well for the most part and meets most of his needs.
“It is a great value for the price, which makes it hard to justify switching,” he says. “It completes transactions very quickly and efficiently reduces the need for multiple registers. It is also very easy to use and teach new employees.”
“The ‘save’ feature allows us to begin cashing out one customer and then switching to someone else easily without losing everything that was already input,” he adds. “I also really like that I can work with any merchant processor I desire so I can negotiate the best rates possible. And of course, the ability to use the back office software anywhere I am from any device is a lifesaver.”
According to Jim Allen, senior vice president of product delivery at First Data, POS systems used to be static and fairly simplistic. Now, with POS systems, beverage retailers can easily manage many facets of their business.
“First Data’s Clover system makes it easy to track inventory, customer purchases and history, and can incorporate loyalty programs to reward frequent customers,” Allen says. “Clover is an open platform, so beverage retailers can customize it to best suit their needs, with more than 150 apps in our app market.”
As Allen explains, the App Market provides the ability for beverage retailers to customize their system to match their needs and take advantage of new business tools over time.
“Understanding that not all retailers engage their clients the same way all the time, the Clover platform works across many different form factors that match how you do business,” Allen says. “It comes in four versions, including Clover Station, Clover Mobile, Clover Mini and Clover Go.”
“We also recently announced Clover Online Store which makes it easy for an retailer to set up a web presence,” he adds.
Paul Cowan, president of Atlantic Systems, Inc. says the most important recent changes within the POS industry include hardware improvement. Particularly computers, which have gotten far more reliable and powerful than they were years ago.
“The Internet has brought another dimension to retail sales such as online credit card processing, E-commerce and multi-store linking,” Cowan says. “And reliable, safe wireless connections have opened up mobile computing.”
Atlantic Systems’ main software product, Spirits 2000, offers new enhancements such as wireless devices for mobile point-of-sale operations, ‘line busting’, inventory counting and sales-list processing.
“Our software was designed by liquor-store owners, for liquor-store owners,” Cowen says. “The industry-specific attributes that Spirits was designed to handle include automatic calculation and inclusion of deposits both from purchases from vendors to sales, and redemption at the point of sale.”
The system also offers flexible automatic discounting schemes, easy ‘on/off’ sales list setup, driver’s license scanning for age verification, and EMV chip card processing.
One thing that Cowan has learned from beverage retailers is that the most important criteria from the store users’ prospective includes ease of use and speed of a POS system.
“A smart phone app, customized for your store, that ties directly into Spirits 2000, allows users to see new products, get sales alerts and place orders,” Cowan says.
Spirits 2000 offers electronic shelf tags that allow for the setup and changing of prices and product notes. As Cowan explains, these wireless labels simplify the changing process and eliminate the need for paper labels that have to be regularly changed.
“Spirits 2000 includes new features for entering multiple product ‘attributes’ that allow for flexible filtering and retrieval of product information,” Cowan says. “We also offer the ability to sell and track products with multiple vintages or seasonal items so each is uniquely identified.”
Delaney stresses that operating a beverage retail store without a POS is like operating your body without a brain and heart. The POS keeps the store running and provides valuable insights for decision making on a minute-by-minute basis.
“Specifically for beverage retailers I would say that a ‘must have’ is the ability to categorize your products in multiple ways so that you can see trends over time—such as that Cabernets have been increasing while Merlots have been declining,” Delaney says. “Although my POS does not have such robust features and I am doing just fine, if I was starting over today I would have opted for a system that had this feature. For me, the most important ‘must have’ is the ability to switch devices and access my data from anywhere because of the way I work.”
One of the apps on today’s POS system that is helpful for beverage retailers is age verification.
“Beverage retailers should make sure that their point of sale solution helps them to be as efficient as possible, makes it easy to track inventory and stay compliant in terms of checking consumers’ ages, and that they find a solution that is flexible and adaptable to work with them as their needs change,” Allen says.
Chris Poelma, president and GM of NCR Small Business, adds that mobile POS solutions have made transactions significantly easier for retailers, allowing employees to ring customers up behind the counter and on the sales floor. Also, added reporting and marketing features have really transformed the POS into the operational hub for many businesses.
NCR Silver addresses specific challenges faced by beverage retailers. As Poelma explains, force modifiers can be set up to require employees to input ID information and help them upsell items like limes and sodas.
“NCR Silver also offers individualized tax processing, which is huge for beverage retail because of the additional and sometimes complex taxes owners are responsible for,” Poelma says.
Also, sales-per-employee tracking gives managers insight into who’s selling what, and the status of inventory. NCR Silver also offers 24/7, live customer support, so the team is always ready to answer questions.
“In a beverage retail setting, one of the most important aspects of a POS system is inventory management,” Poelma says. “Sophisticated yet simple back-office functionality will ensure beverage retail owners and operators can easily keep track of what’s selling, what’s not, and what needs to be restocked. Customer loyalty programs are also key for this industry. When looking for a POS system, beverage retail owners should pick one with easy-to-use loyalty options. This way, they can collect customer data during checkout, and use this information to customize communications to each customer and keep them coming back.”
Customization also is paramount for beverage retailers utilizing POS systems.
“Customization is applied by multiple preferences settings so each store can set up their system to follow local laws or customs,” Cowan says. “Unique store logos and advertising can be displayed on various peripherals at the register point of sale. We make available various hardware configurations depending on store requirements and space restrictions.”
The best POS solutions are designed to be flexible and provide capabilities that can scale with any business.
“Advanced platforms allow beverage retailers to customize important things like scheduling sales reports, promotional emails, discounts and more,” Poelma says. “The technology should give business owners the freedom to operate the way they want to.”
And no matter where your business is located, it’s likely that you’re competing for customers. One of the best ways to retain your customers is through engagement including rewarding customers for loyalty to your business and incenting them to shop with you versus your competitors.
POS systems can help you to do that by improving your customers’ experience. For instance, Clover can track your customers’ favorite purchases and reward them with a loyalty program. You can alert customers when certain items they like are on sale, or offer customized promotions.
“By better meeting the needs of your customers, you can add to your bottom line,” Allen says. “Additionally, the Clover solutions accept all payment types including MSR, EMV and NFC payments—think Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. These payment methods are increasing in popularity among cardholders.”
“There are also good options in hardware through Clover that enable the retailer to address in-lane checkout at the counter as well as portable devices that can enable line-busting for peak traffic times and mobility options for portable needs and temporary retail,” he adds.
On the Horizon
As consumers expect more and more, retailers can leverage available technology to deliver the experiences those consumers crave. And because many POS systems are dynamic platforms with the ability to scale and adapt to suit retailers’ needs as they change, it makes it easier for the retailers to serve their customers and manage their business, now and into the future.
“This will help them reduce wasted inventory, become more efficient with employee scheduling and hours of operation, and improve the experiences of customers in their stores,” says Poelma.
Delaney says that if his current POS added integration with WooCommerce, a loyalty program, and more robust categorization tools and corresponding reporting, he would be thrilled.
“It seems like currently we are faced with two choices as beverage retailers: the more traditional Windows-based systems that require expensive licenses but have extensive feature sets, with each feature costing more, and the newer-age cloud computing SaaS POS that are lean, efficient and cost effective, but lack the ability to integrate more robust features.”
He adds, “I look forward to the old school and new merging to create the perfect system.”
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.