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5 Questions a Small Business Should Ask when Considering a New POS System

Every time there’s a change in season, there’s usually a lot of change that happens around Small Business (SMBs). Whether it’s as simple as changing out your seasonal décor and signage, or time to take annual inventory, or even if you’re just doing a little spring cleaning, as a SMB owner, each new quarter brings with it a lot of reflection.

Many times this sense of reflection is due to pouring over the last quarter’s numbers: how efficient were we, how much profit did we make per transaction, how can we turn over tables faster?  When reflecting on the answer to those questions, you may decide that perhaps this year’s new hot technology or software solution can help move the needle on some of those important metrics.

This year, the new hot technology that’s been showing up at every next coffee shop, kiosk, and boutique is the touch-screen POS system. Brought on by a wave of smartphone- and tablet-based checkout systems, eventually, SMB owners started investing in these new, stylish, purpose-built POS systems—so much so that perhaps now you’re starting to wonder whether it’s time for you and your business to update your POS tech.

In considering one of these new, sleek-and-sexy touch-screen POS systems, there’s a lot more to think about than mere curb appeal, i.e. how good it will look on your counter. When considering updating your POS system, it’s important to look a little bit deeper to ensure it does more than just look great.

Below, we’ve outlined some of the questions you should be asking yourself when vetting a new POS system for your SMB:

1.    How well can the system protect my data?
In today’s world of headline-making data breaches and cyber-attacks, it is more critical than ever to ensure that both your business data and the data that belongs to your customers cannot be stolen and misused. When considering how well a new POS system will protect your data, think of that data in two different categories:

a.    Personal Data:  This is information about your business, your employees, and your customers. Things like birthdates, phone numbers, and email addresses. When considering new POS tech, make sure anything you consider requires a complex, rotating password to access the data, controls for who can access the data (i.e. user permissions assignment capabilities), and that the system, at a bare minimum, stores this information behind a firewall.

b.    Cardholder Data: This is the sensitive payment information used by your customers to purchase goods and services—the Holy Grail for data thieves. Things like account numbers, track data, PINs, and bank account information are of the utmost importance to protect. Your next POS system needs to ensure this critical data is protected during transmission by encrypting the information at the point of entry, and it needs to protect that data throughout the rest of the transaction by tokenizing the information in a format that is useless to thieves.

2.    Can it help me get back to doing the things I enjoy most?  (a.k.a. Which of my essential business management functions can it make more efficient?)
SMB owners seldom go into business because they love creating employee schedules, get excited about placing orders for more office supplies, or look forward to entering sales data into elaborate spreadsheets. They go into business because they have a passion for what they do or the products they sell, and they want to share that passion with others.

The behind-the-scenes aspects of running a business like personnel management, inventory management, and sales analytics often prevent the owner from realizing personal goals and achieving that inner satisfaction they yearn for; ever heard the one about saying goodbye to vacations for at least the first five years of owning your own restaurant or business? 

Think about the business tasks you enjoy the least and select a POS system that not only has modules to help you manage these functions, but also has integrated workflows that automate the processes for you so you can work to live, and not the other way around.

3.    Can I use the system remotely?
In order to stay competitive and maintain efficiency, SMB owners today find themselves needing the ability to perform business functions “on-the-go.”  This means being able to access their back-office and point of sale systems from a remote PC, a wireless laptop, or their mobile device. Advancements in cloud technology and mobile infrastructure have been migrating into the POS environment over the last 5 years so that now, this desire is becoming a reality.

Before saying “yes” to your next POS system, make sure that it gives you cloud-based access to your back office functions and has the ability to enable access to payment and other information from anywhere via remote, mobile integration.

4.    Does this POS system have the ability to grow along with my business?
We’ve all heard the phrase “one size fits all,” but rarely does that statement ring true, especially when it comes to SMBs. The same can be said of point of sale systems: rarely can a single, all-encompassing configuration meet the needs of all retailers.

Quickly moving to the wayside are the behemoth POS systems that have more functionality than a single retailer would ever need along with a price tag that most don’t want to pay. In their place are an emerging a new category of sleek, “modularized” systems that allow merchants to select from a menu of functions while paying only for what they use.

When shopping for your next POS, look for a system that meets your immediate business needs, and which has the infrastructure to support the additional layering of functionality as your business grows.

5.    Will this system be able to evolve as the industry evolves?
While no one has a crystal ball that allows us to see perfectly what the future will bring, there are things that we can all do to be as prepared as possible when the marketplace inevitably shifts or pivots.

When vetting a POS solution, be sure it’s backed by an operating system that has open APIs that allow your business to be in a position to quickly address market changes from a software perspective, should the need arise. By choosing hardware that utilizes universal connectivity methods and protocols, you can allow yourself the flexibility to update your POS system with any extensions you may want to add in the future.

Don’t try to predict the future with your next POS system, but do ensure that both the system and the company behind the system are prepared for, and invested in, making rapid advancements to help you stay ahead of the curve so that your system is always able to address the needs of the day.

Looks Great, Performs Even Better
Of course, when looking for a new POS system, you want to stay current and make sure that any new point-of-sale unit looks great on your counter. But it’s also important to look a little deeper into the company, security, and technology behind the unit to ensure that your customer and business data stays safe while providing the enhancements in performance that you’re looking for in a new system.

Do your homework, check out online demos, and then invite out a business consultant or two to show you how any new POS system can make your business look great—from both the checkout stand and your quarterly reports. Going the extra mile in vetting a solution will be crucial in picking a new system that will perform great for your business today and well into the future.

Trace Ussery is a Director of Product Management within the Advanced POS Solutions team at First Data. He has spent the last 16 years of his career helping retailers identify and implement innovative solutions for their business and payment needs.

For more information, contact one of our Business Consultants today at 1-866-228-6184.