The retail beverage alcohol industry is an ever-changing environment, and point-of-sale (POS) systems are evolving right along with it. Selecting the right POS system for your business is crucial, and a number of factors should be taken into consideration when choosing the program that’s best for you. The size of your operation, your business’s specific needs, any restrictions imposed by your retail space, and your personal preferences are all things to think about before settling on a new POS system. And when the time comes to explore the different available options, you’ll have no shortage of systems from which to choose.
POS providers are constantly rolling out new options to retailers in an effort to keep up with the latest technological advances. As a result, cloud-based tablet systems are currently all the rage. Many POS companies have developed tablet-based options as an add-on to existing systems. Other new POS providers have emerged in the market focusing solely on this new tablet-centered trend.
Cloud-based systems have become increasingly popular among beverage alcohol retailers over the past several years due to their efficiency, ease of use, portability, and affordability. Tablet-based platforms also offer the added perk of taking up less room than traditional large systems, saving coveted counter space that can be used for additional merchandise displays.
ShopKeep is a cloud-based iPad POS system that was invented by a small business owner. When Founder and CEO Jason Richelson was running his two stores, he became fed up with his company’s POS system and sought out a cloud-based alternative. Unable to find one, he created one himself, and now ShopKeep has more than 7,000 clients.
A major benefit of using ShopKeep’s iPad-based POS system is that built-in software updates are automatically installed via the cloud, so retailers need not concern themselves with manually updating their own systems. Real-time sales information is readily available and can also be accessed by managers and store owners via a downloadable mobile app, so store information can be managed at anytime from anywhere. Importing existing data into the system is a simple process, allowing retailers who are interested in finding a new POS system for their business to easily make the switch to ShopKeep. The system also allows retailers to turn on additional tablets during peak times during the year when additional cashiers are needed.
“We have a wine shop client that keeps two iPads in the store,” Richelson states. “During the holiday season when things are busy, they can activate the second handheld register for a couple of months, and then deactivate it in January. You won’t be charged for the additional system unless it’s in use, saving you money.”
Deb Filkins opened Cougar Run Winery in Concord, NH, back in 2012. ShopKeep was recommended to her by her merchant service provider, and although she was instantly attracted to its low price, she didn’t decide on a POS system until she had thoroughly researched multiple options.
“No one going into business is going to buy the cheapest option just based on price,” she explains. “It has to be functional.”
Filkins appreciates ShopKeep’s ease of use and personalized technical support. Describing herself as “not very computer literate,” she was amazed and impressed with how easy it was to download the program onto her iPad and get set up. She also utilizes ShopKeep’s mobile app so she can keep an eye on the winery when she’s away and her husband, Tom, is left in charge.
Benefits abound for retail customers as well. Richelson reports that many customers prefer the ease and convenience of being offered e-mail receipts via ShopKeep’s program (a green feature that appeals to the environmentally conscious). Tablet portability makes it less of a hassle to complete transactions in general, as customers don’t have to line up by registers to check-out: cashiers can bring the tablet to the customer and ring up a sale anywhere. The slick appearance of the tablet-based system is also impressive to customers.
“People love the look of the sleek iPads,” Richelson says. “They feel good about themselves because they feel like they’re shopping in a ‘smarter’ store that’s using the most current technology.”
With ShopKeep, retailers are charged an initial setup fee of $1,100. That costs includes an iPad, a swiper, a stand, a cash drawer, and a printer. Users may try the system for a free 30-day period, during which time they have unlimited access to technical support over the phone. After 30 days, if the retailer isn’t fully satisfied, he or she can return the ShopKeep system and receive a full refund. If the retailer decides to keep the system, ShopKeep charges a monthly operating fee based on the number of tablets the retailer has in use. A single iPad register package costs $50 per month. Retailers continue to have access to unlimited phone support free of charge throughout the duration on the contract.
Traditional Systems with Contemporary Style
While tablet-based systems are gaining popularity, they may not be the perfect fit for every retailer. Some critics also believe that mobile-based POS systems haven’t evolved enough to meet the needs of most businesses.
Jared Isaacman, founder and ceo of Harbortouch, says that while tablet-based POS programs may be an ideal fit for small businesses, larger retailers may find them to be somewhat limited in terms of overall functionality.
“Basically, a lot of companies have developed apps to work within the existing tablet framework,” he explains. “That’s fine for some companies, but there are a lot of retailers who will need a real POS system that offers many additional resources.”
Harbortouch POS systems are currently managing the merchant accounts for more than 120,000 businesses nationwide. Isaacman describes the Harbortouch touch-screen POS unit as being very Apple-influenced, but it’s unique in that each unit is customized specifically for each individual retailer. What makes Harbortouch even more distinctive is that there are no upfront costs to the retailer whatsoever. Each system is provided at no cost, along with on-site installation, in-person training, and 24-hour technical support, all free of charge. Harbortouch’s revenue is based solely on credit card processing. Isaacson notes that because his company absorbs all the front-end costs of the POS system implementation, Harbortouch is not only a great option for retailers looking for something new to manage their existing business, but it’s also ideal for start-up companies as well.
“In today’s economy, sometimes saving a bunch of money up front is what makes or breaks a business,” he states. “Harbortouch is a great way to avoid spending thousands of dollars on a POS system. You’re only charged for the credit processing fees that you’d be billed for even if you bought the system outright. And all retailers can be confident that they’ll receive the support from Harbortouch that they need. Because we invest all the money into getting your POS up and running, from the day we install that system,we have a vested interest in you and your business. Making sure your business does well and functions properly is the only way we will ultimately see a return on our investment.”
The no-cost setup fee is especially appealing to start-up businesses. Mario Lopez and his partners opened Legends Wine, Liquor, and Gifts in McAllen, TX, two years ago. Because they had to devote so much initial capital to inventory, the Harbortouch system was a great option for them.
“We’ve had little to no problems with it so far, and it accurately manages our inventory for us,” Lopez states. “It was a win-win situation for us. We didn’t have to fork over several thousand dollars for a POS system as a start-up, and we got a system that’s user-friendly and worth what we do pay.”
Lopez says that if his business expands in the next several years and opens a second location, he will definitely continue to use Harbortouch.
The Best of Both Worlds
Retailers who are interested in mobile-based POS capabilities may find that integrating that technology with their existing system may be a good way to ease into things. Lee Holman is a Lead Retail Analyst with IHL Group, a research and advisory firm specializing in store systems for retailers. His company recently conducted a survey in which they asked retailers who were utilizing mobile-based POS systems in their stores how it would affect the number of traditional POS units they planned to purchase for their business over the next several years. The result? Mobile-POS retailers only planned to purchase 13% fewer POS systems.
“Overall, we’re still seeing many retailers holding onto the traditional POS systems, and finding ways of integrating mobile technology into their stores,” Holman explains, citing the Starbucks Square Wallet app as an example of a company that has integrated a mobile payment option for customers with their regular POS system. In fact, as of July 2013, 10% of all payment transactions in U.S. Starbucks stores were processed using a mobile app.
Holman predicts that while mobile-based technology will continue to grow, there will always be a segment of retailers who prefer a more traditional approach to POS. He also suggests that customers will be the driving force behind many companies choosing to integrate mobile-based technology as an add-on to their existing systems.
For retailers who are interested in both traditional and mobile-based POS platforms, or who aren’t completely sure which system will best fit the needs of their business in the future, it’s important to identify a POS provider that offers multiple features to accommodate the needs of an evolving business. Microsoft Dynamics for retail is one of the most robust POS systems on
the market, and also one of the most popular: it’s currently used in 36 countries around the world. Each individual system is equipped with the same powerful capabilities, and can be further customized to meet the needs of an individual business with features that include mobile, social, and omni-channel integration. Its flexibility makes it an ideal solution for both large and small retailers.
One distinctive aspect of Microsoft Dynamics is that it’s designed to run the same way in whatever medium it’s accessed in.
“We’ve customized the look and feel to reduce training time and make it more efficient for retailers to access information,” states Michael Griffiths, Global Industry Director for Microsoft Dynamics. “Many POS developers need to vary their technology for their program to run in an app, and the result is limited. Our solution is a flexible yet powerful program that works the same way on a tablet, a phone, or on a standard POS. All of these mediums are fully functional, and the look and feel is very consistent across platforms.”
Regardless of a retailer’s specific needs or preferences, Griffiths says that the goal any retailer should have for its POS system is the same: to enhance the customer experience resulting in a higher level of customer engagement. And with mobile and other new media capabilities constantly on the rise, Griffiths says that the retailers who succeed will be the ones who embrace new technology.
Which System Is Right for You?
Retailers in search of a new POS system should ultimately consider multiple factors when making their selection.
Functionality. Every business has different needs, and there’s no one size fits all POS solution that works for all retailers. Determine what your specific needs are and look for POS systems that can accommodate them.
Ease of use. Any new system will require a training and adjustment period, but how well do you envision this system fitting into you and your staff’s daily operations? Ask potential new vendors to provide references of other businesses similar to yours who are using the system in their stores.
Cost. Pricing is always a factor, but make sure you understand the nature of the product and what features may or may not be included before you sign a contract.
Space constraints. Realistically, how will you set up your POS system in your store? How much space is available?
Support. Inquire about technical service. if something goes wrong, how easy will it be to get help? How do system updates work? Will you need to install them yourself or do they update automatically?
Owner buy-in. If you are a business owner, make sure you weigh in on the POS selection process: don’t leave it solely up to your staff. Yes, other people may be accessing the system more regularly that you, but a POS system is a long-term investment in your company and a lasting partnership with the POS provider. Don’t leave such an important decision solely in the hands of your employees.
Technology. Whether you choose a mobile-based POS system or a more traditional option, you want to make sure the vendor you choose realizes that technology changes as your business changes. How has the system evolved over time? What are the plans for the future?
Security. This is a major issue for any business that conducts credit card transactions. What security features does the POS system have in place to protect your customers?
Logistics. This step is especially a concern for those opting for a mobile-based system. If the tablet concept appeals to you and you like the idea of customers being able to check out from wherever they are in the store, where will you set up a printer in case the customer requests a receipt? How will you bag purchased items? How will you monitor the store for things such as shoplifting, which may be harder to control if the register isn’t in a set location and is easy to watch?
With so many POS options and even more questions for retailers to consider before committing to one, it’s important to realize that selecting a new POS provider is a time-consuming process that should not be taken lightly. A POS system is at the heart of your business: take time to find the one that’s the best fit for you.
2013 POS and Computer Systems Buyers” Guide
AccuPOS provides award-winning point-of-sale (POS), inventory-management, and time-clock software for the retail and restaurant industries. The AccuPOS family of products is designed to be faster and easier than a cash register and to streamline the sales process while significantly simplifying the backend. AccuPOS products, based on open standards, expand the capabilities of an existing accounting program and allow users to grow and change over time, without being locked into proprietary vendor products. Specializing in end-to-end integration, AccuPOS allows a business to view and manage sales and inventory details within the most widely used accounting packages: QuickBooks, Sage 50 – U.S. edition, Sage 50 – Canadian edition, BusinessWorks, Sage 100 ERP. Bundled POS solutions are available via fully supported hardware partnerships. AccuPOS also offers a wide range of discount Merchant and Gift Card Services through its simple and fast onscreen interface. AccuPOS is headquartered in Los Angeles, CA, with regional offices in 13 countries. For more information, visit www.accupos.com.
ATLANTIC SYSTEM INC. (ASI)
Atlantic Systems, Inc. has offered POS computer systems for beverage alcohol retailers since 1980. The company provides complete systems including hardware, software, installation, training, and long-term support. Spirits 2000 is a Windows-based software package that provides inventory and financial control for one store or a multi-store chain. High-speed integrated credit/debit card processing is done via the Internet. The system can identify a customer at the register using a bar-coded card or by entering the customer’s name or account number. Its Frequent Shopper Program can collect information on customer purchases and provide the retailer assistance in rewarding customer loyalty. Automated age verification and storage of results is available in most states. Targeted marketing can be done automatically by selectively filtering customer sales history and then contacting them via a mass e-mail. Gift card processing can be done through the retailer’s credit card processor or internally in the system, which eliminates processing fees. A Web interface is available for e-commerce. Spirits 2000 can integrate with security camera systems to overlay text that displays the sale information on images at the time the sale is rung up. Spirits 2000 also includes tasting notes for products that the user can input and print out. A handheld wireless scanner with a mobile printer can be used for inventory counting, price changes, price labels, stock checks and line busting. Prices for the Spirits 2000 system start at about $8,500. For more information, visit www.asi-nj.com.
BigCommerce is a pioneer in e-commerce, focused on enabling small businesses to “Sell More” online. Its all-in-one marketing and e-commerce platform boasts SEO, tools to create beautiful online stores, and more than 100 built-in marketing tools that make it easy to sell on iPhones, Facebook, and eBay. More than 30,000 businesses in 70 countries are using BigCommerce, including Gibson Guitar, Pandora Jewelers, and Willie Nelson’s shop. BigCommerce was founded in 2009 by two Aussies turned part-time Texans with a vision to make selling online easy. For more information, visit www.bigcommerce.com.
Powered by Groupon, Breadcrumb is an iPad based POS system that offers an offline mode and promises seamless integration with Groupon vouchers. The basic app is available for free, and the Breadcrumb Pro version features plans starting at $99 per month. Learn more at https://breadcrumb.groupon.com.
CAP Software’s store-management system, Sellwise, is currently being used by more than 100 wine and spirit retailers. The system provides POS, free integrated credit-card processing, inventory control, customer tracking, order/receive, tag and barcode printing, Fintech integration, and back office reporting. Additional features include optional video monitoring for security purposes, touchscreen support, hot keys, and customized reports. Prices for the software start at $1,100. For a demo, visit the company’s website at www.capretail.com. To learn more, call 800.826.5009.
Cashier Live is an affordable, easy-to-use point-of-sale system designed just for independent retailers. The company offers a 30-day free trial of its systems, which can function from a computer, iPhone, or iPad. Basic plans start at $20 per month. For more information visit cashierlive.com, download their Cashier app from the App Store, or call 877.312.1750.
Spirits by Cetech was designed specifically for New York State wine and liquor retailers. It was first installed in Western New York stores in 1987. Cetech offers custom application development for the intranet as well as the internet. For more information call 716.884.8780 or visit www.cetech.com.
CHOICEMASTER DIGITAL SIGNAGE (CMDS)
CMDS has teamed up with leading digital-signage partners to provide beverage-alcohol retailers with a customer-service system that can also be used to show paid advertising from other businesses. CMDS is a complete system that has an all-in-one computer featuring a 15-inch touch screen, a scanner and a printer. It runs a 42 LCD screen that is mounted directly above the touch screen to catch the attention of shoppers. CMDS ties into the POS system and provides information on the products carried in that store. The advertising and promotional revenue can be shared with the retailer. There are lease options available that will cost the store approximately $100 month before ad revenue. Sources of ad revenue can be national or local. Retailers can display store specials, current events like wine tastings or advertise local businesses. The system can be used to educate customers about new products. Later this year, CMDS will have a smart phone app for use by the retailer’s customers. For more information call 410-745-8137 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
COFFEE SHOP MANAGER
Designed specifically for managing coffee shops, Coffee Shop Manager offers several versions of POS systems. Tablet-based systems are also available. Average prices start at around $3,500. For more information, visit www.coffeeshopmanager.com.
DSmart Technologies offers retailers a free point-of-sale system, in order to buy advertising space from them on that system. On the cashier side, the DSmart Register is a fully functioning POS system. A second monitor, facing the customer, allows the customer to see the transaction being rung and also to see ads, matched to what the customer is purchasing. If a customer likes an ad, he or she can click on the screen and the promotion being offered will print at the bottom of the sales receipt or even buy the product right there at the check-out. All of the store’s data is kept in the in-store system and is also backed-up on DSmart’s servers. The free offer includes one register with the software; hardware for additional registers costs $2,000. DSmart can also be used by multi-store operations. For more information, visit dsmartinc.com or call 877.601.9192.
First Data, a global leader in electronic commerce and payment processing, serves more than 6.2 million merchant locations worldwide. It offers a range of point-of-sale terminals as well as complete point-of-sale systems, including its Payment Essentials™ Solution, which bundles comprehensive payment services, state-of-the-art hardware and 24/7 customer service into one easy-to-manage bundle. For more information, visit www.firstdata.com.
Harbortouch offers both a touchscreen point-of-sale system to retailers and also provides merchant services such as credit/debit and gift-card processing. The POS system and all technical support is provided to retailers free of charge: Harbortouch’s only cost to retailers is a merchant processing fee collected during credit card transactions. For more information, visit www.harbortouch.com or call 800. 201.0461.
INNOVATIVE COMPUTER SOLUTIONS (ICS)
ICS has provided solutions specifically for beverage alcohol retailers for more than 30 years and has systems installed throughout the U.S. and the Caribbean. The company’s VISION system, a scalable application for stores ranging from a single register to multiple locations, can run on Windows XP and 7, LINUX, and MAC/OS. The POS module within VISION is designed to provide full register capability, including price look-ups, discounts, customer-special pricing (and history), periodic sales, and frequent-buyer or award points tracking. Tasting notes and coupons can also be generated from the register. Complete PCI-compliant credit and debit card processing permits the customer to swipe their own card, enter their PIN, and sign electronically. The Vision POS can be operated on a standard PC or a touch-screen system. A 2-D scanner can identify under-age purchasers and add customers to a store’s mailing/special pricing list. The back-office module provides inventory control, extensive reporting, sales analysis, purchase history, FIFO inventory level tracking, and physical inventory. Cashier accountability features allow a retailer to track all transactions down to the keystroke, both on the POS and in the back office. VISION is turnkey and includes hardware, installation, and training at the store location. Complete systems start at less than $6,000, including hardware which can also be purchased separately. Call 732.223.0909 or visit www.winepos.com.
Lightspeed Retail is a Mac-based POS system for small to medium retailers. The system can be outfitted to use iPads and iPod Touches as registers. The company offers an open application program interface (API) to allow end-users to build their own custom add-ons to the system. For more information, call 866.932.1801 or visit www.lightspeedretail.com.
Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail is a global, end-to-end solution for retailers that offers multichannel management, store operations, merchandising, and enterprise resource planning capabilities. Unlike retail software built to solve the problems of the past, Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail delivers role-tailored, omni-channel scenarios seamlessly through a modern, unified technology offering. To learn more about the solution and see real product demos, visit www.microsoft.com/dynamics/ax/retail. You can also follow the product on Twitter (http://twitter.com/msretail) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/MicrosoftforRetail).
mPOWER BEVERAGE SOFTWARE
mPower Beverage is designed specifically for beverage-alcohol retailers. The Windows-based system can be used for single or multi-store operations and offers integrated credit cards, remote access, touchscreen capability, e-commerce integration, and PCI compliance. Also, mPower Beverage can be installed on Windows 7 tablets for functionality such as inventory adjustments, ordering/receiving, or line busting. For states that require it, a wholesale module is also available for tracking back office orders and providing the needed reports to the state. The software costs $2,000 plus $1,500 for each additional register after the first. For more information, call 877.396.0141 or visit mpowerbeverage.com.
NCR Corporation (NYSE: NCR) is a global technology company leading how the world connects, interacts, and transacts with business. NCR’s assisted- and self-service solutions and comprehensive support services address the needs of retail, financial, travel, healthcare, hospitality, entertainment, gaming, and public sector organizations in more than 100 countries. NCR is headquartered in Duluth, Georgia. For more information, call 866.431.7879, e-mail email@example.com, or visit www.ncr.com.
Prophetline is a POS and retail management system for small- to mid-sized specialty retailers, including beverage retailers. Its systems include IP credit card processing, integrated web shopping, and fully integrated accounting. It can handle operations ranging from one store to multiple sites with centralized purchasing. Prophetline is a four-time winner of the Microsoft Retail Application Developer of the Year Award. To learn more, call 800.875.6592 or visit www.prophetline.com.
NETSUITE FOR RETAIL
Netsuite for Retail, formerly known as Retail Anywhere, is a cloud-based, multi-channel retail management system that integrates POS, ecommerce, CRM and marketing, merchandising, warehouse management, and finances. Learn more at www.netsuite.com/portal/industries/retail/main.shtml.
RITE (Retail Information Technology Enterprises)
This company is an award-winning provider of Microsoft Dynamics Retail Management System (RMS) and works with some of the largest liquor retailers in the country, with clients in over 40 states. RITE has molded the Microsoft RMS product to meet the special needs of beer/wine/liquor retai