One thing all agencies can count on regarding point-of-sale (POS) systems is that there is no shortage of options 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.
StateWays reviewed the current POS landscape to give readers an overview of some of the different options. 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 each state. Multiple factors must be considered, including cost, functionality, and technical support.
Take the time to research various providers to determine which POS is the best match for you.
One complaint many people involved in the beverage industry share about their existing POS systems is that it often contains a variety of features and tools that aren’t relevant to their business. That’s one thing that makes Innovative Computer Solutions distinctive. The company has been in business since 1980, first offering the now discontinued Control Plus POS, before launching the Vision system, which debuted 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, and 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 won’t be required until October 2015, Vision users 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 on. 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.
“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 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 control state administrators 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.
Recognizing that specific beverage laws can vary from state to state, mPower Beverage is set up to easily notate any legal distinctions into its system, making it a great choice for control agencies. Additional features include remote access, a touch-screen interface, an I.D. checking system, and the option to integrate the use of rewards cards. 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.
States that 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 the beverage industry 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.
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.,” Marketing Manager Ajay 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/agency.
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 your other existing databases. AccuPOS is an accounting-anchored POS solution designed to merge all POS transactions with existing accounting software. If your agency stores already utilize 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 is available beginning at just under $2,000.
Control agencies 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 users automatically transfer their 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, including full integration of gift cards with proper accounting for gift cards 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 agencies integrate multiple systems into their retail businesses, 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 into your state is that all the information you want is instantly at your fingertips. This is especially beneficial for departments 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 (and your retail licensees) 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 that each vendor has to offer.
Systems Technology Group (STG) 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 beverage retailers and organizations of all sizes: STG can be implemented in large facilities such as stadiums and arenas, across large retail chains and control state agencies, 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 was the ideal fit for the Vermont Department of Liquor Control. In 2012, Commissioner Michael Hogan and his team began the long process of selecting a new POS to replace the in-house program the state had developed nearly 30 years prior. While Hogan was intent on finding a product that was generally more efficient all around, security issues were his primary concern.
“With the widespread use of credit cards at our agencies, customer security is of utmost concern,” Hogan says. “The new [STG] system will provide a more efficient check-out experience for the consumer while being fully compliant with current and proposed PCI rules.”
After much time was spent researching various vendors, Vermont ultimately chose STG due to its enhanced security measures, flexibility, and integration with existing systems. They also checked references and were impressed with what they heard from other STG customers.
“STG had done a similar implementation for another state, and we spent some time reviewing that installation with the users and came away feeling positive about STG’s ability to listen to their client and to provide a customize solution to meet their needs,” Hogan states.
Another selling point of STG is that the company partners with Microsoft to offer a seamless user experience with the same familiar look and feel of other Microsoft products. For Vermont, the system’s integration with Microsoft Dynamics NAV ensured a stable operating environment from which to build on. Additional features of STG 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. At the start of a new contract, STG performs a comprehensive needs analysis in order to get a thorough understanding of the way the client 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.”
Vermont officially launched the planning process with STG in April 2014. Central system testing is scheduled to begin in September, with full system testing launching in early 2015. The target go-live date for the department’s central office system is July 2015. Rolling out the new POS to the agencies will occur in small flights until all agencies have been converted to STG before the busy 2015 holiday season.
Pricing for STG POS systems is determined by a number of factors and is assessed after an individual consultation with the company.
Finally, as far as security is concerned, 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. Follow up with that vendor’s other clients to get firsthand information about what the implementation was like for them.
Finally, work closely with your new POS provider to ensure that the transition to the new program is a smooth one.
2014 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 back-end. 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. and Canadian editions), Sage 100 ERP. The system is Gold Developer Certified by both Sage and Intuit. 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. Retail store packages are available starting at below $2,000. For more information, visit www.accupos.com.
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. The most recent version includes an updated graphical interface, new formats, touchscreen capabilities, and the ability to e-mail customers directly from the system. 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. An updated version of the system, Spirits 2000 3.0, is currently in beta testing and will be released by the end of 2014. The company also offers Spirits Express, a complete POS solution for retailers that only have one or two registers. For more information and pricing, 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. Pricing begins at $29.95 per month, with several packages available. 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 Pro 8, provides POS, inventory control, extensive reports, CRM and marketing tools, tag printing, pricing, and promotion management. Additional features include secure cash handling with customizable cash drop alerts, age verification log, and built-in digital signage player. To learn more and watch a demo, visit the company’s website at www.capretail.com.
Cashier Live is an affordable, easy-to-use, web-based POS system designed for independent retailers. The company offers a 14-day free trial of its system, which can function from a computer, iPhone, or iPad. Cashier Live is currently in use at more than 1,000 retail locations. Basic plans start at $20 per month. For more information visit www.cashierlive.com, download their Cashier app from the App Store, or call 877.312.1750.
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. Available least options 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. For more information call 410.745.8137 or e-mail email@example.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 www.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 in more than 1,000 stores nationwide. The company’s Vision system, a scalable application for stores ranging from a single register to multiple locations, can run on Windows, 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. 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. The system is already PCI 3.0 complaint. Complete systems start at $5,000, including hardware which can also be purchased separately. Call 732.223.0909 or visit www.winepos.com.
Keystroke is a sales management and inventory control POS system offering extensive reporting and employee management tools. The latest version features electronic forms, an updated mail module, vendor catalogs, multi-store purchase orders, customizable appearance settings, and more. For pricing details and additional information, visit http://keystrokepos.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. Two different versions, Lightspeed Pro and Lightspeed Cloud, can be accessed via free trials. 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.
mPOWER BEVERAGE SOFTWARE