Does Your POS Abide? Five Add-Ons to Make Your Life Easier
Consider the Dude. By now, we’re all familiar with Jeff Bridges’s cinematic alter-ego from the The Big Lebowski. The Dude lives simply, his life appears—from the outside, at least—uncomplicated, even easy. He drinks White Russians, smokes tons of reefer, bowls regularly, and his low expectations and standards position him nicely into a care-free existence of mindful hedonism. Amidst the chaos of life, the Dude abides. Simple, right? But is there anything in the world that isn’t complicated? Whatever we path we choose, it brings with it its own series of headaches that we need to deal with head on. For the Dude, it’s a case of mistaken identity that flips his life upside-down—even someone like him, who is involved in nothing beyond his own life, can’t stop random thugs from breaking into his apartment and peeing on his rug. And the rug is the Dude’s breaking point—it really tied the room together. The desecration of his area rug vaults him into action, eager to seek redress for the damages incurred. This sets in motion a series of events, each more absurd than the last, that serve to remind us just how fragile is the balance we achieve in our lives.
And this is true: if we think of the various modern conveniences we rely on, we can see this theory in action. Owning a car makes traveling any distance much easier than walking. But it costs money to buy, insure, and maintain the car. Getting a job can provide a steady paycheck to help pay for the car, but it takes a huge chunk of time away from things we’d rather be doing, and we often have to work on someone else’s terms. Self-employment gives you the flexibility to earn that money on your own terms, but that often puts you in an unofficial “on-call” status for every day, all day. Even being born into millions of dollars and never having to worry about anything has its downside: you become an insufferable twit who can’t possibly know what true happiness is. Try as we might, we can’t avoid complications in life. They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but really it’s a proprietary mixture that’s about 5% asphalt or bitumen, and the rest is some combination of sand, stone, gravel, and unicorn tears.
I’m not writing any of this to scare you, though; nihilism never got anything done.. In The Big Lebowski, we don’t know what the origin of the Dude’s apathy is. The film opens and we are introduced to his small world—nothing to be jealous of, but not so deserving of pity, either—and it’s clear what the long term effects of just good intentions can be. But when his urine stained rug inspires him to action, his universe expands greatly and things don’t just happen to him, they happen because of him. And the Dude, who spends the film doing good works regardless of intentions, defeats literal Nihilists. With that in mind, think of your business as your living room and your Point of Sale as your area rug, tying the whole room together. At least, that’s what a good POS should do: if you’re running on some legacy POS with in-house hardware, or maybe even you’re still using a cash register, it’s time to upgrade. In essence, someone’s peed on your rug and it’s time get a new one. But chances are, since you’re reading this piece, you’ve already helped yourself to a nice new rug, and if it’s one of the better ones you’ve mostly tied your room together. cash register, inventory, CRM, employee timeclocks, advanced reporting: these are the different aspects of your business that find a new central home in your POS system. You’ll probably have found that your life got a lot easier after switching to (or starting on) this new platform. But don’t just abide here, my retail Dudes and Dudettes (and Duderinos, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing). Here are five add-ons to your POS that make running your business—and your life—a lot easier.
Accounting: Can I get a group “Ugh?“ Even typing the word makes me shudder with distaste. Sorry, accountants. It’s nothing personal (until I meet you, of course, and then it probably will be). But according to an informal survey of everyone sitting in this room that I’m typing out, the least popular part of running a retail business is reconciling the numbers at the end of the day: what’s on your ledgers vs. what’s in your bank account; figuring out what goes towards taxes, invoicing account sales, tracking costs. Market leaders in this space—Xero, MYOB, and Intuit—have worked with POS vendors to create seamless integrations between their software and numerous different Points of Sale, which make sure that all your numbers stay in sync from one app to the next, in real time.
Time and Attendance: When your shop or cafe relies on a large team of part-time workers to be your boots on the ground, scheduling can often be just like a banjo festival: a giant clusterpluck. In a system of paper-based shift signups and white boards showing who’s working when, there are just too many moving parts for everything to work smoothly. But Time & Attendance apps like Nimble Schedule or Deputy take a lot of the pain from the process. All signups and schedules are hosted in the cloud, which employees can access from smartphones and web browsers. They can submit shift requests, swap with their co-workers, see the schedule, and clock in from their mobile devices. If your POS has a built-in timeclock feature, you can integrate it with these apps and get at-a-glance peeks into your cost of labor in the past, present, and future.
Loyalty: The conventional wisdom is that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers, and this stat above—above everything else—is often used as the justification for implementing a loyalty program. It seems like a backward proposition to me, drumming up business in the small niche of people who are already sustaining you. There’s nothing wrong with offering rewards, but historically punch cards and point systems come with several flaws. From customers never remembering their Buy Ten Get One free cards to the administrative overhead of implementing and maintaining the program in the first place, Loyalty programs can often into what the Dude himself would describe as “complicated…a lotta ins, a lotta outs, a lotta what-have-yous.” Developers at Groupon and LoyalTree, for example, ease these complications. Collect Rewards goes a step further, adding some innovative social media features that can go a long way towards not just rewarding existing customers but attracting new ones, too. And integrating a Loyalty program into your POS makes for a terrific personalized blend of CRM (think personal sales histories) and incentives to come back to your shop (think push notifications with individualized offers).
E-commerce/Online Ordering: When the internet was still this nascent commercial entity that people didn’t entirely understand, there was a lot of worry over the future of small, independently owned shops having the final nails to their coffins hammered in swiftly. The thought was that Big Box stores were already boarding up Main Street with low prices that the little guys couldn’t compete with. The popularity of online shopping gave them an even bigger edge, with bandwidth, domains names, server space, etc. costing too much money for small businesses back then. Now that internet is an established commercial presence that people still don’t entirely understand, we’ve seen a resurgence of Mom and Pop stores. Fueled by more specialized products and personal touches, and then propelled by the low cost of internetworking and cloud Software as a Service, integrating an e-commerce solution with your POS makes taking the jump to online sales much easier and less risky. Big Commerce and Shopify have established presences in the retail space, and mobile ordering apps for food take-out, like Beat the Q, EatStreet, or Mobi2Go have made accepting orders online a no-brainer.
All-in-One Tablet Stand: OK, this isn’t a software add-on, but it will make your life much easier nonetheless. I’m talking about the PowaPOS T-series universal tablet stand, but calling it a tablet stand is an understatement and a half. It supports iOS, Android, and Windows tablets, which doesn’t so impressive if you’re only envisioning some hardware to stand your tablet up in. It also boasts an integrated receipt printer, barcode scanner, and customer facing PIN pad, with support for Magstripe and EMV/Chip-and-Pin debit and credit cards. And you only have to plug in one cord. If you’re in the US, where the EMV deadline is fast approaching, you’d do well to look at this counter (and sanity) saver.
Dave Eagle is a writer for Kounta, makers of the Kounta POS, a mobile point of sale system that works on iPad, Android tablets, Mac, and Windows.
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