Today, good business begins and ends with the customer. For that reason, creating a rewarding and efficient consumer experience is vital. Depending on size, as well as products or services, every business approaches this goal differently. Some use pretty window displays and cushy or posh storefronts, while others provide special events or special sales. Still others accomplish this goal through ease-of-use and the creation of a seamless purchasing experience—which businesses like Amazon, among others, have proven very effective for attracting and retaining customers.
Improved technology such as Point of Sale (POS) software could strongly assist with enriching the customer experience, and, according to a recent study from the POS tech consultancy, Software Advice, small business-owners, in particular, are pushing for greater functionality of POS systems to help provide customers with an experience they’ll return to again and again.
The study, based on a random sample of 385 interactions from 2013 to 2014, evaluated various aspects of business owner (software buyer) preferences. It should be noted that those involved in this study specifically contacted Software Advice regarding potential software purchases. The sample largely covered smaller businesses, most operating only one store location, however, the findings were very informative of the average small business owner’s preferences for a POS system and potential reasons why many businesses have not yet adopted one.
A POS system, if well-developed and capable of being adapted to the business’s specific needs, can offer several benefits, such as:
- Processing multiple types of payments securely
- Collecting information on customer interests, demographics, and purchase history
- Engaging customers through loyalty programs
- Driving sales through both online and offline methods
- Integrating online commerce with in-store sales
- Tracking inventory and predicting buyer demands
The study found that while 37 percent of businesses polled currently used POS software, another 31 percent still used old cash register or accounting software systems such as Quickbooks. Another 27 percent had no specific method at all, though 90 percent of these cases were due to the business being new and not yet fully launched.
Out of the entire group, 49 percent of participants sought a POS system that could offer functionality based around the customer. The most desired functions were accurate inventory management (to avoid confusion about whether or not an item might be in stock or not and to meet customer demand), customer relationship management (CRM–knowing the customers and stocking what they need), ecommerce integration (seamless melding of online and face-to-face purchasing for ease-of-use and interaction), and customer loyalty programs.
As Janna Finch, Market Research Associate at Software Advice, wrote in a summary of the study’s findings, “Retailers are clearly aware of the importance of being where their customers are and optimizing their interactions at touch points on multiple channels—and they’re searching for software to help.”
Using multiple channels, known as an “omni-channel” approach, has proven difficult for many smaller companies. Through this method, customers can purchase through website, face-to-face, phone apps, etc. with ease. However, sometimes businesses find it difficult to accomplish the seamless functionality that is so greatly desired because matching the technology to their needs has been difficult. The more specialized the merchant, the more specialized their needs.
While finding the perfect POS system may be elusive for many specialized retailers, a system that helps track customer wants and needs and assists in improving the customer experience is still highly desirable, especially for a small businesses. As Finch stated, “Retailers are adapting to the ‘consumerization of retail’ trend . . .[and] nearly half are looking for software with customer-centric functionality—including CRM and loyalty programs—to manage interactions and give their customers the experiences they expect.”
While an effective POS system isn’t the only tool available to optimize customer interactions, it can be a valuable resource for many small businesses, as indicated by the nearly 400 participants in this study who were all seeking information about POS system options.
Furthermore, with studies such as the one completed by Software Advice, now that buyer preferences have been honed and targeted, the functionality of POS systems promises to improve with time and development. It will be fascinating—and hopefully beneficial—to see what POS systems developers do with this information and what improvements they can provide for both customers and business owners.