Increasingly, a good point-of-sale (POS) system must play well with others. Not only should it integrate well with other software platforms, such as business intelligence software, but it must also be easy to deploy, easy to use and easy to enhance.
Many POS platforms are embracing standardization that allows them to integrate with existing software and hardware. Jenny Bullard, chief information officer for Waycross, Ga.-based Flash Foods, credits the efforts of the Petroleum Convenience Alliance For Technology Standards (PCATS). “It’s really helped us retailers by creating standardization for the integration between POS and back-office systems and between POS and other devices, such as the security system,” she said.
There’s still work to be done. Like many convenience stores, Flash Foods would like its POS system to incorporate the lottery terminal, which would remove yet another device from the counter. But that presents concerns from the lottery commission.
Taking it to the Web is a continuing trend. Flash Foods recently upgraded the version of its back-office system in its 172 stores in Georgia and Florida to a Web-based application. Back-office systems and data services typically have less hardware requirements. Web-based POS systems, however, lack functionality and integration to pumps and fuel brand credit networks. “They need to always be online—we’re out of business when they are off-line,” said Michael Davis, vice president of member services for NACS.
POS systems are valuable assets when it comes to recording data on sales, costs and inventory. “It should collect everything and let back-office analytics present the data,” said Gray Taylor, executive director of PCATS. To truly analyze and leverage this data requires business intelligence software. Flash Foods purchased its business intelligence program from the same vendor who supplies the POS system to make sure that they work seamlessly together.
While some companies are content to receive information from the POS system only periodically throughout the day, Flash Foods demands it every five minutes. “We see every transaction—whether it’s a credit card or cash transaction—and we see every event that happened in a store down to when the pumps ran out of paper,” Bullard said. The system creates an alert when it receives suspicious data, such as an unusually high void. Through its dashboards, the business intelligence pulls from reports to produce graphs, charts and other visual displays of data related to a variety of activities, including sales by category and subcategories.
“It’s just as important to know what items are not selling well as to pinpoint the bestsellers,” Taylor said.
With an eye on the future, Flash Foods’ POS systems can recognize coupons on a mobile app. Not only does the software require recognition capability, but it also works with a scanner that reads the barcode on the mobile coupon.A good POS software must be scaleable and responsive to adapt to new buying patterns, whether that includes mobile payment at the pumps or EMV cards. “We wanted a solution provider that could react to changes in our industry, continually offering upgrades with new enhancements,” Bullard said.
It must offer functionality, flexibility and control—with the least amount of maintenance, interface and programming cost, Davis said. “It must take more ‘work’ away from store managers and employees so they can better focus on customers.” ◆
In-Memory Computing: The Engine of Real-Time Analytics
The next step for operational systems is to expand real-time analytics. By expanding real-time analytics to an in-memory data grid, it becomes instantly available to analyze fast-changing data flowing through the system and produce immediate results.
Source: ScaleOut Software Analytics