How many of you remember when cell phones made the leap from transportable handsets to flip phones? Just the other day while standing at the checkout counter of my supermarket, the person in front of me was using a flip phone!
It can be said the old flip phones had better capability of hearing and being heard than the smart devices of today. Yet the flip phones could not multi-task as we have become accustomed to today with e-mail and apps.
The evolution of mobile technology has taken us into another sphere altogether where information can be acquired with just a few taps and details delivered on your mobile device regardless of where you are as long as cellular or WIFI is available. Simply amazing!
When Apple launched the first tablet – the iPad, and yes it was the first – it disrupted the market. For one, we were a legacy desktop/laptop society and for mobile, smart phones were rather small in size. The iPad created a larger screen with easier to read content. It spurred the tablet market and now a number of manufacturers produce these devices.
The innovation of the tablet has led us down the road of technology solutions that can be based in the cloud and accessed via apps. No longer does one need to use a desktop.
And with new technology came new providers of such. These technology providers created business management software systems called Point of Sales (POS) systems.
Before I go into the POS arena, let’s stop and think for a moment. We’re all customers at times. You need to buy a new pair of shoes and are looking at a style and/or brand you have not worn before – what do you do? Generally try them on and make sure they fit and are comfortable. Most of us do exactly that when it comes to buying shoes or clothing we have not bought before. We do not automatically assume a good fit, yet when it comes to POS solutions, I am astonished how few jewelers ask a series of questions to the POS vendors in determining the system’s fit for their store’s operations.
A simple fact exists – no one POS system will fit every jeweler, period. I see a wide range of POS solutions that are jewelry industry focused as well as new entrants that are more generalized retail based, yet marketing to the jewelry industry – all of which increases the selection process for jewelers.
Selecting a POS system for your store is not something that should ever be taken lightly. Jewelers operate in a complex environment and a POS system should have robust CRM, Repairs, and Inventory modules just for starters. Yet one key question is generally overlooked – How many SKUs can your POS support? The more generalized POS systems have limitations at 1,000 SKUs. How many SKUs do you have in your store? If it’s north of 1,000 you have a significant issue on your hand if you are using a POS with that kind of limitation.
Beyond the SKU count limitations another strong consideration worth reviewing is the flexibility of the system. Does the POS system give you third party flexibility if you want or need to change payment processors for example? You need to be careful in your review, as many POS software providers have been acquired by payment processors. Yes, the world of mergers and acquisitions has invaded the store management software systems. As systems have been acquired by payment processors, functionality can be limited to that particular payment processor’s platform (network). As you talk with a POS system provider, make sure they remain independent and have created third party integrations not specifically tied down to a particular payment system provider.
The other problem jewelers face with generalized systems – do the personnel representing them understand the requirements of a jewelry business? As a jeweler you are an expert at your business and the product lines you carry. What if I asked you to operate a shoe store? Would you consider yourself an expert in such? Probably not! How about restaurants? Are you qualified to run and own one? Probably not!
Yet the generalized POS systems are geared for basic functions, which means they become a jack-of-all-trades. Generally the personnel that are selling and supporting these systems are not experts in the jewelry industry. They simply do not have the time to learn all industries that their POS may support.
I have heard from jewelers who say – “I like working with a POS provider who understands the business because they come from the business.” So true, who better to understand the business requirements and needs than jewelers who provide the technology to fellow jewelers? Makes sense, right?
As you examine POS systems there are options that are truly “jewelry specific” and they range from server to cloud based. A feature rich jewelry POS will have most if not all of the following capabilities:
- RFID or Bar Code – inventory tracking
- Layaway and A/R functionality
- Tracking – detailed tracking functions for orders & repairs
- Website Integration with POS Inventory
- Text/E-mail Functions – notify customers when orders are ready
- CRM – presales prospect tracking
- Inventory Management – know what is not selling
We all know what happens when we assume. Never assume that your prospective software vendor understands your business. If you have read Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits to Highly Effective People”, one of the key habits is to “seek first to understand, then be understood.” An experienced jewelry POS vendor will certainly want to understand your business, including the needs of today and tomorrow, before they start explaining why their solution is an ideal fit. Those that are inexperienced or not specialized in the jewelry industry will come up short on the above and that becomes a key concern you must be aware of. You want to prevent POS limitations/mistakes down the road!
On the check out end, if you are accepting payment cards – most jewelers do – changes have occurred with the rollout of EMV technology last October. EMV is the chip on the front of new credit & debit cards. The new EMV cards utilize encryption technology to facilitate and safeguard every transaction. If the sale is processed using EMV (chip read), the fraud liability resides with the card-issuing bank, but if it is magnetically read (swiped), the fraud liability has shifted onto the merchant.
When it comes to POS systems, most do have checkout options with payments being integrated. Although do not assume all can support EMV cards. Be sure to ask your current or potential POS provider if they support EMV cards.
Another consideration for jewelers with integrated payments is protecting against errors in keying sale amounts into stand-alone terminals. All too often I hear of situations where staff have entered the wrong amount into the payment terminal. When the amount entered is less than the price, customers may not alert the sales clerk, and when it comes to balancing later, the terminal batch does not align with POS on reconciliation. Integrated solutions prevent such by auto populating the data onto the payment device. No different than you see at your supermarket for example.
I would strongly suggest reviewing integrated payments with your current or prospective POS vendor and ask about EMV acceptance. If they do not offer this, there are jewelry specific POS vendors that do.
As you research POS solutions, be diligent and ask questions. Listen to their responses. See if they ask questions. You are the customer in this equation. Insure your POS solution of tomorrow can and will support your business.
Joe Radest started his career in card payments in 1998 working for industry giant First Data. Since then, Joe has worked with other notable processors – TSYS, Global Payments and Chase Paymentech. Over 4 years ago, Joe branched out on his own; providing complete end to end business process management and secured payment technology solutions, which affords business clients the ability to securely transact payments without having sensitive data touching their environment. He can be reached by phone at 770-731-0414 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.