Options Make a Difference

Henry Ford was famous for writing in his autobiography, in regards to his Model T, "The customer can have any color he wants so long as it's black." The option of “various colors” was slowing the world famous assembly line down and driving costs up, so the decision to end colors was made.  Yes, it is true that the earliest Model T’s came in gray, green, blue, and red. But, the need for quick, cheap assembly trumped the need for a rainbow of colors.  “Choice” in the early 1900’s, of an affordable car, was limited to only the Tin Lizzie, so black became the color of choice.


Today vehicles come in a wide range of colors and with hundreds of other options and as a result consumers are inundated with choice. But this stretches beyond automobiles; variations of all products at every level of commerce have a plethora of options.  In the grocery business this can be seen when making a choice regarding a point of sale and back office systems.  There is no longer a monolithic single solution that grocery stores have to make fit. There are dozens of options so there is a need to find a system that meets the needs of the individual grocery store or chain best.  As a result, options have become the concern of every store owner that is considering an update or new system.


The question becomes, “What must the store or chain owner do to make sure that what they need is what they get?” Below are some considerations to make when looking at a change or update for your POS system.

  1. Determine Your Needs – That means research.  Despite appearing to be very similar, each grocery store is different. Look objectively at your positives and negatives with your current system and at options that are available. There is nothing wrong with making a written list of options that you would like to see in a point of sale system and discussing them with POS representatives, other owners, business partners and key employees.  If it has been several years since doing some research, this may take some time. There are “givens” now that used to not be available. For instance, full integration between the front and back office or easily individualized management reports should be a part of any system that you consider.  Just remember when doing your research, that it is your decision and input from others will always reflect their preferences.
  2. Find the Right POS Company – The decision regarding your point of sale system is one that you will be living with for several years. Research the companies you contact and make sure that they have years of experience and have not just opened their doors.  They should have more than just a sales staff. Keeping a POS system running takes technicians, support personnel, programmers and others. Do your homework and make sure they are in the business for the long haul and are customer centric.  They should be a solution based company and should have listened to your needs before launching into a sales pitch. Also, the right company will always have several options and represent more than one POS software company.  Too often a point of sale company representative will try to shoehorn you into a product they sell because they only represent one software supplier.  Never do business with a company that only sells one brand.
  3. Look Closely at Service Packages – This means more than just fixing what is broken, it means routine software updates and maintenance, support, training, hardware replacement and a company that takes compliance seriously.  Some businesses make the mistake of buying cheap up front but then overpaying for services.  It ultimately makes the POS system more expensive.  The company you are considering should also be able to offer several packages that fit within your budget. One size does not fit all when it comes to service.
  4. Shop only for a POS System Designed for Your Business Sector – There are dozens of POS systems available but trying to get a system designed for fast food to work in a grocery store will give you nothing but headaches.  Leave the aspirin on the self and start with a system that functions within the business segment that you are in.
  5. Seeing is Believing – Ask for a demo. Any POS company should be able to show you how the system works, what benefits it has and how you can take those benefits and turn them into a return on investment.
  6. Request a Quote – Once the research is done and you have determined a couple of good options then get a quote from those companies. Be careful when comparing quotes make sure you are doing an “apples to apples” analysis. If the numbers are way off, don’t be afraid to black out the company information, send it to the other company and ask for an updated quote based on the equipment and software that the cheaper business has offered. They may be missing an important piece of equipment or are back loading their profit into a service plan. Also make sure that training, installation and other ancillary items are included.
  7. Ask for References – All POS companies should be able to provide references of similar store types and size. If they can’t, don’t walk away run.

Sometimes we long for the good old days when “black” was the only option. Everyone had the same product with the same features and no choices were available.  It certainly would make the decision process easier but ultimately not better for your company. Today a point of sale system can be tailored to your business with your needs in mind, now all you have to do is to find the right solution from the right company.