Shopping for POS Solutions

Convenience to customers today means one-stop shopping, short lines at the counter and the ability to get in and out of a store fast. New integrated point-of-sale (POS) solutions are speeding up service and offering customers the convenience they demand thanks to faster processing times. What’s more, they’re saving operators money, labor and time.

Finding a POS solution with integration capabilities specific to your business is half the battle.

“The POS is pretty much the heart of the store’s business—it drives all your paperwork process, your pumps, your cash reconciliation and everything going on from a retail standpoint—so deciding on a POS is not an easy decision. And switching your POS from an old one to a new one is a very big undertaking,” said Jim Xenos, vice president and chief information officer of Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, which has more than 270 stores in 39 states.

Xenos should know. Eighteen months ago, Love’s began the process of switching its POS over to Retalix, officially rolling the system out at all its stores and travel centers in November 2009. Love’s made the switch because it needed a POS system that not only worked on the convenience store side of its business, but could also manage the commercial fuel side of its business at its larger travel stops.

Retalix has a partnership with Postilion Inc., a subsidiary of S1 Corp., which delivers integrated commercial fueling solutions for travel centers and an open-systems payment switch for credit and debit transactions for convenience stores. The partnership combines Retalix StorePoint and its new Retalix commercial fueling module with Postilion Realtime, a payment switching engine that controls the payment, transaction authorization and settlement process.

Saving With Simplicity
Before the conversion, Love’s used a separate processor in addition to its former POS system to manage its commercial fuel payments. “By going with Retalix and S1 Corp.’s Postilion, everything is integrated into the POS system,” Xenos noted.

The new POS system has made processing payment cards faster and easier. Love’s currently accepts Electronic Benefit Transfers (EBT) and prepaid cards, and can issue prepaid Visa and phone cards, which are now integrated into the POS.  Before, if cashiers needed to ring a prepaid Visa or similar card, they had to ring it up on the register and then swipe the card on another reading device on the counter to activate the card and load the funds. By integrating the cards with the POS, Xenos noted, the speed of transaction time at the stores has greatly improved.

“Any time you have to go to a secondary device, mistakes can be made, especially when you’re trying to balance two systems,” Xenos added. “Not only has the integration helped eliminate errors, it also allows cashiers to complete a prepaid transaction on any of the stores’ four registers, which saves time.”

Now that the second system, formerly used as the go-between for the old POS system and the commercial fuel side, has been eliminated, Love’s is able to save money by no longer paying licensing fees and maintenance fees on a second system.

“Speed of service for customers is faster because you don’t have to do anything twice, but it’s also faster for employees. Our end-of-day process in the stores at night used to be 45 minutes to an hour, and now it takes just 15 minutes, so we save quite a bit of time at night, and we’ve reduced our errors,” Xenos said.

Total Integration
When Rockford, Ill.-based Road Ranger added Pinnacle Palm as the POS system at its 65 unbranded locations in 2008, integration was the key deciding factor that drew the company to the solution.

“Pinnacle had the most device integration of the systems that we looked at for the things, we particularly, needed to integrate, so they were the best fit for us specifically,” said Jeremie Myhren, senior director of IT at Road Ranger, which has a total of 75 stores and travel centers in seven Midwest states.

The system has allowed Road Ranger to process EBT cards, prepaid cards and money orders right from the POS, as well as integrate ACH debit cards processed by the National Payment Card Association in Coconut Creek, Fla. The debit transactions can now feature instant price rollbacks at the pump. As part of the old system, cashiers had to key in such transactions at a separate terminal, which slowed down the checkout times as two cashiers couldn’t ring such terminal-based transactions simultaneously.

“Before a cashier would have to ring the transaction on the register and then take the card to the standalone terminal and wait for the approval and give the customer two different receipts,” Myhren said.  “It also gave us controls from an audit perspective in that we don’t have to trust the cashier to key a certain amount into the register and then key in the same amount into the terminal. There is always the opportunity for keying errors or fraud when you have people trying to do a transaction at two different places.”

It can be a long process to add all the different integration aspects to the POS after installing the base system. But once all the integration aspects were installed, Road Ranger saw a sharp reduction in fraud and overall errors and dramatically increased speed of service, allowing the c-stores to take care of more customers.

The company also has been able to reduce overall labor hours, an unintended benefit of the installation. “We don’t have to have as many people in the stores at peak times now because we don’t have transactions that require our employees to go to different machines,” Myhren said. “They can do it all at the register, so they can break down the line a lot faster, which means we need less people on a shift.”

Training also has been streamlined now that cashiers don’t have to be trained on multiple machines with different user interface methods. “We no longer have to bring a cashier in and spend a week training them on all the different functions on all the machines—they just have to learn the POS system, and so the cashiers are not only better trained, but we can train them faster,” Myhren noted.

The result has been a sales lift on items that weren’t previously integrated. One reason for the lift is that, in the past, if a cashier wasn’t properly trained they might not be able to operate the terminals properly, which could affect repeat business.

Making a Decision
When deciding on a new POS system, Myhren recommended first identifying every system a cashier needs to interact with that isn’t currently integrated with the POS. “Then go out and talk to all the major POS suppliers and find out who can integrate with the majority of those systems,” he said. “There are also a number of other factors to consider, such as total cost of ownership, supportability and cashier friendliness, along with price and reputation. But it begins by first making an inventory of what ideally needs to be integrated and bringing that to the table immediately. Then you can cross suppliers off your list that can’t integrate with the majority of your devices.”

Xenos agrees that while there are many great POS solutions on the market, each company needs to decide what works best for their integration needs.

“We had a good POS system before for our basic c-store side of the business, but our commercial fuel side drew us to another POS,” Xenos said. “You really just ha
ve to know your core business, put together your requirements and sit down with the different options to see which matches your requirements the best.”

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