Choosing a POS System for Your Feed Store
If you are trying to grow your feed store’s business, improve customer reach, control you inventory and streamline your processes, the best first step is to invest in a robust point of sale (POS) system. For many business owners, this can be a daunting task. You can easily get lost in a sea of technical jargon, software features, hardware specifications and network requirements. Add to that price points that seem to fit every budget from the low cost systems servicing food trucks to the sophisticated systems capable of handling thousands of simultaneous transactions. This article will try to sift through the noise and present a framework for approaching your POS decision-making.
What size system do I need?
First, let’s be clear that selecting, purchasing and implementing a POS system is a big decision. It is a major investment in your business. And like any investment, you expect a positive return. I like to think of POS systems coming in three categories: (a) entry-level cloud based systems that are inexpensive but not very adaptable (b) mid-level systems that can support single or multi-store operations; and (c) large systems designed for Fortune 500 retailers.
Based on our experience over the years, we have found that the following guidelines can be helpful when navigating through these categories:
- If you annual sales are below $400,000, you will likely be best served by an entry-level system. There are some reasons that you might consider buying up (e.g., you anticipate growth over the next two years that will push your revenues over this threshold). However, generally the cost of a mid-range system would outweigh the benefits you will realize in the near-term.
- If you are processing more than 60,000 tickets per day, you are a candidate for the large systems that are designed to support these workloads.
- For everyone else, a mid-level system should offer you benefits that will readily justify your costs.
I think that many feed stores (other than the biggest national or regional chains) find that a mid-sized system will be the right choice.
What features are important for a Feed Stores?
A great POS system can offer many benefits to a feed store or tack shop. It is really more of an enterprise management system with features and functionality supporting:
- Feed Stock Inventory Management
- Procurement & Sourcing
- Product Labeling — tags, spikes, bar codes . . .
- Ability to handle multiple names for the same item (including Spanish names)
- Feed Store Transaction Management
- Feed Store Customers by Category (consumer/wholesale/reseller)
- Targeted Marketing to Your Diverse Customer Base
- Feed Store Loyalty Programs
- Employee time tracking
- Custom Orders
- Special Feed Store Promotions and Discounts
- Customer Accounts Receivable
Many of these features are especially important to feed store businesses. For example, inventory management presents unique challenges for stores that carry so many different and diverse items from your livestock, equine, poultry, pet, home & garden, wildlife, farm supply and hardware departments (whew!). You may produce your own inventory, you may need to track where your product is across multiple stores, yards, warehouses and other sites. Your back office needs to know how much a particular product you have on-hand and easily initiate replenishment orders. You also need to track and manage perishable inventory.
Product information and product tracking can also be critical to a successful feed store operation. Your inventory items may be identified by multiple common names, scientific names and even Spanish names. Your garden products may have common and horticultural names. It is crucial that your POS system can recognize all of these different names to help customers find what they are looking for.
From Data to Understanding to Action
A feed store receives massive amounts of data every day and your POS system becomes the collection point for that data. With a robust system, you can capture and digest that data and transform it into things that are meaningful to your business success. Whether you are capturing customer data to improve customer touchpoints (enabling customers to be greeted by name), reviewing purchasing patterns to more effectively target email marketing to your customer base, or deciding on loyalty program benefits that drive traffic into your stores, the POS system will be the tool you most rely on every day. Reports and dashboards can be tailored for your unique needs. When you have easy access to good data, strategic and tactical decisions can be made with confidence.
Customer Comes First
Feed stores need a system that can handle the surges of business during your busiest times. Your business is often rooted in the communities where your stores are located. A bad customer experience can have dramatic and long-term negative impacts on your success.
Your POS system offers you many ways to improve your customer’s purchase experience. Quicker checkout times with barcode scanning and touch screen simplicity, lightning quick credit card processing, robust accounts receivable management, flexibility to use mobile terminals to shorten lines and customer identification and tracking all add up to happier loyal customers that recommend you to others.
Service Service Service
For customers looking at a mid-sized POS solution, you likely have limited technical resources in-house. Your success with a new POS system will likely involve working with a company who has the experience and expertise to keep your operations running smoothly. When selecting your POS system, recognize that you are also selecting a team that will become your trusted information technology partner for the foreseeable future. Look for companies that understand your business and who can help you get the most out of your POS investment.
Selecting, purchasing and implementing a POS system is a big decision for most feed stores and tack shops. It can be stressful and challenging — even overwhelming. But finding the right system backed by a support team you have confidence in makes the stress and challenge bearable. Like many of our other customers, in a very short time after going live with your new POS system, you will wonder how you ever survived without it!