Is having a Point-of-Sale (POS) system worth it?
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Eric: Hello, and welcome to “What Matters Most,” a podcast all about finances, community, savings, and security for you, your family, and your business. This podcast is brought to you by the hopeful folks at My Bank, First United Bank & Trust. I’m your host, Eric Nutter, and in today’s episode, “What Matters Most” is point of sales. And for this helpful discussion, I am so thankful to once again, be joined by none other than Katie McMillan, director of sales at MPI, the merchant processing partner for first United. Katie, you’re verging on frequent guest territory here.
Katie: I’m definitely a repeat visitor for sure and I am so thankful to be here again.
Eric: Yeah. Thank you so much. I really appreciate your time today and this topic, point of sale, so first, what is point of sale, Katie? What are you talking about?
Katie: Yep. So, a point of sale, right, if we really want to get into the Webster’s dictionary what point of sale is, it’s technically any place where a customer executes payment for goods or services. So, you could technically label that credit card machine that you tap your card on in Starbucks as a point of sale. But what our industry has done is it started to draw a line between just a payment device that you usually interact with at like the gas station versus a point of sale is now being defined as something that has a register attached to it and a screen with maybe an iPad or a computer monitor and there’s a printer attached to it. And there’s some sort of software that the merchant or the small business is interacting with to sell those goods or services.
Eric: Yeah. Because I always thought of a POS or point of sale as a cash register. I just thought that that’s what that means.
Katie: Yep. And so there used to be some older cash register systems that were a step up quite some time ago that allowed for sales to pop the register open. You didn’t have to use a key to open it up, and point of sales have greatly advanced since then. They’ve gone from a register set up to being software that’s stored locally on a computer to now the big trend is offering that point of sale software through an online or browser-based experience so that you can operate your business anywhere at any time. And you don’t have some of the issues that those older legacy systems have where if lightning literally strikes the business and fries that point of sale, you cannot process anything on it because it’s been fried, literally. But offering a point of sale that’s browser-based means that, you know, if somebody rips that thing off the counter, you just grab a computer or an iPad and you’re back to business as usual.
Eric: Yeah. Yeah, because nowadays, I mean, in that vein of thinking, like when you go into a lot of local stores, especially smaller stores, mom-and-pop kind of locations, like a local bakery or whatever, you’ll see a lot of that where it’s like just an iPad with a swipe right on it or a card reader on it. And I just think back to my grandparents growing up had a gas station, grocery store, a little shop, and they had this monstrous like cash register with big typewriter keys, you know, and you’d hit the button and the thing would pop out. It was so cool. I always loved that. It’s not the same anymore.
Katie: The ding sounded like a fire department bell.
Eric: Yeah. That was great. It was great. The numbers would pop up in the little…it was just so cool. But things have advanced quite a bit since then. So, talk about what does a true POS system now provide to a business? Like why would they want it?
Katie: Yeah. And that’s a fair question. So, you have some merchants out there that have been using a payment device and, you know, their business has either grown or their employees have changed and the business has become a little more progressive, and there’s now a need that business has to track or look at things for the business outside of just that little daily report that prints out of the device. We’re seeing a lot of merchants starting to become more progressive about investing into software or technology that gives them multiple things instead of just one thing, right? Not just technology that allows them to process payments, but it gives them the ability to process payments or run their business from anywhere.
And these point of sale softwares have done a really great job of giving a back office for an administrative side of the business that manager, owner-level interaction needs to happen in regards to reporting. Inventory is integrated now. Gone are the days where you have like a little binder with a paper and pencil set up where you’re logging all of your doodads. You know, now you’ve got a scanner, you’ve got a shipment of new doodads in, maybe you’ve got a new shipment of some blue ceramic unicorns. And all you have to do is scan that box in your inventory system, and your point of sale knows that there are 20 unicorns in there and you usually sell them for $15 a piece, and it’s already entered in. Or there are reports about staffing, right? Every year, you always have 10 people on the floor of your restaurant for Easter weekend because it’s so busy. And this helps you reinforce the fact that the day after is historically dead so you only need three people on the floor. So, these point of sales give businesses that are growing or needing to adapt to change the ability to run their business in a better way by looking at it at a different level that also includes the payments piece.
Eric: That’s really cool. And you would not believe the demand on ceramic unicorns. So, it’s high, Katie, I have to…so with inventory tracking, I can even track the different skews, right, the red unicorns versus the blue ones?
Katie: Absolutely. Because the red ones go for a higher price, right?
Eric: Obviously. Obviously.
Katie: Obviously. You want to track those things, right? And it’s important to track that. If you haven’t bought stock in ceramic unicorns, do that today. That’s one thing to take away from this podcast. But it also allows you to know that, you know, you’re reselling the red unicorns at a different price than the other ones, but you’re making the same profit margin on it. Or, you know, on every doodad you sell, you always want to make 23% margin on it no matter what the end cost is and you want that to just…pushes the cost to the front end of this point of sale so that your staff…maybe you have a staff of young folks that are working through the summer that maybe aren’t involved in business decisions, they just hit a button and they sell it. They don’t have to think about it. They don’t have to know what your net profit margin is. You as a business are protecting that, you’re giving your employees the experience that they need, and it makes it more seamless.
Eric: Right. So, obviously, with all this built-in technology, all this reporting, all this inventory tracking, it’s going to be more expensive than just a swipe your card kind of machine. Is that accurate?
Katie: Yeah. This typically tends to be more of an investment than just a payment device, right? Payment devices, depending on what you need as far as capability and communication type, right? You have some payment devices that need WI-FI or wireless capability. We have some that, you know, only want a pin pad on the other side of the counter for the cardholder. You know, a payment device usually runs about $300 to $500 if you want to go with true retail value. These point of sale stations, typically for just a basic bundle, it’s going to cost you hardware-wise maybe $300, $400 more, but with that, you get a drawer, you get a printer, you get a monitor, and you get this basic hardware. It’s really not that much more expensive in relation to what you’re getting for the hardware side of this. You’re also going to incur a software cost like a licensing cost or a monthly hosting cost associated with the license. And I think that that’s one of the biggest struggles that business owners have when they’re switching from a traditional payment device to a point of sale. And I think sometimes they get heartburn because there is an equipment cost there that wasn’t there before. And I think that there’s heartburn that there’s an additional monthly cost there as well, but software that’s cloud-based or run through the browser, there’s always going to be a hosting fee there, right? You don’t pay one flat rate for QuickBooks online, and that’s the same with other software too.
And you really have to make a decision if that’s the right investment for your business. Are you spending eight hours a month pulling reports from manual punch cards to process payroll or could you take one minute and pull that report and give it to your accountant or run your payroll yourself through your own payroll software? You know, do you trust your employees, but you know that something isn’t right? And through that point of sale, you could understand that every time Bill bartends on a Friday, you magically go through an extra two bottles of Grey Goose. Is bill over-pouring for his friends or is Bill walking home with those two bottles of Grey Goose? You know, it really expands your knowledge set as a business owner, and what’s your return on investment, right? If you spend maybe $2,000 or $3,000 to outfit your entire establishment front and back of the house with everything that you need and you make that back within six months, either due to savings of time or catching things like shrinkage or waste, does that make sense?
Eric: Yeah. Yeah. Those are really good points. And I think that that can be the forest for the trees kind of a challenge that business owners may face if they’re between those two options. They’re currently using just a regular card reader machine and then they’re considering investing in upgrading and what value that’s going to bring. And I think you’ve covered quite a lot of how they could benefit from upgrading to a full-blown POS inventory tracking reporting system because it’s going to save you time. So, yes, it costs more money, but the amount of time savings, the amount of cost, and efficiencies that you might gain just by knowing more about your business and how it runs is in some cases invaluable. I mean, you may end up saving thousands of dollars more than what the cost of having that monthly fee or whatever it is.
Katie: Absolutely. And some of the newer customers that come to us…you know, when we have someone referred to us, for example, we’ll take a look at what their existing processing cost is with their existing provider. And part of our analysis is if we see an opportunity to introduce them to our point of sale or they voiced that they have a need for a point of sale, one of the things that we do is we look at the processing and we really try to dig in and find savings there to try to offset at least some of the cost of transitioning to a point of sale to help them financially, you know, get into a position where they can afford it. And we can show them, hey, you know, if we save you 100 bucks a month, that’s 1,200 bucks a year, that’s 1,200 bucks that you can put towards the equipment cost of this for at least one of your stations, right? So, we try to be really collaborative with the merchant to understand what they’re trying to do to try to make the best fit for them, to give them pricing that they can afford for the service and for the point of sale, but also not sacrificing the service that we need to give to that customer. Having a business switch from a point of sale that might be, you know, outdated or not meeting their needs to a new point of sale tends to be an easier transition because they’ve already gone through that adjustment period, that technology adjustment period that I like to talk about. They’ve already gone through that intimidation and they’ve worked past it and they see the value.
Businesses that have never accepted payments through a point of sale, that transition to it, no matter how well it fits their needs, there’s always an adjustment period where they’re like, “I’m in too deep. I’ve gone too far. This is too much.” And you have to go, “You right now are a little freaked out, but it’s going to be okay. And you two months from now are going to feel so much better about this change that’s happening.” And so that’s the difficulty there in having somebody transition to point of sale for the first time. And I’ll be honest with you, Eric, you know, is point of sale right for everybody? Point of sale can fit into the majority of the businesses out there. If you have a market that has been run for the last 35 years by those owners and those owners are going to retire in the next three years, they’re not going to sell the business to their kids, they’ve got five more years and they’re shutting it all down. In that three to five years they’re still open, will it help their business? Absolutely. But they, as business owners have to go, “Is this worth it to do this now?” And you know, if you have someone who’s always going to fight the technology, their staff may love it, but if they’re going to fight the technology, it’ll never be successful for their business.
Eric: Right. Right. That’s good advice for almost anything, right? It’s you have to make a decision on the value of time versus money and effort versus efficiency and what that’s going to do for you and for your business.
Katie: Absolutely. People that are looking to understand more about their business or that are looking to grow, I think it’s a fantastic investment. And what’s really neat is that, you know, there’s so much capability that comes with these softwares. There are add-ons that people make all the time. You know, a lot of these softwares that we provide, especially have a lot of add-ons that if it doesn’t have a feature that meets a need, nine times out of 10, there’s another service that has used that open API so you get that functionality integrated into it. And you also have the ability to combine a new element, which is the e-commerce element that’s becoming so important. A fantastic example of that is we have a very good customer who’s been with us for a very long time that utilizes our retail point of sale. And it was when COVID hit, which was in the spring, you know, of last year, and she called us and said, “I don’t know what I’m going to do. I might have to shut my doors. I don’t know what to do because I have more business than I know how to handle and I don’t know how to safely handle it because there’s a pandemic.” And so we were able to give her an e-commerce solution that integrates with her retail point of sale so that her inventory in the store and online match up, she can’t sell more of an item than she has through online, and was able to give the experience of…she’s a landscaping company, right? So, everybody was home and thought, “Well, it’s spring, let’s get out in the yard and do something with our time.”
So, it allowed us to set up a system for her so that you can go online, you can get your five bags of mulch, you can get your three bins of tulip bulbs, and you pay for it. You don’t have to talk to anybody, you roll up in your car, they put everything in your trunk, and you’re on your way. And, you know, she had an increase in sales organically because of the fact that that was an industry that just blossomed in all of this at that time. But she was allowing people to pay easier and safely, and it worked with her point of sale system. So, she was able to, as a business owner, track those in-person sales track, those online sales, see the growth that happened from last year to this year. And that’s what was important to her because she is always growing.
Eric: I love that. I was going to actually bring that up if you didn’t, which is I’m a huge fan of efficiencies and automation and tools that can…you know, technology is supposed to make our lives easier. So we need to make sure that we’re taking advantage of those where possible. And so if you have a system that can track your inventory and you do things both in-person and online, the ability to connect those two things together is invaluable just so that you don’t have to think about it. It can act as it should, which is one store.
Katie: It’s critical. It’s absolutely critical. Yep. And I think that, you know, if anything, we’ve learned in the last year that it’s important to be able to operate your business anywhere at any time, except all the ways to pay and make it as safe and secure for you and your customers as possible. And I think that that idea that you know, a small landscaper in rural Delaware would have the ability to have such a robust solution with so many moving parts… You know, there was a time where people just thought that’s inaccessible. That’s Lowe’s, I can’t be Lowe’s. And anybody can be Lowe’s now in functionality and not break the bank to do so.
Eric: Exactly. Exactly. And I think that that’s super helpful and encouraging for business owners who may be wanting to take that leap, but they weren’t quite sure or they were nervous about it or scared of it, intimidated by it. So, Katie, I appreciate you joining me today. Do you have any final thoughts to wrap up our point of sale conversation?
Katie: Yeah, absolutely. It’s always a pleasure to be on here. I think that one of the biggest takeaways, and I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, it’s so important that you look at the technology that you have in your business and how you’re accepting payments because there is so much opportunity to better your business and increase your efficiencies by just updating your technology. And so if you have a provider, ask your provider, “What’s technology that I don’t have that can make my business better and how?” And if you have a provider that doesn’t have that option, find someone who does and really invest the time in learning what’s available to you.
Eric: Excellent. Katie, sincerely, thank you once again and as always, for joining me and providing such helpful insights to our customers.
Katie: Absolutely. Thanks again.
Eric: If any of our listeners would have a question or want to learn more, the support that you need is available through First United. So, you can reach out to us at mybank.com and find a local advisor that can support you and your business. And they can point you in the right directions and maybe connect you with the folks at MPI to help with your merchant processing or point of sale needs. That brings us to the end of our show. You can always find more episodes by visiting mybank.com/podcast or find us on your favorite podcast app. You can also leave feedback, ask questions, or request the topic for us to discuss by sending an email to email@example.com. Thank you for listening. We’ll be back next week with more helpful content. But until then, we wish you the best in focusing on what matters most to you.
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