Guest contribution • 09.09.2019

The 411 on point of sale systems

Beauty and intelligence combined: What the system looks like and what it can do

Checkout counter made of tiles with a built in glass case...
When setting up the checkout area, retailers have to pay attention to a lot of things. One factor: the aesthetics of the checkout counter.
Source: iXtenso/Pott

Checkout system, material, paint finish – apart from technology and design, today’s point of sale system must fulfill many different roles. Yet its most important function is and will always be the successful completion of the customer journey.

What are important factors to consider when designing a point of sales system?

Mobile payment, self-checkout, and customer service …

Needless to say, the primary role of a POS system is payment processing. Mobile payment is a top trend right now in this setting. While German consumers used to be obsessed with cash, there is a trend towards credit card and mobile payments. The latter, in particular, offers shoppers many benefits. We generally always have our smartphone with us and can use it to access store cards and coupons.

That being said, in-store checkouts will always be around, because one payment method doesn’t fit all. The POS system must therefore offer all payment options. Retailers have to bear in mind that they eventually have to acquire new or additional hardware to accommodate new payment features on existing POS systems.

Self-checkouts are an increasingly common sight in recent years. Admittedly, they save customers time, but we should also point out their negative aspects. Although the new systems are designed to prevent customers from having to wait in line at the cash register, retailers lose impulse buys at the self-checkout. After all, if customers don’t have to wait in line at the checkout and are occupied with managing the self-scanning process, they don’t have time to learn about new and interesting products or browse impulse goods near the checkout counter.

What’s more, the self-checkout theft rate is five times higher than that of conventional POS systems. Meanwhile, the perceived cost savings – the idea was to free up employees – also did not pan out as expected. That’s why self-checkout systems should not be viewed as a way to save costs, but as an opportunity to provide a unique service to customers - if they want it.

When it opened its first "Amazon Go" store in 2018, Amazon became a trailblazer as it pertains to "supermarkets with no lines and no checkouts". However, the implementation requires multiple cameras and significant investment in high-tech devices that are able to document and process personal data and consumer buying decisions. Apart from the fact that the way this concept uses and stores data is in conflict with the German Data Protection Act, this type of endeavor also goes along with high costs for development, wiring and equipment.

What’s more, due to its technical complexity, the concept is better suited for stores and locations with a smaller footprint. And even Amazon is still unable to open a supermarket without any employees as the concept still requires expert staff to stock the shelves, supervise and monitor processes.

Man with glasses wearing a suit and looking into the camera...
Carsten Schemberg,CEO, Theodor Schemberg Einrichtungen GmbH
Source: Eslage & Voss GmbH

… design, technology, and ergonomics

Apart from current market trends, structural aspects such as design, technology, ergonomics and range of functions of a point of sale also play an important role. Depending on the industry sector and actual store, cash desks must also meet various other requirements.

While cash registers in home improvement stores tend to be more functional and heavy-duty to accommodate heavier items, cash registers at clothing stores showcase an attractive design.

That being said, whether it’s at a supermarket or a fashion store – the cash register must always match the corporate identity. Color, light, and brightness, as well as complementing materials, play a key role in this setting.

Retailers should also factor in electromagnetic compatibility. Metal tables, in particular, can be a problem as magnetic fields can cause interference with other equipment. One of the latest design trends embraces textured surfaces. The POS system should be an authentic interpretation of the store, match the brand identity and the company’s story and harmoniously integrate into the overall concept.

When it comes to technical aspects, cables should be kept clean and tidy, while electrical wires and cables should also be kept separate from network devices. Power and data can either be run via ceiling or floor boxes. Floor outlets tend to be more aesthetically pleasing while ceiling boxes offer more flexibility.

Ergonomics at the cash register is yet another important aspect to consider. The Workers’ Compensation Board specifies that a cash register must meet ergonomic guidelines and be user-friendly if it is set up as an official workstation. Aspects such as air drafts, heat, cold and lighting need to be pondered as well. In doing so, companies create an optimal work environment at the point of sale. This also has a positive impact on employee wellbeing, satisfaction, and health.

Last but not least, the point of sale must also be functional. To ensure smooth and fast payment processing, it is vital that all technical and operating elements of the point of sale system work perfectly. This includes components like the conveyor belt, scanner, the card payment hardware system, etc. It is crucial that point of sale associates have received the respective training and are intimately familiar with all processes.

Author: Carsten Schemberg, Theodor Schemberg Einrichtungen GmbH

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