POS Systems Go Electric

The face of point of sale systems is changing - are you on board?
 POS Systems Go Electric

“It used to be that a cash register would be good enough,” says Dax Dasilva, taking time out at the airport to talk to us about retail’s evolving landscape. DaSilva is the founder and CEO of LightSpeed, a leading electronic point of sale (ePOS) system for Apple products. His product is one of many that are revolutionizing the way retailers check their customers out.


Checking Out at Light Speed

Dax Dasilva started working with Apple products years ago, as a consultant for Apple dealerships. One of those dealerships asked him to build a point of sale system to run their four stores – when that relationship ended around 2005, Dasilva saw an opportunity to rework the system for a more generalized audience. Thusly, LightSpeed was born – a POS system designed solely for Macs that has gained a major following among a wide range of retail outlets, from wine shops to independent artists.

LightSpeed comes in two ‘speeds,’ as it were. The first is its desktop application, with an easy to navigate iTunes-esque interface that takes care of everything from ringing up customers to back office accounting functions. “Then,” says Dasilva, “you’ve got the kind of things that take your store a bit further. If you want to franchise, we’ve got multi-store tools. If you want to grow online, you can use your database to generate an e-commerce website using the same products and images you’ve got in your POS system to populate your shopping cart.”

But the feature that has truly helped LightSpeed take off is its mobile POS capabilities. LightSpeed is compatible with the iPhone and the iPod Touch, putting point of sale capabilities quite literally in the palm of your hand. Compatible hardware like the Linea Pro makes credit card swiping easy, and the program takes care of the rest with the same powerful database capabilities as its desktop sibling. Whether you’re operating a food truck, taking your retail business on the road to a trade show or fair, or just want the freedom to roam your store without being tied down to a checkout desk, LightSpeed’s mobile application is a 21st-century POS system that almost anyone can get behind.

A Solid State of Affairs

Not everyone is ready for a handheld POS system – or is an Apple fan. But there are also innovations to spare in the PC-related POS system market. Casio offers just such innovation with its Smart Touch QT 6600 system. “What’s unique about the products that we have here,” says Casio representative Glenn Deal at the Western Foodservice and Hospitality Expo, “is that they look, operate, and function just like a PC, but they’re not PCs. They’re what we call a ‘Flash Rom Terminal.’”

We ask if this means it’s a tablet. Though the official answer is no – the Casio QT 6600 is squarely a desktop unit – some of the components are quite similar.

“There is no operating system, no hard drive, no fan: no movable parts,” Deal elaborates. “The things that will generally break down in a PC-based system, we don’t have on these particular terminals. Everything’s is what we call ‘solid state,’ running off chip sets. Access to information is much quicker, because we’re not accessing a hard drive. So when I go to ring up items here, it’s extremely quick because we’re not accessing a hard drive every time we ring up an item.” In short, it’s a desktop that that takes much of the technical guesswork and complication out of traditional PC-based models. The touch screen interface and simple, compact shape don’t hurt matters either.

What that means for users: relative simplicity and savings. “Many people buying PC-based are paying for features that they’ll never ever use,” notes Deal. “Here, the cost of ownership is much less because the cost of the system is much less.” There are some drawbacks to the simplicity – unlike a POS system like LightSpeed, the QT series systems don’t allow for more complicated functions like compiling databases. But for smaller outlets and restaurants, this could be all that you need.

Finding the Right Stuff For Your Business

So what should a point of sale system newbie look for when considering the right system? That depends on the business. “I think the Mac is a really good choice these days,” says Dasilva. That’s only natural, considering LightSpeed’s Apple compatibility and Dasilva’s own history with the company. But there’s a lot more to it than that.

“There’s a certain ‘iGeneration’ that’s developed over the last couple years, where people are really used to the user experience that they get on Apple products, and we believe that people are going to be happiest on a platform where they’re more in power,” Dasilva explains. “Picking the right platform can also guarantee that you have more security. The Mac doesn’t have viruses or security issues, and that’s important for a retailer because you don’t want all of your transaction data being compromised.”

But there’s certainly more to purchasing your first POS system than platform alone. Another major point to look out for is your POS system’s ability to grow with your business. “I would tend to make sure you buy a system that’s going to be able to expand when you have bigger plans for your retail store in a year,” says Dasilva.

But why? Simple: you never know where you’re going to end up in the future, and the last thing you want to do is limit yourself with your software choices. “Our customers tend to be very enterprising retailers,” Dasilva explains. “I don’t think anybody starts a retail store not dreaming big. You don’t want to start with something very limited, and then within 6 months to a year run out of options when you want to go online with e-commerce or do X, Y, or X. Pick something that’s going to grow with you.“

What it all comes down to, desktop or mobile, simplistic or data rich, is understanding what works for you and opening up to all the new technology that’s out there. 

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