All-In-One POS vs. PC-Based Systems
Tired of losing all-in-one POS (point of sale) sales to mass marketers of PC-based POS systems? These experts offer some valuable tips on how you can win the battle.
If you’ve been selling POS systems for more than 10 years, you’re probably more than just a little frustrated with the current state of the POS industry. And I’m not referring solely to the slide in margins that has occurred over the years. I’m talking more about your customers’ perceptions of their need for you, the VAR. The advent of PC-based component POS systems has created what many POS veterans feel is a false sense of empowerment in end users. Because they have a certain level of expertise with computer systems, many end users feel by using a PC-based POS system and plug-and-play peripherals they’ll never need a VAR’s services. Of course, you know that kind of thinking is flawed. You’ve probably received calls from that exact type of do-it-yourselfer client. And with VARs surviving more on service revenue than hardware sales, some of you may think this may not be such a bad scenario. But wouldn’t you rather have ongoing service revenue and hardware revenue?
The battle against PC-based component POS systems is waged by VARs selling ECRs (electronic cash registers) and all-in-one POS systems. In regard to the latter, I contacted four representatives from manufacturers who specialize in these units to get their opinions on how VARs can win this fight.
Can You Compete With Dell?
It’s no secret that one of the biggest competitors you’re likely to face when selling an all-in-one POS system is Dell. So how do you compete with a huge powerhouse computer manufacturer that is selling direct to your clients at probably a lower price? According to Michael Flores, director of business development at PioneerPOS, Inc., the most important step is a basic one. “Make sure your customers understand the advantages a true POS VAR can bring to the table, such as installation services, product knowledge, maintenance contracts, and pre- and postsupport,” he says. While that’s solid advice, if your client is small — and there are many of these — this argument may fall on deaf ears since price is king with these customers. In fact, even large customers often base their buying decisions more on the bottom line than long-term value.
But long-term value is what you have to sell. According to Kurt Ericson, VP/general manager at J2 Retail Systems, you have to stress product lifespan, consistency, and payback when pitting all-in-one POS systems against PC-based systems. “Typically, the payback expectation of a POS system is five to seven years,” states Ericson. “Our experience indicates that some major end user accounts can pilot for more than one year and spread rollouts over several years. Further, they expect a consistent product during the project lifespan. For example, McDonald’s in Europe is very meticulous, and even a BIOS [basic input output systems] change requires notification and formal approval.” To keep it in perspective, ask your client to consider how often PCs change during a seven-year period. Is that the type of consistency they want from their POS system? Is a PC manufacturer an expert in the POS industry and all of its related peripherals? Will a PC manufacturer have technical support personnel who specialize in POS hardware and understand the common problems (e.g. interoperability) in the retail or hospitality markets? “It is important for retailers to realize that all-in-one POS systems have been designed for retailers, as opposed to a general computing application,” explains Dave LaBudde, VP of marketing and business development at Ultimate Technology. “Features such as easy access to interface ports, a small footprint, and spill-resistant outer cases all provide benefits for retailers that general PC products can’t deliver.”
Accentuate The Key Features Of All-In-Ones
LaBudde’s point about features is a good one. Aside from price, end users are going to be comparing your all-in-one unit’s features with those of a PC-based solution. LaBudde notes some of the more obvious beneficial features to promote for an all-in-one system, but there are others you should highlight during your sales presentation. For instance, don’t forget about WEPOS (Windows embedded point of service), which Flores describes as Microsoft’s standard for an embedded OS specifically designed for service industries. “Indeed, WEPOS is becoming more popular with retailers due to its additional security and ability to streamline the interoperability of POS peripherals,” notes Craig Paritz, president of Touch Dynamic Inc. “Also, a WEPOS license costs less than a Windows license, and WEPOS limits what end users can install on a machine, thereby reducing the chance of problems from nonbusiness-related add-on applications.”
While WEPOS can be a good differentiator, you may also want to promote the type of touch screens (if applicable) your all-in-one products offer. In general, the higher the wire number (e.g. 4-, 5-, 7-, 8-wire) the better the touch accuracy and sensitivity. Resistive membrane touch screens are often lower in price than other touch screen technologies such as infrared and surface acoustic wave. The disadvantage of resistive screens is they often wear out after five or more years of service. “It is also important to compare who makes a touch screen and the quality of the manufacturing,” says Paritz. “The market has been flooded with cheap clone technology, but these touch screens do not ultimately lead to a lower cost of ownership.”
As you can imagine, all of the vendors interviewed listed different types of features you can use to differentiate your all-in-one POS systems. For instance, Flores says all-in-one systems have a more appealing integrated look with fewer cables and the ability to be mounted on a wall. Most of the vendors agreed that there is a trend in the all-in-one POS world toward creating more reliable systems by reducing the number of moving parts in this equipment. “In a POS installation, typically the first PC hardware components to fail are moving parts like fans and hard disk drives,” says Ericson. “Fanless operation diminishes failures caused by elements such as grease and fluids. Furthermore, many POS software vendors are moving to compact flash versus hard disk drives for storage in CE .NET, XP Embedded, or WEPOS environments.”
If you’ve been selling POS technology for more than 10 years, the advice from these experts on selling all-in-one systems may not eliminate your frustration with the current state of the industry. Your frustration may be reduced, though, if you use this information effectively and consequently increase your sales.