Should you upgrade your point-of-sale (POS) system? To answer that question you need to examine the cost of the upgrade. This means not only considering the actual cost of the hardware, setup and support services, but also considering time to train employees on the new system and assessing whether you will have to close your retail operation during operating hours in order to install and test the system.

Inventory software programs are critical to retail operations because they can help track usage, monitor inventory via unit dollar costs, and calculate precisely when it’s time to order new inventory. More sophisticated point-of-sale (POS) software integrated with advanced video surveillance and analytics packages can even analyze inventory levels on a single-item basis and control inventory all the way from the time it arrives from the supplier to the point it leaves with your customer at the cash register. Advanced POS systems combined with video analytics can streamline how you run your business, make it easier to understand the flow of your retail operation, and enable you and your employees to better serve your customers and enhance their shopping experience. Technology has improved by leaps and bounds so it may be time for you to upgrade your point-of-sale system to stay current with modern shopping trends.

Here’s how to go about initiating or upgrading a new point-of-sale system

1. Define the needs of your business. There are lots of factors to consider when choosing a new vendor for your POS system. Every business is unique, so you may need to tailor an off-the-shelf system for your needs or select a vendor who is willing and capable to customize your POS system to meet the needs of your business. Among the considerations in planning your implementation are ease of use, how sales information is entered into the system, pricing, the way that product information is updated, sales tracking, taxes, security, and reporting.

2. Pay attention to hardware requirements. A new point-of-sale system will naturally need to be integrated with the hardware and other equipment already in your retail operation, so survey your store to see what already exists. Once you have recorded this information, you can use it to ensure that a POS vendor can successfully assimilate a new system with the hardware and surveillance equipment already in your operation.

3. Set a budget. Point-of-sale systems represent a significant cost to a retail operation, so plan accordingly. Traditional POS terminals can cost up to $4,000, not including peripherals like printers, cash drawers, and scanners. Cloud-based POS systems can be more competitive in pricing with an out-of-the-box solution costing about $900 including the cost of a tablet.

4. Compare POS vendors. The point-of-sale market is competitive so it’s important to compare and contrast both vendors and systems to ensure you are acquiring the right hardware and software to serve the needs of your business.

5. See the point-of-sale system in a live demonstration. It’s best to request references to other local businesses that are using a vendor’s POS system so you can see how the technology works in the real world. Alternatively, most POS vendors let customers try their software for free, so they can see it in action first-hand.

6. Set it up. Your vendor should have provided detailed instructions on how to prepare your data and install your new POS system, but it’s best to be prepared for any disruptions. Be sure you fully understand your vendor’s responsibilities when it comes to customer service and technical assistance, and do some research as to whether any local IT experts provide assistance in troubleshooting POS systems.

7. Put it in action. Check regularly to ensure that you are making the best use of your POS system. Look into apps, add-ons, or hardware that can enhance your point-of-sale setup and make your employees more productive. Think about integrating video analytics to transform your POS system into a strategic management tool.