Business Solutions

The Power of the Point of Sale

The cash register checkout might seem like a basic element in retail sales, but it offers big opportunities to drive revenue and customer relationships.

Point of Sale

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There’s a hidden asset when it comes to HME retail sales: the everyday cash register, or more accurately stated, the point of sale.

In the very basic sense, the point of sale (POS) is where the actual transaction takes place, the counter where the customer checks out, as well as the area and fixtures around it. On its face, that doesn’t seem like a critical retail element, but it is. The POS represents an opportunity to reaffirm customer relationships and even drive additional revenue.

“The point of sale is much more than just a cash register, think of it more as the ‘Point of Service,’” says Rob Heglin, product manager for therapeutic footware company Dr. Comfort. “It is where customers go to make their purchase, handle returns and where they ask questions or are looking for recommendations on products.

“It is the last place a customer goes while in your store, so it is important that you leave a lasting impression on the customer,” he adds. “You want the customer have an overall positive experience, otherwise it could be the last time they buy from your location.”

“It’s your opportunity with put into the mind of the consumer a reason to look at something else, or to make their experience pleasant enough that they would come back for something else,” adds Jim Greatorex, who heads business development for VGM Retail Services. “It’s a chance to get the consumer to think about the next reason why they need to come in.”

Customer Expectations

As providers learn more about retail sales, they often hear a lot about the retail experience. The goal is to provide customers with a retail environment and customer service that helps them lean more and make purchases.

In that regard the POS can contribute to the overall retail experience, but it’s important to make the distinction about what kinds of retail experiences customers expect from a HME provider business as opposed to a regular retail outlet. What do customers want from the retail HME POS?

“I think the psychology of the buyer is the same,” says Cy Corgan, national sales manager for accessibility product maker EZ-ACCESS. “… The buying decision in your mind is the same: You’re making a transaction and you want it to meet your particular needs. You certainly want the individual you’re interacting with in that dealer’s showroom to be well-educated, well-informed and be able to communicate to you the consumer very thoroughly.”

The bottom line is that the consumer wants to feel confident about his or her HME purchase. Bearing that in mind, the employee working the register can use some simple techniques to reinforce the customer’s experience, according to Heglin.

“During the POS transaction customers are expecting to have had all of their needs met,” he explains. “Therefore it is essential that the staff address the customers needs by asking the question, ‘Have we been able to provide everything you need?’ This will also help the staff member get a better understanding of what brought the customer to your store.”

And this also provides the team member with the opportunity to expand the sale with items the customer might also need.

“Once they understand the customers needs they can then suggest accessory items that will enhance the customer’s purchase,” Heglin explains. “For example, if a customer is purchasing diabetic shoes the staff member could say, ‘Excellent choice! Have you tried our diabetic socks? Many of our customers who have bought these shoes have also purchased the socks and loved them. I wear them and they are so comfortable!’ This style of up-selling creates a genuine, personal experience with the customer.”

Impulse Buys

But it’s not just the employees that are doing the selling. With the right kind of product displays and signage, the POS can serve as a “silent sales-person,” according to Corgan.

With the right mix of displays and products displayed around the point of sale, the customer now has additional purchase considerations at time of checkout.

“Those displays can act as an impulse buy,” Corgan says. “The consumer comes over; they’re paying for the particular product they intend to buy; and if they see something at that point of sale, in their mind they are already engaged in a transaction. So if they see point of sale item such as a pill crusher or a reacher, maybe even something like transition ramp, they think, ‘Oh I could use one of those.’”

“The POS can certainly increase revenues if done correctly,” Heglin adds. “It is a perfect location to present low-ticket merchandise that pairs well with your higher selling items.”

“We always encourage providers to have very visible, smaller items at the point of purchase,” Greatorex notes. “Some point of sale products that are stimulating for conversation so that you can develop some relationship with that consumer.”

And it’s not just the product themselves that sell. Presentation plays a key role: Attractive, engaging informational displays and signs that clearly convey features and benefits can also prompt buyers at the POS to add to their purchases, Corgan notes.

Providers should be strategic about what they decide to display at the POS, and not be afraid to experiment to see what products sell and what products don’t.

“Another way to determine what merchandise to display is by first identifying what goals the retailer would like to accomplish,” Heglin explains.

“Do they want to highlight items for a specific disease state, push overstock items, enhance visibility of new products, or entertain seasonal interests?

“Once the goal has been identified, then the retailer should examine the layout of their store to determine the ideal flow that will lead the customer to the POS,” he continues “The arrangement of the displays will help set the path, however the displays should not overwhelm the customer. If there are too many distractions then the customer may not make any purchase at all.

Heglin has two mnemonics he uses for displaying products at the POS: “Less is more and Eye level is buy level.”

Providers should to achieve a “Goldilocks” level of products and displays at the POS. If the provider puts too much on display, then the area becomes cluttered and confused, and can actually get in the way of sales; too little, and the provider is missing an opportunity to expand sales and relationships.

“In our market you want to be a little modest about it,” Greatorex explains. “We recommend that you have at least three point of sale displays within vision of the consumer at checkout. And two of those should become somewhat of a mainstay, and the third one is one that you rotate through different products from time to time, or you bring in a new point of sale display.”

That mixture of the same displays and rotated displays keeps the POS simultaneously fresh and familiar.

Technology’s Role

Of course, the retail point of sale (POS) doesn’t operate in a bubble. There are some actual technology assets that a provider must put in place to ensure that the retail transaction is carried out properly. These items include the cash register, barcode scanner, credit card swiper and similar items.

But those items need to be tied back to the provider’s overall back office infrastructure. This way the provider can stay on top of inventory, monitor what funded patients are also purchasing on a cash basis, offer special retail promotions, and the like.

In terms of the infrastructure that HMEs need to put in place, Kimberly Commito, director of product management for Mediware Information Systems says if providers have an HME software system in place, they’re probably off to a good start.

“Most HME applications offer a module that supports retail transaction processing, by way of allowing the connection of peripheral devices such as cash drawers, pole setups that display totals, bar coding wedges for scanning items at checkout, receipt printers and credit card processing devices,” she says.

“It is imperative to explore whether your software vendor can support all of these peripheral devices and the transactions that go along with payment processing,” Commito adds. “Secure network connections and communication out to a payment processing entity are required, as well. A network infrastructure that supports credit card transaction processing and the ability to connect devices to accomplish this is a necessity.”

Speaking of security, providers also need to process the new chip and pin/EMV credit cards, according to Commito.

“New devices are replacing old credit card processing devices to ensure that transactions are secure and patients and customers feel safe swiping their credit and debit cards in your store,” she explains. “Be sure to ask your software vendor if they support these devices and if they do not, what are their future plans.”

In terms of other special transaction methods, Commito advises investigating if a POS system can support debit cards or FSA transactions, which require additional functionality, certification and processing capabilities.

“A relationship with a payment processing entity, such as Verifone should be considered,” she says. “PCI compliance is an obligation, and ensuring your software vendor or the payment processor they are integrated with, is using a compliant approach (not storing credit card information in your database, etc.).”

Connecting with the Back Office

On the back end, providers need to look at how they can tie their POS into their back office operations.

“Inventory options should be available to ensure that you can track inventory in the storefront and break down inventory locations by area and even by shelf if desired,” Commito explains. “The ability to replenish stock through inventory transfers from your main warehouse to retail locations and storefronts is imperative.

“In addition, having the ability to transfer a delivery order up to the showroom for pick up when the patient requests this is a nice to have feature,” Commito adds. “Being able to pull up existing patient accounts at the POS module, to address co-pay, outstanding balances, etc. when the patient is present is also very helpful and a necessary feature of a POS module integrated to your back office solution.”

Cash balancing to the back office is another key consideration Providers must be able to track cash coming into the storefront via the POS, and that must be balanced daily, separate from the back office cash posting procedures.

In terms of supporting special promotions, coupons and other discounts providers should ensure their software solution can handle multiple pricing situations.

“By having a separate pricing structure for POS, the ability to run specials and discounts should be available,” Committo says. “In addition, the ability to override pricing when necessary, with security points in place for this type of activity, is important. Gift card transactions can be tricky as well. Be sure to ask if this is supported by your software platform before advertising that gift cards are available or accepted.”

Finally, Commito suggests that providers ensure that their software system can handle retail tax calculations correctly and appropriately.

“When processing retail transactions taxes must be applied in some cases, depending on the nature of the transaction,” she explains. “ In cases where the patient does not have to pay tax, for example, some states do not tax items that are purchased with a prescription in hand. Ensure that the system has automated overrides that can be applied with flags to establish tax percentages with and without an RX, for example.”

This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of HME Business.

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