Alex Kiorpelidis,owner of Indianica, which specializes in Inuit art and native crafts, says the gallery previously used a basic point-of-sale system that was designed for a restaurant and adapted, somewhat awkwardly, to his business. “We had to keep on changing it and changing it to meet our needs here.”
About a year ago it was replaced with Moneris OnlineRetail Register and Inventory System (MORRIS), a software-as-a-service product. Moneris, a large Toronto-based credit- and debit-card payments processor backed by RBC Financial Group and BMO Financial Group, developed the system and sells it with hardware from Hewlett-Packard Canada Co. in Mississauga, Ont.
The MORRIS software starts at $49.99 a month, and Moneris offers a bundle of HP hardware starting at $1999.99.
MORRIS is a cloud computing system, running on Moneris’ servers and accessible through a web browser. That provides the usual list of advantages that cloud proponents claim for this delivery model. The software can be updated frequently without re-installing it on customers’ machines. It can support a range of hardware, and changing hardware is painless. “As the technology changes,” says Dmitri Sokolov, category business manager for retail solutions and thin clients at HP Canada, “you can actually just plug in a different peripheral.”
And, Sokolov says, the cloud model makes it possible to offer small retailers like Indianica the sort of features that weren’t practical in small stand-alone POS systems before.
For Kiorpelidis, that translates into a selection of features that makes MORRIS fit his business better than what he was using before. That contributes to the ease of use that is clearly one of his favourite things about the new system. “The interface is much simpler to use,” he says. Training staff takes less time, and Kiorpelidis isn’t spending so much time resolving problems.
With his old system, he recalls, “we were on the phone with technicians for hours on end.”
MORRIS is also faster, he adds. Whereas there was often a 40- to 60-second delay in completing a sale before, transactions go through faster now, which translates into better customer service. “That’s always a good thing.”
But the biggest time-saver for Indianica may be the fact that MORRIS includes inventory capabilities. As items are sold, the gallery’s inventory is updated automatically. Instead of having to count inventory manually at the end of the busy summer season, Kiorpelidis says he’ll now be able to see quickly what Indianica sold during the summer.
By offering capabilities like this, Sokolov says, a cloud-based POS system can give smaller retailers the sort of advantages already familiar to larger operations.
“The store environment has to become intelligent and it has to compete with other avenues of commerce, be it online or whatnot,” he says. “The ability to manage your inventory dollars is key to a store owner…. If you’re a small business owner, you can now essentially have just-in-time inventory.”
While cloud-based POS systems can offer smaller retailers features they might not get otherwise, the cloud isn’t just for smaller shops, Sokolov says. Medium to large retailers, and vendors of POS systems, are moving in this direction, he says, partly because it “removes the guessing game” of trying to anticipate what features will be needed in a few years. “The vendor can develop those and deliver them to the end user on the go.”
Regulatory compliance also plays a role in making the case for cloud POS systems, says Sokolov. Many small retailers are looking for ways to address required standards like the PCI Security Standards and the Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) chip and personal identification number (PIN) standards. Cloud-based systems make it easier for them to do that, he says.