How to pick the right POS system for your gas station or c store
Gas stations have unique needs for their Point of Sale (POS) systems. They not only have the fuel they sell—with many different grades of fuel—but they also have an indoor convenience store. These stores sell various goods, including snacks, drinks, lottery tickets, alcohol, and even freshly made kitchen items. Having a point of sale system that not only processes payments for each of these but that can also help manage the day to day operations is a must.
In this article, we’ll look at POS systems and how they can be altered to fit the needs of gas stations and convenience stores. We’ll also help you understand the different factors that you need to consider when evaluating the best gas station POS system for your business.
What is a gas station/convenience store POS system?
A gas station POS system helps business owners take various forms of payment, such as credit cards, debit cards and even contactless, mobile payments. When it utilizes special software specific to gas stations and convenience stores, a POS system can help store owners automate the checkout processes, provide inventory control, and improve operations. Unlike generic POS solutions, specialty solutions such as gas station POS systems deliver industry specific capabilities such as fuel and lottery sales.
POS software can help independent store owners reduce transaction times, increase sales, and manage inventory and pricing. Gas station POS systems can reduce human errors, support PCI DSS compliance, and engage customers through loyalty programs.
What should you look for in a gas station or convenience store POS system?
The most important feature of any POS system is flexibility. Gas stations and convenience stores are market-specific, meaning they offer products and services that meet their customers' needs. A neighborhood convenience store may offer fresh food services, car washes, and lottery tickets, while stores near major highways may stock more retail and travel-related items. A good POS system for gas stations and convenience stores will be able to:
- Calculate prices, track costs, and manage inventory for fuel sales
- Support car wash services
- Manage inventory, including sell-by dates
- Support UPC code catalog for faster inventory management
- Allow pre-pay and cashback transactions
- Take credit card or debit card payments
- Track beverage bottle deposits (where applicable) and sales
- Manage alcohol and tobacco sales restrictions
- Track and record safe drop and cash-in-drawer amounts
- Support corporate fleet accounts
- Enable lottery sales
- Perform employee audits to minimize inventory shrinkage
- Provide standard and customizable sales reports
- Include security features for transaction processing
In addition to these POS product features, consider the provider’s customer support and service capabilities. What types of support are available? Can you speak with someone by phone, text, or email? Will support be 24/7/365? Many gas stations and convenience stores are open 24/7, so support must be available when it's needed.
Ease of use is another feature that owners should consider when looking at a possible POS solution for gas stations. Touchscreens enable managers to train new employees quickly without a steep learning curve. Given the turnover rate in the industry, simplified operation makes POS software more attractive.
Why do you need a gas station/convenience store POS system?
As a store owner, you might be wondering why you need a gas station or convenience store POS system. A POS solution for your gas station can improve operations and streamline your business. That’s good for your customers and your bottom line. Here are a few other benefits of a POS system at your gas station or c-store.
POS solutions automate the checkout process for owners and customers. POS systems can support credit and debit card transactions for reduced customer wait times and cashiers can process both in-store and at-the-pump transactions. Employees can respond to pricing and inventory changes with minimal human errors. These features allow store owners to address customer issues, focus on management issues, and efficiently analyze business performance.
Faster inventory management
Convenience stores need to control their inventory effortlessly. An automated inventory feature can update inventory levels upon receipt and after sales. POS systems let you track inventory levels in real time, help you identify high margin products, and indicate when inventory needs replenishing. In addition, tracking inventory items lets small businesses monitor their sell-by dates to minimize spoilage and waste.
POS systems automate manual tasks involving data entry, pricing updates, and cash management. Using an automated system reduces human error, improves accuracy, and enhances customer experiences. These changes can lead to improved sales and lower operating costs for increased profitability. Instead of addressing errors, retailers can work on customer engagement, review performance reports, and train staff.
The advanced features of an industry-specific POS system create an advantage over competitors that do not have access to the same operational data. Having information readily available means business owners can make data-driven decisions that result in higher profits. They can adjust their inventory to include more high-margin products that sell quickly. When products don't sell quickly, owners can remove them from their inventory, freeing up space for more profitable items.
What can a gas station/convenience store POS system do for you?
It’s easy to see how a dedicated POS solution can help your business. But, POS solutions can do more than process transactions and assist with reconciliation and settlement. They can operate as a core system for all operations, providing a centralized database for business management. How does that help? Let’s take a look.
Improves Sales Accuracy
Gas station POS solutions automate the transaction process. A product database with pricing ensures an accurate record of all store items. POS software can manage the cash drawer by displaying accurate sales totals and cashback amounts. No more late night reconciliation because the cash drawers do not balance.
When a sale occurs, the software will update inventory, providing better inventory control. With a price book feature, systems can reduce pricing errors. Automating the checkout process reduces customer wait times and ensures back office information is accurate.
Accurate sales and pricing data are necessary for effective inventory management and integrated inventory management solutions can reduce operational costs. With 80% of the 150,274 convenience stores in the U.S. selling fuel, competition is on every corner. So to get a competitive edge, your business needs a way to track your inventory for both fuel and retail all in one place—your POS system.
Retail Inventory Management
Convenience is the prime motivator for consumers who frequent a gas station/convenience store. If shelves are empty or items are not in stock, the store isn't as convenient. If consumers find the item in a different store, they may switch loyalties. With automated inventory and real time sales tracking, inventory management becomes easier and more efficient. Integrating the POS software with back office solutions can create a seamless ordering process.
Inventory management also lets businesses assess sales performance and decide what products can be removed without a negative impact. Replacing slow-moving products opens shelf space for items consumers want. As more stores move towards fresh food or hot-food sales, inventory management can reduce the potential of costly waste disposal that can hurt profit margins.
Fuel Inventory Management
Managing fuel inventory requires knowledge of federal and state reporting requirements. It isn't as simple as dispensing gas. POS solutions can track sales, taxes, and surcharges for compliance reporting and fuel management.
Integrating POS systems with back office solutions can reduce the time spent collecting information for government reporting. Instead of manually sorting through sales data, business owners can create detailed reports with a few clicks.
Tracking fuel inventory means interfacing with pump control systems to share fuel prices and inventory. With this information, inventory data can integrate with sales figures to highlight peak periods for fuel sales. This insight enables business owners to adjust orders to meet critical demand.
Lottery Inventory Management
Lottery ticket sales have become an integral part of the industry's business model. Having software solutions that can manage ticket inventory increases the margins on lottery sales. However, lottery tickets come with extensive reporting and monitoring requirements.
Lottery requirements can take over convenience store operations if automated solutions are unavailable. Putting together reports through manual evaluation of transaction data lowers profitability and takes resources away from more high value tasks. But with an integrated POS software, you’ll streamline your reporting process for lottery ticket sales.
Streamlines labor management
One of the most time consuming parts of running your business is employee management. There are time cards, weekly schedules, and government reporting. An integrated POS system can reduce the time spent on labor management.
Employers can use a POS system to track employees' hours and create work schedules. Employees clock in through the POS system that then forwards the information to a payroll system for processing. With employee management capabilities, a POS system can help employers compare hours to sales and transaction volumes to develop work schedules that match store traffic.
Cluttered work schedules are difficult to read, but creating new ones every time something changes can impact your convenience store operations. POS solutions allow station owners to make last minute changes and print new schedules with just a few keystrokes.
Payment processing security and compliance
It doesn't matter how great a gas station POS is if it cannot comply with PCI-DSS requirements. These requirements are the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, designed to secure credit and debit card transactions against data theft and fraud.
All POS software should work with PCI-certified payment terminals and have EMV-chip enabled readers to ensure the safety and security of your customers’ payment data.
If a software solution does not provide the required level of security, business owners will face financial penalties and fines if a data breach occurs and PCI compliance standards are not in place. Whether the card reader is at the pump or in the store, payment processing must ensure the same level of security.
Enables customer loyalty programs
Many station owners may not realize exactly how important loyalty programs are to their bottom line. Studies found 84% of consumers would choose a brand with a loyalty program, and 66% said that rewards programs changed their spending habits.
Loyalty programs provide convenience store owners and gas station merchants with many benefits, including:
Positive reinforcement influences behavior. By rewarding customers for purchases, business owners are encouraging customers to buy more. Repeat customers spend 67% more than first-time visitors. Plus, they are more likely to increase the number of times they make a purchase. By rewarding customers, store owners can expect more sales from repeat customers.
People will talk about positive experiences (and negative ones) on different social media platforms. These online recommendations influence consumer behavior. In fact, most people trust recommendations and reviews enough to change buying behaviors. Having a loyalty program increases your business’s chances to appear on social platforms.
Rewards programs encourage customer interaction. Whether it's an added trip to a fuel station or a quick grocery pick up, consumers will find ways to gain rewards. Using tiered programs can motivate customers to skip the grocery store for essential items such as bread, eggs, or milk.
Loyalty and reward programs provide a competitive advantage. Given a choice, consumers will choose a gas station or convenience store with a loyalty program over those that do not. The competitive nature of the industry makes using every advantage vital to business success.
With the right POS hardware and software, business owners can strengthen their customer base through loyalty programs that reward purchases at the fuel pump or through self-service food items.
Enhances business performance
POS systems collect data from all sales channels in a gas station or convenience store. It doesn't matter if the transactions occur at a fuel station or a self-service kiosk; POS software captures critical data for analysis. Small business owners can evaluate key performance indicators (KPIs) to assess business growth from the information.
With a multi-channel POS system, businesses can engage their customers through mobile devices at multiple locations. With a cloud-based SaaS solution, busy store owners can create reports, manage inventory, and adjust work schedules from any place and at any time.
In this article, we’ve taken a look at the advantages of POS systems for gas stations and convenience stores. Given the competitive nature of the gas station/convenience store market, small business owners should streamline their business processes to be more efficient. And when it comes to running your business, a POS solution can keep your business moving forward.
Are you ready to implement a POS system at your gas station?
Heartland is the point of sale, payments and payroll solution of choice for entrepreneurs that need human-centered technology to sell more, keep customers coming back and spend less time in the back office. Nearly 1,000,000 businesses trust us to guide them through market changes and technology challenges, so they can stay competitive and focus on building remarkable businesses instead of managing the daily grind. Learn more at heartland.us.