Tablet computers and cloud-delivered point-of-sale (POS) applications are rewriting the rules for retail technology solutions – especially for small businesses and startups.
I've written about this trend a number of times and the latest example you should investigate – especially if your business needs something that will work across multiple sorts of hardware – is ZingCheckout, from a company of the same name.
ZingCheckout is a cloud-delivered POS software application that can run on anything from a smartphone to traditional POS checkout hardware. You could even use it on a desktop computer if you want.
It supports the sort of features that small companies look for in a POS solution, including the ability to ring out items by using a barcode scanner, a broad inventory and product category database that can generate barcodes for each item, and sales trending reports.
It also supports a couple of things you might not expect: the creation of digital receipts that can be emailed to customers (which is a great marketing tool) and service for getting you listed better in search engine results, especially if your business is generating decent social media traffic.
The free version of the software supports up to 50 products and 200 transactions per month; if you want a broader range of features, plus unlimited productions, transactions and users, you'll need to pay $49 per month per branch.
The owner of Red Chapter Clothing, one of the company's customers from Whittier, Calif., estimates that ZingCheckout's social features have increased the number of customers in his store by 20 percent. Support contracts cost more, starting at $500 for up to five hours of support for the first branch.
The company runs a program called the Retail Startup Initiative to encourage new business owners to try its Premium Solution for up to three months for free, including startup assistance and support.
Mike Townsend, founder of ZingCheckout, said his company is targeting new retailers and those that might be using the Square mobile payments solution. Many of its earliest customers hail from the apparel industry. But it also supports a number of other sorts of storefronts, including beauty salons, toy stores, jewelers or hobby shops.
While the focus is on brick and mortar options, when I spoke with Townsend in the early summer, he said ZingCheckout will eventually be integrated with the Magento e-commerce platform.