Retailers rely on the internet for their operations, no matter what specific retail industry they're in. Point-of-Sale systems require internet connectivity in order to process credit and debit cards, as well as maintain uninterrupted communication between terminals. Processing sales transactions can come to a screeching halt when the internet fails due to an outage or network connectivity interruption.
But this doesn't mean your business has to shut down just because the internet does. Enabling your Point-of-Sale system to shift into Offline Mode as soon as there's a disruption in internet service can keep you in business—literally.
Choosing a POS system, in general, is no easy task. Choosing one that offers the best Offline Mode functionality available on the market today can be even harder. This article is meant to help you determine which kind of POS system with Offline Mode would be best for your business so that your retail store remains active and never comes to a screeching halt during an internet outage again.
HOW POINT-OF-SALE SYSTEMS NORMALLY OPERATE
A Point-of-Sale system, or POS system, is the system a retail store utilizes to process sales transactions. When a customer pays for goods or services at a retail location, both the customer and the cashier engage in a point-of-sale transaction. A POS system can be as simple as accepting cash payments and making change, or so complex that it processes payments on a digital platform while collecting valuable customer data as well as detailed transaction records in the background. These days, most Point-of-Sale systems are computer-based and rely on the internet to complete credit and debit card payment transactions.
Today's typical POS system closely resembles a PC, or personal computer. Functioning computers require both hardware and software components and use web-based internet applications to operate online. POS systems operate the same way. A Point-of-Sale system includes hardware, i.e. physical payment processing registers with screen displays; software, i.e. the data-collecting interface that cashiers utilize; and an internet connection that enables the POS system to communicate with banking institutions in real-time to process credit and debit card transactions. These three components—hardware, software, and internet connectivity—are critical to maintaining normal POS operations.
Additionally, fully functional Point-of-Sale systems that are operating normally will also offer:
- • Advanced inventory management capabilities
- • Customer relationship management software
- • Split tenders that enable multiple customers to pay the same bill
- • Employee time card, commissions, spiffs, and transaction tracking
As you can see, the POS system is essentially the "brain" of a retail store. Any interruption in POS functionality could cause the entire business to seize up, which means that staying operational, i.e. "online," should be a retailer's top priority.
THE VULNERABILITIES OF FULLY CLOUD-BASED POS SYSTEMS
In an effort to offer "online" POS systems that ensure retailers are able to keep up with banking technologies and payment processing protocols, Point-of-Sale solutions providers developed cloud-based POS systems. A cloud-based POS system is a computerized Point-of-Sale system that stores all of its data online. This means that all of the POS hardware devices that a retailer uses require a stable internet connection to function. Cloud-based POS systems come with undeniable benefits that support business operations and ultimately make everyone's life easier. These benefits include the ability to log on and utilize the POS from any device with an internet connection. This frees business owners up to manage their POS systems from the office, from home, and even while on vacation. A cloud-based POS system also provides frequent and automatic software upgrades and updates, ensuring that retailers always have the latest POS features at their fingertips. What could possibly go wrong?
A simple loss of network connectivity will bring a cloud-based POS system to a sudden halt. Meaning, if a retailer's internet goes down, their entire business will come to a screeching halt. Cashiers will not be able to process transactions at the checkout registers. A loss of sales will result, and depending on how long it takes to regain network connectivity, a retailer's losses could really add up.
Additional disadvantages to cloud-based POS systems include:
- • Internet-dependent restrictions, i.e. cloud-based POS systems require a constant internet connection
- • Non-customizable features, i.e. cloud-based POS systems tend to lack detailed customization capabilities
- • Limited customer support, i.e. depending on the provider and specific POS package, the customer support and technical support teams might not regard your loss of internet connectivity as an emergency and assist you accordingly
A fully cloud-based POS system has a major Achilles' heel, which is that if the internet goes down, so will the entire POS system. This isn't to suggest that retailers should avoid cloud-based POS systems. The benefits of using a cloud-based POS system at your retail store far outweigh the main vulnerabilities that come along with it. Ideally, you do not want your POS system to have any vulnerabilities, and that's where "Offline Mode" comes in.
WHAT IS OFFLINE MODE?
In the most basic sense, "Offline Mode" refers to a computerized system's ability to function when internet connectivity is lost. Many cloud-based software solutions come with built-in offline modes, such as Google Docs. Even smartphones offer limited functionality when WiFi and cell service is disconnected. This limited functionality is referred to as "Airplane Mode." Concerning POS systems, however, defining Offline Mode can be tricky. Not all offline modes are created equal and not all offline modes offer the same operational functionality when the internet goes down. Plus, the complexity of your POS system will impact what your Offline Mode can and cannot do. For instance, if your system incorporates many hardware devices such as receipt printers, printer-driven cash drawers, and kitchen & bar printers for full-service restaurants, each device requires the internet to communicate and each device will offer its own degree of offline functionality.
That being said, there are common offline features that most POS systems with Offline Mode include. At the very least, an offline POS mode should allow a retailer to remain logged in with an ability to seamlessly process cash payments. Other standard features of Offline Mode encompass varying degrees of receipt printing, automatic cash drawer opening, and automatic data syncing when internet activity resumes. You can think of Offline Mode as a sailboat's motor. More than 99% of the time, a sailboat uses wind power, but in the event that there's no wind or the sails tear, the motor will kick on to power the boat for the duration of time it takes to either mend the sails or journey into a strong gust of wind. The motor isn't meant to be the sole source of power, but only to be used in an emergency. Also, you wouldn't want to use the motor too long, because the gasoline in the sailboat's tank is limited.
The following two POS system types can effectively utilize Offline Mode:
- • Cloud-based POS systems can utilize Offline Mode to perform reasonable functions while network connectivity interruptions occur. These systems engage a backup internet source, such as Bluetooth, a secondary broadband provider, or a connected smartphone hotspot.
- • Hybrid POS systems employ sophisticated modes of offline functionality. These POS systems combine all the benefits of cloud-based and locally installed POS features to provide highly reliable solutions that keep retailers operating using local servers so they never lose a sale.
Whether your retail location uses a cloud-based POS system, a locally installed POS system, or a hybrid combination of the two, configuring your system to include Offline Mode is a must. As we'll examine in the next section, installing a hybrid POS system can afford you the best of both worlds and keep you in business when your internet or network connectivity fails.
THE BENEFITS OF HYBRID POS SYSTEMS
A hybrid POS system merges the convenience and flexibility of a cloud-based POS with the reliability of a traditional Point-of-Sale system. What's so reliable about a traditional POS? Also referred to as "legacy POS," traditional POS systems run on a closed internal network that does not rely on the internet. This closed network stores data locally, which means stored data is safe, secure, and accessible no matter what. Can legacy POS systems process credit and debit cards without connecting to the internet? The answer is, no, which is why these systems have been upgraded with internet and network connectivity.
Hybrid POS systems are considered revolutionary because they are better equipped to handle internet disruptions, which can save retailers time, money, and aggravation in the long run. The Offline Modes offered by hybrid POS systems tend to be sturdier and more reliable than any other options thanks to their accessible features, streamlined hardware, and remote capabilities. With a hybrid system, data is automatically saved to the local server at intervals of your choosing so that in the event of an internet outage, you can continue to record transactions without losing data.
A hybrid Point-of-Sale system can be a retailer's secret weapon in the following ways:
- • Maintain terminal communication while Offline Mode is engaged
- • Process transactions on multiple terminals in Offline Mode
- • Employees can clock in and out on multiple devices during an internet outage
- • Access valuable customer data whether online or offline
- • Generate reports whether online or offline
Interested in learning about one of the best POS systems for retailers who want an Offline Mode that can support their business needs? Keep reading to find out...
THE IDEAL POS SYSTEM BROUGHT TO YOU BY FTX SOLUTIONS
The Point-of-Sale system offered by FTx Solutions includes POS offline mode capabilities that will keep you in business despite network interruptions and hardware failure. Our reliable POS system provides built-in tools to assist you in syncing databases and operations so that your registers' databases never experience prolonged downtime or detrimental network connectivity interruptions.
FTx POS Offline Mode synchronizes in the background, syncing the SQL database of your main registers with the remaining supporting registers on the sync schedule of your choosing—hourly, daily, or manually. If and when a network connectivity interruption occurs, Offline Mode will automatically engage, providing your business with seamless, continued operational use of your POS registers. Once the network connection is restored, Offline Mode will yield, becoming dormant so that Online Mode takes over as usual.
How does Offline Mode function with this level of intelligence? FTx POS Offline Mode creates a copied database of your store's and registers' static data. This data is required to maintain operations, and by automatically synchronizing copies in this manner, Offline Mode will have all the information it needs to continue operations if and when a network connection is lost. As long as Offline Mode is set up to automatically take over, your POS system will immediately "detect" any loss of network connection and a pop-up will appear on the POS screen, prompting the cashier to go offline.
With FTx POS, setting up Offline Mode is as straightforward as logging into the applicable secondary POS and following along to the simple-to-follow document or webinar. However, the FTx POS Technical Support team would be more than happy to personally assist you through this process to ensure that Offline Mode is properly set up to your unique specifications the first time.
Our Point-of-Sale Solutions also include a powerful suite of integrated tools that will fully automate your POS system, manage your inventory, control your price book, track and reconcile lottery sales, track and report employee hours, manage your loyalty campaigns, and generate comprehensive customer history reports.
What features do our customers love most about FTx POS?
FTx Solutions has partnered with Hewlett Packard to offer a 3-year on-site warranty for computers and a 3-year advanced replacement on all peripherals purchased through FTx.
FTx Handheld is a handheld, wireless device that provides users with desktop-level POS performance in the palm of their hand. Our Handheld interface enables users to perform inventory functions accurately and easily.
FTx Director is the heart of our software suite. This solution will streamline your back office and / or corporate office responsibilities, including managing your price book, scheduling employee shifts, controlling your inventory, and much more.
A premium upgrade, FTx Uplift is your cashiers' best friend when it comes to upselling and cross-selling at the registers. Generate impulse sales at the checkout and offer added value to your customers with Uplift pop-up scripts that automatically trigger when item UPC codes are scanned at the registers. Your cashiers simply read the sales scripts that pop up and customers will be incentivized to impulse buy at the checkout registers.
Tracking employee hours is no longer a headache when you use the Time Clock that's built into our state-of-the-art POS system. In addition to accurately tracking employee hours, our Time Clock offers rich reporting features that allow you to export data to CSV for bookkeeping, accounting, and payroll integration purposes.
FTx POS has integrated biometric fingerprint technology to enhance POS security. This technology eliminates the need for using management codes and employee passwords. Put an end to "buddy punching" and dishonest employee habits once and for all with FTx Biometric Security.
Lottery tickets sold through FTx POS registers are automatically assigned game numbers and roll counts. At the end of each shift, cashiers can quickly and easily reconcile their lottery sales using either the POS, Handheld device, or the Back Office system. The next day's starting count is perpetual based on the ending count that was last entered.
FTx Director offers rich, detailed reporting that has the power to granularly track your sales and inventory. Schedule commonly run reports to generate automatically, create preformatted reports that will easily import into your accounting software, and stay informed about your business's bottom line with FTx Reporting.
Are you satisfied with your current POS system's Offline Mode capabilities? If you're ready to get on the fast track to POS invincibility, FTx POS is the Point-of-Sale solutions provider for you. To learn more about our POS, Offline Mode, and the retail industries we serve, schedule a free demo today.