A point of sale (POS) system is the hardware and software used to accept payments from customers. Traditionally, a POS system may have just included a cash register.
In the modern marketplace, POS software is the background program that is used to enhance the capabilities of the register.
It can help you manage your inventory, keep a digital sales history, collect details about customers’ personal information like emails, and even manage your staff.
POS software also connects to your ecommerce store if you have one, which integrates your business seamlessly so you can see a complete picture of your sales.
Some businesses function without POS software, but they may be missing out on unique perks that can bring them more business and streamline their operations.
Managing inventory is a time-consuming part of any business that sells products. When you use POS software, you reduce the amount of time staff dedicates to this chore.
When purchases are made, the system will automatically update your inventory records. Likewise, if returns are made, the item will become automatically available in your inventory again.
Additionally, if your POS extends to an online platform, the inventory management features will prevent sales from occurring when something is out of stock. It will also notify your customer when the item will be in stock again.
The right inventory management system will also notify you when products are low so you can have ample time to reorder them.
Finally, a POS system will allow your staff additional time to dedicate to other necessary activities like assisting customers.
Clean accounting records are another challenge for most businesses; especially those with high sales volumes.
Many POS systems integrate with existing accounting programs like QuickBooks, Xero, or FreshBooks. The POS will update records in real-time, eliminating the need for a bookkeeper to do it at a later point.
Credit cards and debit cards are among the most popular forms of payment.
Accepting these payments and other less common, but emerging forms of payment diversifies the options available to customers.
Traditional card readers may only have the ability to swipe cards using the magnetic strip. This is outdated and considered a higher risk type of transaction.
By using updated hardware/software, you can accept:
Most POS software allows business owners to analyze customer sales data at a level they have never considered before.
After gathering a period of data, your POS can generate reports with information like:
Having access to this data informs your business decisions for the future and allows you to change your marketing strategy as needed. It can also help you identify the weaknesses and strengths of your business.
Beyond analyzing sales patterns, you can use your POS to manage customer information.
You can quickly make a database of customer email addresses to utilize in promotions. Using a phone number to identify customers for rewards programs will lead to repeat customers.
Offering clients a discount on their birthday is another piece of customer data that helps generate sales.
In general, magnetic strip technology is considered much less secure than newer chip or tap to pay technologies. By upgrading your POS, your transactions are more secure.
Credit card fraud is consistently increasing so it’s important to keep your business up to date with the latest in security protection.
There are endless options and configurations available for businesses.
Consider how your customers make purchases and what features you would like to have. Some of the most common components are:
This article just scratches the surface of information to make an informed decision about POS software. The process can seem overwhelming at first!
To choose a system that fits your business, do a self-assessment about the current operating patterns of your business and anticipate how that may change in the future.
Where do most of your transactions currently take place?
What forms of payments do your customers need to have the ability to use?
Will your customers be using the platform or only your staff?
What does your inventory currently look like and how may it change in the future?
Thinking reflectively about where your business is currently and where it may be in the near future will help identify what features are critical and what you may want available for the future.
Ideally, your system should grow with your business.
Real-world use often reveals issues that may not be apparent at a first glance or even after experiencing a demonstration. Search the internet to see what other users have to say about it.
This may include reading reviews about the company overall or about software operation.
You do not want to work with a company that has a boatload of complaints about their service or staff, but reviews can offer insights into functionality challenges.
Are there known issues and if so, is the company releasing software updates to address them?
Does a particular industry face a challenge if they use this software? Sometimes it is a great fit for one type of business but lacks severely for others.
Checking reviews may help you avoid pitfalls you wouldn’t have otherwise recognized.
Implementing a new system comes with some growing pains and a learning curve. Most POS software will offer a demonstration of the product so you can take it for a test drive even before you sign up.
Of course, you will never really get a true feel for how it functions until you implement it in your business, but you can tell a lot from a demonstration.
Many POS systems are intuitive and user-friendly but require some training. Find out what is available and what the company’s customer service looks like.
Are you able to access live help during business hours when needed? Maybe there are training videos your staff can work through.
Be sure to choose a company that will support your transition so you aren’t left not knowing how to use your software.
When choosing POS software, you should be able to import and export your data.
If you have been tracking customer data for some time, you don’t want to start from scratch. Many POS software can upload .csv or other types of files so you can pick up where you left off.
The ability to export your data is equally important if, for some reason, you need to make a change in your POS. Maybe your sales model wildly changes or your business grows and you need new functionality.
You worked hard to mine that data, so you want to keep it.
Often businesses are hesitant to make a change to new technology for fear of unforeseen circumstances that make them regret their decision to make the switch.
If this sounds like you, be sure to review the contract’s fine print. Some processors are contract-free, while others may be month to month.
Hardware and software come with costs. Some may be recurring fees or lease payments, but POS systems are available for purchase outright.
Consider the investment needed to set up your system and how those costs will be offset because of long-term future savings and an increase in sales because of your new capabilities.
POS systems can be powerful, enriching tools for your business. Their features and capabilities can vary widely, but are not limited to:
When choosing a POS software for your business, consider the needs of your business and the habits of your customers. Take the time to research the hardware you’ll need.
Finally, find a company that will support software implementation, help you move your data, and do this all at a cost that makes sense to make the change worthwhile.
Taking the time to research and compare POS systems is critical. You will undoubtedly rely on your system every single business day.
By choosing a POS that fits your needs and is manageable for your business and customers, you’ll avoid the need to make a change because of something easily avoidable like a missing feature.
Our top picks for POS Software are: