A Point of Sale (POS) system is a physical device or digital software that enable businesses to accept card payments. Point of sale payment systems are a vital cog in the entire checkout process and a must for every consumer facing business, regardless of size or sector. Below, we take a look at the four things you must consider when choosing the best POS system for small businesses:
1. Select the Right POS System for Your Business
Most POS system manufacturers provide business specific POS solutions. These are typically targeted at retail businesses, restaurants and hotels. Let’s take a look at these solutions in detail:
a. Retail POS Systems
Speed, efficiency and in-depth tracking/reporting tools are key requirements for retail customers. Retail POS systems are custom coded to handle large transaction volumes where products might have little variation (a shoe store, for instance, will sell only shoes). Most retail systems also have sales reporting and tracking features baked-in.
b. Restaurant/Hotel POS Systems
Restaurants and hotels have different needs than retailers. In a business where speed is essential to good service, the ability to check out products quickly is highly valued. Restaurant POS systems, therefore, use simplified UIs with touch screen based terminals. Most systems can also be combined with order tracking displays in the cooking area to ensure correct orders.
2. Select the Right POS System: Physical or Virtual
Business owners today have a choice between physical or virtual POS systems. Each of these systems has its own advantages and disadvantages:
a. Physical POS: This is the POS system you are most familiar with – a computer screen with a cash box and an attached receipt printer. Physical POS systems are stable, sturdy performers that can handle a large transaction volume. Unfortunately, they tend to be expensive, and lack extensive customization, tracking and reporting features. Additionally, they tend to be tied to one physical location and can accommodate only one user at a time.
b. Virtual POS: Virtual POS systems are a relatively new development. Essentially, this is a cloud based software that runs online and can be accessed from any computer. You can connect your computer/tablet/phone to a card reader to conduct transactions or accept cash. The primary advantage is portability – you can carry and access your ‘terminal’ (i.e. laptop or mobile device) from anywhere. Virtual POS systems also have more modern UIs and better integration with sales and reporting tools. They also tend to be far cheaper than their physical counterparts, although they can be a little slow for businesses that see a lot of transactions each day.
3. Select the Right Hardware
A basic POS system consists of an input device – a keyboard, scanner or touch screen – a cash box, and a receipt printer. The advantages of each are as follows:
a. Touch Screen: Most businesses have transitioned to touch screen POS displays in the last few years. Touch screens are an ideal input-type for POS systems – they are easy to use, efficient and can be custom programmed. A downside is the slightly higher cost associated with touch screen displays.
b. Keyboard: The standard keyboard + mouse combination has been a long standing feature of POS systems. Most POS system keyboards ship with software to programme individual keys for specific functions. Keyboards with built in magnetic card readers are also becoming increasingly common of late.
c. Scanners: Barcode scanners send the included product information to the POS computer. Scanners are a staple of grocery stores. Businesses that see a lot of transactions should seriously consider investing in a high quality barcode scanner.
Virtual POS systems can be used with any internet enabled computing device. You can also hook up keyboards and scanners with virtual systems to ease the checkout process.
4. Select the Right Software
You have the option of either buying integrated hardware + software POS systems, or buying both software and hardware separately. With the latter option, you have more freedom of choice, while integrated systems are more convenient as a single vendor takes care of both hardware and software.
When buying a POS system software, keep the following in mind:
a. Business Specific Features: The POS system should offer features custom-made for your business type. Hotels and restaurants POS software, for instance, should have a reservation and seat management system built-in. Retail systems, on the other hand, should have quick checkout and in-depth sales tracking.
b. Accounting Software: The POS software should have basic accounting features baked right in. You should also be able to connect it with third party accounting.
c. Customer Relationship Management (CRM): CRM tools help businesses track and manage customers. Close integration with popular small business CRM solutions is a must.
d. Compatibility: If you’re buying the POS hardware and software separately, ensure that the two are compatible with each other. Older hardware might not be able to run new software.
Most POS vendors will be more than happy to provide you with a free demo or trial version of their software. Play around with trial software from different vendors before settling on something that meets your requirements.
POS systems can improve the efficiency of your business drastically. They can also help you make more sales and understand your customers better. Investing in a quality POS system is the first step in streamlining your business, maximizing sales, and increasing profits.
Sarah is a keen blogger who enjoys writing about topics which affect small business owners and regularly contributes to various blogs.