Find & Compare the Best POS Systems
Need help choosing? Check out the 10 best POS systems.
Every business sells something, be that a physical commodity or a service. Your ‘point of sale’ is simply the place where customers make their order and money changes hands.
POS systems, then, are a set of tools and software designed to make this process simpler for businesses to implement and maintain.
They’re sometimes also called POPs, for ‘Point of Purchase’ systems.
To give a very basic example, think of the registers at a supermarket. They’re what the staff use to process your order, and they mean they don’t have to do complicated mathematics in their head.
But nowadays, those registers can also do other things. They’ll update a database on one of the supermarket’s computers to reduce the shop’s inventory and mark your purchase in its accounting software.
They might even send a message to your mobile phone with a discount on your next purchase. As you can see, modern, electronic point of sale systems are incredibly powerful.
With any new technology, it’s tempting to ask what the point is. Don’t cash registers work just fine? While those registers aren’t going anywhere soon, they come with several limitations that more modern point of sale systems answer.
Let’s consider a few ways introducing an electronic POS system could improve your business.
This is the biggest factor. Asking your employees to work out how much each payment is and also keep track of the shop’s money means that they’re often spending more time working as accountants than making sales or providing customer service.
Digital POS systems are simpler, and therefore more efficient, than traditional methods.
Rather than opening up a physical cash register, the customer can simply hold their credit card against a tablet, or scan a barcode. The entire process takes a few seconds, if that.
On any given day, your business will (hopefully!) be making hundreds of sales. While this is great news, there’s a hidden risk.
Closing a sale repetitive work where it’s easy to make mistakes: calculating a wrong charge, forgetting to apply a discount, mistyping a digit.
Even if each individual error is small, they can add up quickly and seriously eat into your turnover.
Electronic point of sale systems vastly remove the opportunity for error by dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s for you.
Assuming the system is set up right, the computer will make sure that your books always balance. Say goodbye to mysterious discrepancies in your figures!
Integration is always the name of the game when it comes to getting your business working as one unified whole.
Time spent manually updating your inventory every time you make a sale is time that you could be spending making more sales.
The best POS systems easily integrate with other software to automate the busywork and accounting of closing a deal, letting you focus on the more challenging aspects of your business.
One extra benefit of this that you might not expect is how it enables greater and more flexible reporting.
It’s trivial for a POS system to tally up your transactions for the day and turn them into graphs and charts that make reading flash reports easy and informative.
There are a lot of different kinds of businesses that have to handle money. As you might expect, that means there are also different kinds of POS systems.
It’s important to get a point of sale system that fits your style of business, so here are the most common types.
These are the easiest point of sale systems to understand. Customers are used to going up to the front of a shop to finish a purchase, and a counter-based POS is what handles that.
In terms of implementation, it’ll typically include hardware such as barcode scanners, receipt printers, and cash drawers, plus software to bring them all together.
More and more stores are seeing the value in having purchasing options that aren’t stuck in one fixed place, like counters.
With the rise of portable tablets, it’s easy to install a POS system on one of them and go to the customer, rather than making them come to you.
P.S., ‘mobile’ here means ‘moveable’, not ‘smartphone’. That said, it’s very common for POS systems to work with smartphone payment options, like Apple Pay.
To take things a step further, what about a purchasing option that doesn’t have a physical location at all?
Ecommerce is rapidly becoming the dominant way to buy products in almost every industry, so it’s worth investing in a stable, robust POS for your online trade.
An extra benefit is that online, you’re not limited by the number of staff. Rather than customers having to wait for someone to be free to take their order, they can make a purchase at their own convenience.
You may have noticed a potential problem with the other kinds of POS.
It’s this: using two different systems for your online sales and another for brick-and-mortar commerce is often a recipe for disaster.
What if someone buys the last product in one of your stores, but your websites don’t get updated to say it’s out of stock? It’s an easy way to get your customers frustrated.
Omni-channel systems combat this by presenting a unified payment platform for your entire business, online and off.
They integrate with your logistics and inventory systems to cut down on miscommunication and outdated information.
To put it simply, point of sale systems are only as secure as you make them. While the companies that develop them put a lot of time and energy into making them hard to crack, it’s still a major weak point for many companies.
By definition, customers have greater access to point of sale systems than almost any other part of a business’ infrastructure. This gives hackers or thieves an unrivalled opportunity to sabotage the systems for their own gain.
If you put in the effort and stay vigilant, however, you don’t have anything to worry about. Here are a few quick tips for keeping your POS secure:
There are two things to consider when budgeting for a new POS system: the up-front price, and the transaction charges. While free point of sale systems do exist, the vast majority of solutions out there charge a monthly fee.
This is often split into differently-priced plans, which come with different sets of features and customer support. Shopkeep, for example, has tiers ranging from $50 a month to nearly $180.
But that’s only the first thing to think of. Most POS vendors also charge a transaction fee for every sale you make using their software. This is only ever a low amount – in the realm of one to three percent – but it can quickly eat into your projected profits.
As you might expect, there are systems that try to stand out by making one of these parts free. Vend, for example, has no transaction charges in exchange for a higher monthly fee.
Price has already been covered, so let’s think about some of the less obvious factors you should keep in mind when putting down money for a POS system.
Your first consideration should be whether or not it fits your style of business. If you’re a fully online eCommerce company, you should stay away from any solution that relies on physical hardware.
After that, you should consider whether you want the system to be on-site or cloud-based.
Those terms make it sound more complicated than it is. Essentially, you can either have your POS installed on your local machines, or hosted by another company that you connect to through the internet. Here’s some things to note about cloud-based point of sale systems:
Next up – and this is a big one – how easy is the system to use?
It’s common sense that your sales process should be as quick and seamless as possible if you don’t want customers to get frustrated and give up. As such, your POS needs to be fast, simple and account for common mistakes (scanning the wrong barcode, for instance).
Ideally, the customer and your staff should have to babysit the system as little as possible. The more complicated it grows, the easier it becomes for mistakes to start biting back into your turnover.
As an additional point, the simplicity of the system directly affects how long it’ll take to train your staff to use it. They should be able not just to use it, but feel confident in using it: after all, this is one of the most important parts of your business.
The final thing to consider is how well the system integrates with the rest of your company.
If you have to spend time manually moving over information and updating figures every time you make a sale, you’re not getting any benefit from using modern point of sale systems.
Find one that can talk to the software you use for tracking inventory, your customer management software and your accounting solution. Setting everything up to work together can take a bit of time at the start, but it’s worth it in the time you’ll save down the line.
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