When it comes to choosing retail point-of-sale systems for a small business, it can be hard to know where to start. What is a POS system in retail? A POS system is the hardware and software used to record the financial transactions of a retail store. Some systems can manage your inventory, reorder products, track consumer purchasing habits and more, which will ultimately increase your overall productivity while saving you money. But given that there are thousands of POS systems on the market, to narrow the field, you should first consider what your business actually needs.
Every business will have its own unique business requirements. If you own a retail store, for example, you’ll need different features than someone who owns a café. Some POS systems are very specific to different types of industries while others are broad enough to suit a wide range of business applications, according to Merchant Maverick. Determine which features are most important to you, since POS systems often specialize in different areas. For example, some are iPad compatible, allow for kitting, vouchers, promotions, tracking batches, taxes and so on. Try looking for users with a similar business model to yours and see what’s been working for them.
2. Setup cost and hardware compatibility
Setting up a POS solution can be a pricey undertaking, as you’ll need to consider both software and hardware when calculating the cost of a POS system for your small business. Hardware requirements for one POS terminal may include a computer or tablet, POS receipt printer, cash drawer, barcode scanner and credit card terminal. Also, most of time, POS software is only compatible with selected models, so make sure you read the documentation before buying hardware. The final thing to consider is whether the POS software is physical or in the cloud. Investigate whether its price changes based on the number of terminals, number of users and/or if there is a licence fee, either one-off or recurring.
3. Inventory tracking
Tracking inventory is an essential part of a POS system, especially when you have multiple branches or a warehouse. If you intend to scale your business, it’s important to choose the right inventory tools from the start. Knowing if you have stock in store, whether any other branches have stock or if there is any incoming stock are common questions that need to be answered on a daily basis in a retail environment. Considerations should not be limited to the above; you should also consider whether a system can allow for the creation of purchase orders from suppliers as well as the transfer of stock between branches. These are all important requirements for managing stock. Many entry-level POS systems offer only basic inventory features, so it pays to look for a POS system that also has a strong inventory aspect. Having a system that does both eliminates the need to use multiple systems as well as any potential restrictions between two unintegrated systems.
Usability of a POS system is incredibly important in a retail environment, due to the number of staff as well as staff turnover. This means the lower barrier to entry, the better, as this reduces both initial training and the likelihood of staff to making errors. The system should be easy to use for both you and your employees. On a day-to-day basis, retail staff will process sales, quotes, returns, laybys and partial payments, so the solution should be intuitive enough that they can understand how to perform each process without having to refer back to a user manual. Doing so may increase their chances of making mistakes, which will in turn affect the integrity of sales data.
In a retail environment, strong reporting is essential, as this means getting the right information to make the right decisions. Tracking sales by rep, branch, product and even customer yields information you can use to generate more sales. The ability to drill down to get very specific data will provide a greater understanding and awareness of your business, so it’s important that the POS solution you consider has this flexibility.
6. Cloud vs physical software
Software is fast moving to the cloud due the flexibility and increased transparency that come with being able to access it anywhere with an Internet connection. If you are looking into an online system as your primary POS, ensure that your Internet connection is reliable. With physical software, you are restricted to it only being available on a specific terminal, which also means that getting sales data can be a lot more difficult. On the other hand, cloud-based POS solutions rely on an Internet connection. If the Internet goes down, so does the POS. There are, however, some cloud POS systems that allow you to continue to trade when the Internet is lost for a period of time, so it pays to check for this form of redundancy when considering a cloud-based solution.
7. Integration with third-party software
When choosing point of sale systems for a small business, consider more than just the features of the POS software itself. Also consider future-proofing the technology in your business to make things easier and more efficient. For example, if your POS solution is integrated with your accounting software, it will eliminate double data entry and reduce your margin for error. Something else to think about: Which eCommerce platforms does your potential POS integrate with? The main benefit of integration is that orders can be centrally managed, with accurate stock figures in real time.