Waitress working at a pub and talking on the phone taking a delivery order.
Today’s modern point-of-sale (POS) systems come with a lot of features. Knowing which ones your business needs will prevent you from overpaying for a service you won’t use. — Getty Images/andresr

Today’s modern point-of-sale (POS) systems have many bells and whistles. Knowing which ones your business needs prevents you from overpaying for a service you won’t use. Many POS providers are designed to grow with your business, providing add-on features that you can “turn on” as you need them. No matter which stage you are at in the business growth cycle, these features are the ones that all small businesses likely need.

Integrated payments processing: accept all types of payments

A POS system is essentially a modern-day cash register. But today’s customers are shopping with more than just cash: Payment methods range from credit and debit cards to mobile payments like Apple Pay and Google Pay to e-commerce payments. Your POS should be able to accept all forms of payment and centralize your sales data in one place.

“Without integrated payment processing, merchants need to manually enter customer credit and debit card information (similar to using virtual terminals), meaning every time you make a sale, you need to spend extra time keying in information that could be entered automatically,” wrote The Ascent.

Integrated payment processing expedites the checkout process, reduces errors, and improves customer satisfaction by allowing shoppers to pay the way they want.

Inventory management: know when to reorder and reduce deadstock

The right POS system can help business owners manage inventory, as well as the associated paperwork and accounting. Tracking inventory through a POS system means that any time a customer makes a return or a purchase, inventory levels are updated automatically. This feature also helps you understand which items are bestsellers and what unpopular products could be weighing down your bottom line.

“A POS system helps keep ordering costs low by telling you when exactly to order,” wrote QuickBooks.

Many systems can be configured to automatically submit a reorder request so you never run out of a key ingredient or product.

[Read more: Choosing the Best POS System for Your Company]

Your POS should be able to accept all forms of payment and centralize your sales data in one place.

HR tools: scheduling, payroll, and more

Scheduling hourly employees is often one of the most time-consuming tasks for business owners, who often wade through text messages, emails, scribbled notes, and wrack their memory to cobble together an employee schedule. Many POS systems feature apps that can handle employee scheduling and other key human resources activities for you.

“At a basic level, make sure your system comes with unlimited employee roles so that each team member can use the platform (with the right level of access and permissions),” wrote Clover. “Reward your top people by keeping track of sales numbers. Set up team commissions. Save time spent scheduling shifts. Run payroll—with the right taxes factored in—with features integrated into your POS system.”

For businesses without hourly workers, look for a platform that keeps track of payroll taxes and can even help with hiring.

Reporting tools: identify loyal customers and track sales

Sales reporting is essential so you know how your business is performing at all times. Sales reports can show you the peak sales times, bestselling items, whether your promotions are working, and opportunities to bundle or cross-sell certain products. Plus, these reports give you important financial information, such as your cash flow, financial projections, and expense reports so you can see where your business stands in real time.

24/7 customer support

Finally, look for a POS provider that you can quickly reach when something goes wrong. If there’s an issue with your system, you want to be able to get help ASAP so you never miss a sale. Ask each POS provider how you can reach them and what the wait times typically are for support. Do they offer live chat or email support? Can they provide training for new team members who are onboarding to the system?

[Read more: Need a Mobile Point-of-Sale System? Here's What You Need to Know]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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