Finding the right POS system means considering your needs and your budget.

Point-of-sale (POS) systems combine several business utilities into a single solution. They can be used not only to handle purchases, but also to automatically calculate discounts, keep tabs on inventory and even track payroll. Between streamlining transactions, connecting various business functions and increasing payment security, POS systems have a lot to offer companies of varying sizes across industries.

This guide will help you find and implement the POS system that’s right for your company by:

  1. Discussing how POS systems work
  2. Listing the different kinds of POS software and hardware
  3. Discussing how to pick the perfect POS system for your business
  4. Detailing how to implement a POS system at your company

How do POS systems work?

POS systems consist of both hardware and software.

Its hardware can vary, but it typically consists of at least a cash drawer and a transaction terminal. This setup is quite common and you’ve probably seen it at your local grocery store. Some POS systems may also include other, more specialized hardware depending on the company’s products and transaction process(es).

POS system software is responsible for binding all of this hardware together. It also connects all of the sales and processing apps that make a POS system work. This hardware and software work in tandem to make business transactions go smoothly, and, as previously mentioned, manage a host of other functions for your business. These functions can include, but are not limited to:

Processing payments. A POS system's chief function is automating the payment process. Not only can most POS systems complete transactions, but they can also automatically calculate payment modifiers like sales tax, loyalty programs and promotional discounts.

Inventory management. POS systems make it easy to check on a business’s inventory. Since companies already utilize them to process transactions, it makes sense that they can be used to keep tabs on the amount of inventory that remains to be sold.

Accounting. Many POS systems can tie into a business’s accounting software and related apps. This functionality can make it simple for business owners to review their books.

Employee activities. POS systems can function as a human resources digital assistant. They can track employee hours, benefits and paid time off, among other metrics. These tracking functions can make POS systems handy reference guides and can simplify referencing employee records.

There are many kinds of POS software and hardware out there — business owners can mix and match various solutions to best suit their company’s individual needs.

What POS system software and hardware options are available?

There are many kinds of POS software and hardware out there — business owners can mix and match various solutions to best suit their company’s individual needs.

Software

There are several types of POS software to consider. Their prices depend on your company’s operating system and how many points of sale your business has. Many of them also charge up-front usage and pre-configuration fees, followed by monthly payments that can vary wildly depending on your company’s requirements.

Mobile POS software. This is one of the most common kinds of POS software and is optimized to display on both smartphones and tablets. Although most POS apps are quite straightforward, many of them also lack the extensive features mentioned in the previous section, such as HR and accounting utilities. This software is thus generally best suited for small businesses.

Terminal POS software. Terminal software is designed for large companies that conduct transactions across multiple locations, such as grocery store chains. This software typically contains the aforementioned inventory tracking, accounting and employee metrics that can make POS systems useful for much more than reading credit cards.

Self-service POS software. This employee-free software is used to power autonomous solutions like grocery stores’ self-checkout kiosks. Indeed, this type of software is useful if you don’t need or have employees at the ready to assist with transactions, though most self-service software can link to people-powered POS systems if needed.

Hardware

Even the most cutting-edge POS software needs hardware to be of any use. Though hardware needs can vary among companies just as much as software requirements, there are still a few physical tools that all business owners can consider.

Tablets and smartphones. It’s not uncommon for smaller businesses to run their POS systems on tablets or even smartphones. These devices are little more complex than the mobile POS software that is designed to run on them, and they also make it easy to attach and run peripherals that can read credit cards. These features make these products ideal for small business owners.

POS terminals. Terminals are the most sophisticated tools for business transactions and allow both employees and customers to simplify the purchasing process. Terminals fluctuate in price and sophistication, but all of them are capable of making basic transactions possible. These machines are generally ideal for large companies and storefronts.

Printers. Printers are an essential for many storefronts and companies. Though some POS software systems allow employees to email digital receipts to customers, some still prefer holding a physical receipt in the palm of their hand.

Though hardware like the gadgets mentioned here is great for covering the basics, you might need additional equipment depending on what your company offers and how you transact business with customers. It’s a great idea to consider tools like barcode readers, self-checkout terminals and other devices as needed.

How do I pick the right POS system for my company?

POS systems don’t offer a one-size-fits-all solution, but that’s okay. While finding the ideal setup for your company may take some legwork, POS systems’ versatility also means that you can tailor your point-of-sale ecosystem to suit your precise business needs. The following is a list of factors to consider when shopping for a POS system.

Budget. Budget is one of the most important things to contemplate when searching for a POS setup. There are more budget factors to think about than just a POS system’s initial costs. How much do you want to pay per month? Does the system’s pricing seem fair? Does the vendor charge extra for customizing any software or apps? Does the system offer a fair amount of features for the vendor’s asking price?

Ease of use. POS systems can be intuitive, but they can also be quite complex. How sophisticated does your system need to be in order for your business to be effective? Additionally, you may want to consider how easily a POS system integrates with your existing mix of apps. Perhaps most crucially, if a problem crops up, does the product offer quality customer service and technical support?

Features. Perhaps you want a POS system that can track everything from transactions to employee hours. Maybe you only need little more than a digital cash register. Either way, it’s effective to carefully consider what you’re looking to get out of a POS system. There are a few features that business owners can think about no matter the size of their company, including customer ease of use, data storage and whether it’s easy to scale your system up alongside your business.

How do I install a POS system?

Once you’ve picked a POS system that suits your business, it’s time to install it. Because POS systems vary so widely, there’s no one set of installation guidelines that applies to all of them. There are still, however, a few ground rules that can help you get the most out of your POS system.

Software setup. Many POS system vendors attempt to make their software as straightforward as possible. A good first step is to check your POS system’s website for assistance options and tutorials. Some companies may charge extra if your software has to be pre-configured or otherwise modified before shipping.

Hardware setup. Place terminals, tablets, printers and card readers where they can easily be accessed by both customers and employees. If your POS system features accounting, human resources or inventory utilities, you can install it on the relevant hardware to synchronize your business or storefront. Many POS apps and devices are designed to connect via Bluetooth.

Customer service. As previously mentioned, it’s never a bad idea to find a POS provider that has excellent customer service. Check user reviews for the most accurate information on these providers’ technical support. Great customer service can help you ensure that you’re getting what you pay for and that you’re maximizing your POS system’s overall effectiveness.

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.

Published February 25, 2019