How To Choose The Right Point-of-Sale (POS) System

The point-of-sale, or POS, system, is the tool that facilitates transactions between a business and their customers—think cash register, but for the digital age. But beyond facilitating transactions, POS systems provide integral support to today's businesses. They collect data on inventory and customer habits, and play a key role in the customer experience

The point-of-sale, or POS, system, is the tool that facilitates transactions between a business and their customers—think cash register, but for the digital age. But beyond facilitating transactions, POS systems provide integral support to today's  businesses. They collect data on inventory and customer habits, and play a key role in the customer experience. So for a business owner, the choice of a POS system can be a daunting one. There are literally hundreds of options out there, and for the uninformed, it can be hard to know what differentiates one from another. For business owners who are tussling with this decision, I have a few tips I'd like to share:

One size does not fit all

First, a word of warning. As a small business owner it may seem easiest to go with a “one-size-fits-all” point-of-sale. These systems are advertised as perfect for any business. Unfortunately, these types of POS systems are often restrictive for business owners. They lock hardware, software, and payment processing together in one contract, which makes switching unnecessarily difficult.In addition to being restrictive, one-size-fits-all POS systems are not as cheap as they seem. These systems will draw in merchants by claiming that they offer free hardware, while failing to mention high processing rates. Don’t make the mistake of selecting a POS based exclusively on how costly the hardware is. Make sure to look at the long-term effects your decision will have on your wallet.

Choosing the right POS for you

So, now that you understand the dangers of picking the wrong POS, what POS is the best fit for your business? First, consider what type of business you are running. Many industries, such as restaurants, hair salons, and clothing stores have specialized POS systems available. Restaurants run very differently from clothing stores, so why would they use the same POS system? Even different business types in the same industry can be vastly different. A food truck and a sit-down restaurant do the same thing, but they can’t operate in the same way. Each needs a POS system that helps them to serve their customers best. Your business is no different.When possible, find a POS system that is tailored for the unique needs of a business in your industry. These systems won’t require you to make any operational changes and often come with additional features that a more generic POS system might not have.Another factor to consider is whether your POS needs to work on-the-go. If you operate out of a single location, a locally-installed POS will be sufficient. But if you ever take business on the road, consider looking into a cloud-based POS system that will work properly no matter where you go. Though they are still a pretty recent development, cloud-based POS systems are rapidly evolving and have some incredibly convenient features.

What does a good POS look like?

In addition to fitting your business type and industry, a good POS will help you increase your business’ revenue. This increase can come from the ability to offer online ordering, gift card programs, and customer loyalty programs through the POS, or it can come from savings brought by POS features such as inventory and sales trend analyzation. In that same vein, a good POS system should give you a bang for your buck. Unfortunately, when it comes to your POS system, you have to spend money to make money. POS systems are not free—or even cheap. However, there are things to consider that will allow you to get all the features you need without breaking the bank:1. Software and HardwareWhen it comes to breaking down the price of a POS, software is one of the simpler pieces to understand. There are two main options: paying a one-time licensing fee or paying a monthly subscription price. Some POS systems offer one or the other, and some offer both. If you have the budget to pay a one-time licensing fee, it might be the cheaper option in the long run. If you’d prefer to spread the cost out, go monthly.Hardware, on the other hand, is completely dependent on your size and personal needs. From a simple card reader and cash drawer for small businesses to multiple POS terminals for larger ones, POS hardware can be catered to your exact needs. Once you've chosen a POS system, find out what hardware they support, and choose what works for you.2. IntegrationsAnother aspect of your POS decision is which, if any, third-party integrations you will need to supplement your system. The most important integration to consider is your payment processor. A good POS system will allow for integration with a number of payment processors and gateways. This ensures that you won’t be locked in to a processor, as you typically are with one-size-fits-all systems. This mobility affords you the opportunity to switch easily and seamlessly should you feel the need to drop a costly processing contract. If you use accounting software, make sure your POS system integrates into it, either directly or through your payments gateway. This makes tracking your money much easier, and takes a lot of work off of your shoulders.

The Decision

When it comes down to it, a POS system should be catered to your business’ unique needs. Stay away from one-size-fits all systems without the flexibility and support your company deserves. Instead, keep in mind your industry specific models, your software, hardware, and integration options, and any features you may want to add down the line. The right POS system will make running your business easier and improve your customer experience without restricting mobility.

Michael Seaman

Michael is the co-founder and CEO of Swipesum. A veteran of the payments industry, Michael and his brother Stephen have led Swipesum since its inception in 2016. In his free time, Michael likes to play with his two daughters and skateboard.

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