Not all POS (or Point of Sale) systems are created equally. And that’s a good thing – the last thing you need is to be overspending on one and getting a critical piece of business IT infrastructure that doesn’t adequately meet your company’s needs.
While there are “one size fits all” POS systems, they tend to be ‘jack of all trades, master of none’-type solutions. So it’s worth considering a number of different factors when deciding which one is for you. You may want to check out our overview of the best POS systems – in addition to the best mobile payment apps – to help inform your decision.
Before we get onto our top three considerations when choosing a POS system – those being price, mobile or countertop, and features – you need to consider security. The last thing your company needs is to be hit with charges due to insufficient protection from cyber breaches. Check for solutions that are compliant with EMV (Europay, Mastercard and Visa) and PCI (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard). This will not only protect your customers and your business from fraudulent activity, it will let you hold your employees to account if required.
You can’t decide which POS you are going to buy without first checking what your budget will allow you to afford. A general rule is that you should spend as much as you can afford on a POS system with robust capabilities – as whatever you choose can have a massive and transformative impact on a company's top (and bottom) line.
Do you need to purchase a POS system outright or rent one over time? While it may be more expensive to do the latter, it means that you will not be responsible for fixing it if anything goes wrong – which will actually save you money in the long run. Instead, you simply send it back to the supplier to be fixed and then returned to your store.
This is an especially important consideration for small businesses who use POS systems that feature credit card processing, which can send sales screeching to a halt in the event of a failure. Be aware, however, that some suppliers will want you to sign contracts, which can be a good thing if it saves you money over time – but it does obviously tie you down into an agreement.
Another consideration is whether you want to buy a new POS system or one that has been refurbished. Refurbished terminals can be just as effective and reliable as new ones while saving you a tidy discount – just check that what you buy is offered along with a sufficient warranty period.
Mobile or countertop
Once you’ve set your budget, you’ll need to evaluate your business’s needs and whether it’s more suited to a mobile or countertop POS system – and this is often tied to your company’s sector.
Let’s look at mobile first. Mobile POS systems are great for reducing the amount of time customers spend in line, which allows you to clear more transactions faster. A retailer would use a mobile system that allows its workers to walk around with smartphones or tablets to serve customers and sell goods while capturing customer data on the shop floor.
Countertop POS systems, on the other hand, are limited by the number of registers (or terminals) on the shopfloor. That said, mobile solutions can be used in conjunction with existing (or new) countertop terminals and can be deployed to scale up or down in busier or quieter periods.
On the other hand, countertop systems (or fixed terminals) have their own advantages. Restaurants, for example, often have countertop systems that sport large and brightly-lit screens for booking tables in a darkened environment.
Of course, you also need to ensure that customers are able to make payments at your POS terminal using their own mobile devices, such as Apple Pay or Google Pay – so you will need the necessary hardware – from NFC to barcode and QR code scanning – to take advantage of evolving consumer mobile payment trends.
Many POS systems offer a similar standard feature set – from being able to accept credit and debit card payments to carrying out inventory management. POS systems that connect to cloud services can continually update themselves and add new features over time (and on-demand).
Still, you need to ensure that you have the most suitable feature set from the start, and that’s where you want to be looking at POS systems relevant to your company’s sector.
For example, a retailer needs a POS system that has an intuitive and easy to understand interface for processing transactions quickly. It should also be able to track inventory and details related to sales and purchases of items in various different categories. Additionally, it should be able to take different types of payments – from online and offline payments to split and partial payments – all while integrating with loyalty schemes to offer discounts and scan gift certificates.
Whether you’re an existing or new business, it’s important to look at your company’s tech stack, as many POS systems are able to integrate with other technologies – such as accounting software, inventory management, your website CMS, marketing services, and staff management software.
One way to browse features of many POS systems at once is to look at an online POS system products directory. They let you easily narrow down options from a long list of systems that can be filtered by manufacturer, specifications, features, and more.
Once identified, there are several ways to acquire a new POS system – from preconfiguring one from a vendor, to building an entirely new system and adding to it down the line. The latter is generally the favoured option for larger companies with more complex IT requirements.
When it comes to software, you will need to see whether the software that comes with your POS system has the necessary features you need. If it doesn’t, you can check with the software vendor to see if it is planned for developments on the company's roadmap. Alternatively, you can check to see if any integrations are available for the software to add the required extra functionality – something that can be done instantly if the solution runs in the cloud.
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