How to choose a POS system for your business

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Processing transactions cheaply and efficiently shouldn’t be difficult. However, for small businesses, it’s often difficult to find a cost-effective point-of-sale system that offers the features you need without a host of special bells and whistles you don’t.

For more information about point-of-sale systems, check out this overview article.

Below is a list of the different features you should look out for when evaluating POS systems and why having them might mean the difference between cha-ching and kerplunk.

Cost

There’s no point denying it – cost is often the biggest factor for small businesses when considering a point-of-sale system. And, to make it even worse, there are two different costs to evaluate; one, the cost to use the POS system (normally a monthly fee), and the cost per transaction, which is what it will cost every time a customer swipes a credit card.

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For the latter, keep in mind that the POS companies are just passing along a cost to you that gets passed to them from the credit card companies. For larger businesses, this per transaction fee is quite nominal, but for a small business, this charge may seem like an added burden. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about it.

Unless you start generating significant sales transactions, it’s still cost-effective for the POS provider to recoup these transactions fee from you.

Now, as for the first note above, the cost of the POS system itself is worth considering. This normally consists of a monthly fee that can range anywhere from $29 a month to more than $100 a month. What do you get for this fee? Besides the privilege of using the business’ technology, you also get reporting features, tracking information and access to the Cloud.

Other costs to consider revolve around the cost of integrating the system with your current hardware. Obviously, costs will be higher if you need to make an investment in additional hardware, which is why it’s so important to keep this addition in mind when weighing costs.

Quick tip: When comparing POS costs, figure out what your average number of transactions were for the last couple of months. Multiple this average by the per transaction fee and then add it to the monthly cost. This will give you a more complete picture of the true monthly costs of the system.

Features

Every POS vendor will want to sell you on every feature that their system has and others don’t. Chances are, you’ll only ever end up using a handful of these features, so zero in on the ones that are most important to you and your business. Here is a list of possible features you might want to be on the lookout for:

For retail businesses:

  • Customizable skus
  • Ability to offer and redeem gift cards
  • eCommerce integration
  • Loyalty program tracking

For restaurant businesses:

  • Pay at table compatibility
  • Online ordering and Delivery app integration
  • Check splitting capabilities
  • Advanced inventory tracking

For service-oriented businesses:

  • Online reservations or appointment setting
  • Advanced scheduling features to include rooms, conference call numbers & equipment
  • Customer-facing booking tools

To truly understand how many of the system’s features will be useful to you and your business, take stock of how you expect the software to work. Sketch out a rough road map of a typical transaction from start to finish. Use these benchmarks to determine what types of features you’ll need.

Ease of use

Most POS software systems offer some kind of free trial. Take advantage of these so you can get experience actually using the program and getting a feel for how it might operate on a daily basis. Practice running the system on different platforms too.

If you anticipate using your tablet or smartphone to access the POS make sure to spend time doing just that. No one else’s experience will be exactly like yours, so the hands-on training you can get will be invaluable in making a decision.

Installation and support

If you go with a cloud-based option, there really isn’t any installation that needs to take place. You will more than likely access the system through an online portal. However, spend some time talking with the salesperson about their support.

But, the best way to really test out a support system is to call it yourself and ask questions. Sales teams are there to sell you their product, and they will make promises that the rest of their team won’t be able to keep.

The good news is, that if the program is well-run, you shouldn’t have much need to call upon support. The downside to that is if you do call them, chances are you’re experiencing something of a crisis and so you’ll want to have confidence that their support team will be able to help.

The best way to ensure that you get the right POS system for your organization is by knowing what you want and what you need before starting the process. This checklist should include things like: ability to handle x transaction volume; hardware integration; cost; amount of support; and key features.

Start your analysis from a position that highlights your business’ best interests and you’ll be able to find the right POS that works for you now and in the future.

Want more tips for running a retail business? Check out our handy guide for managing a retail store.

This article originally appeared on the QuickBooks Resource Center and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

Featured Image Credit: shironosov / iStock.

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