Point-of-sale systems: The lifeblood of your small business

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If you run a retail business, a Point of Sale (POS) system is an essential component to your success.

A POS system is where your customer pays for your products, and you accept and record that payment. Pretty important, right? Even so, 56% of single-store retailers still don’t have a POS system in place.

Acting as the central hub for your business, tracking sales, and managing inventory, a good POS system also keeps track of customers so you can keep up with—and improve—relationships.

“In a well-run business, the POS is more than just the place wherein the money comes in,” Steven Aldrich, general manager of QuickBooks Point of Sale, said in an article for Forbes. “With the right equipment, it becomes your strategic service center, the place that will help you grow your business and keep your customers coming back.”

What is a POS system?

Are you picturing a cash register? You’re not far off. But today’s POS systems are more advanced, giving you a better handle on your transaction and customer management.

“A point of sale system is a combination of software and hardware that allows merchants to take transactions and simplify key day-to-day business operations,” Yamarie Grullon, manager of content strategy at POS provider ShopKeep, said in an article for Software Advice.

POS software manages transaction details—recording product IDs and calculating what the customer owes. Many POS systems complete more advanced tasks, such as deducting sold items from your inventory.

POS software comes in two forms:

  1. On-premise: You purchase the licenses and install the software on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile device.
  2. Cloud-based: You access it via the internet. The advantage? You can access your POS from any internet-enabled device.

And what about hardware? These are the physical components attached to your POS system. Exactly what hardware you need can vary, but here are some common items:

  • Monitor or tablet
  • Credit card reader
  • Cash drawer
  • Receipt printer

Depending on your chosen POS system, you might need other hardware, such as a barcode scanner or handheld terminal.

Do you need a POS system?

Do you deliver goods or services to your customers immediately following a transaction? If so, a POS system is more than likely a tool you need. POS systems are primarily designed for retail and hospitality businesses.

If you’re a marketing consultant, for instance, who invoices clients after completing work, a POS system is probably more than you need.

What should you look for in a POS system?

Ask established business owners about their POS systems. But remember, many systems are tailored to a business’s specific needs. It can be challenging to determine what you need from a POS system.

Here are a few things you should consider:

  1. Does your POS integrate with your essential software?If you primarily sell online, a POS that integrates with your website, or with a third-party shopping cart, is key. If you have existing accounting software, make sure your POS can sync well with that program.
  2. Does your POS accept necessary payment methods?Revenue is the path to accomplishing—and surpassing—your business goals. Make certain your POS can accommodate the types of payments you normally take. And, also consider what kinds of payments you may take as your business grows.
  3. Is your POS easy to use?A POS system exists to make your life easier—but only if you understand how to apply all its features. Sign up for a free trial, watch video tutorials, and read online reviews to get a sense of how intuitive a system is.
  4. Does your POS offer good customer support?Regardless of how user-friendly a system is, getting started can still be challenging. Inquire about the level of customer support your prospective system offers and read user reviews to get a sense of what you can expect.
  5. How much does your POS cost?Systems can range from a couple hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars for a completely customized system. Decide on your budget and evaluate your options accordingly. According to Capterra’s The Point of Sale Software Systems User Research Report, 46% of companies spend less than $1,500 per year on their POS system.
  6. Do you need an on-site or cloud-based system?Are you transactions made locally in an establishment, or do you take mobile payment online? Take this into consideration when deciding on a POS. And if you’re worried about data protection, remember that security is a high priority for every cloud service provider.
  7. Does your POS have the features you need?Do you need a wide variety of reporting options? The option to do an advanced assessment of your inventory? Customer purchase history? E-commerce capabilities? Make a checklist of what you need to determine which system will meet your needs.
  8. Is your POS scalable?What you’ll need from your POS system five or 10 years in the future could be quite different from what you need now. Look for a system that will grow with your business. You should be able to painlessly add more features and expand your POS system’s capabilities when needed.

Getting started with your POS system

Are you using a barcode scanner to ring in goods and services or are you entering them manually? Utilize instructions, tutorials, and customer support from your POS provider to adapt a POS to your existing system.

Make it a POSitive experience!

Leveraging a suitable POS system is one of the best things you can do for your business. It’ll remove the headache and hassle from numerous business and accounting functions. Keep this advice in mind, and you’ll identify and implement a system that makes business ownership a lot easier. Good luck!

This article originally appeared on QuickBooks’ website and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

Featured Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.