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What Small Businesses Need to Know About Point-of-Sale Systems editorial staff editorial staff

The right POS system will facilitate growth for your small business.

A point-of-sale (POS) system is a way for retailers to manage the checkout process. At its best, a point-of-sale system for a small business becomes much more than that. It acts as a conduit that enhances the relationship between you and your customers. To achieve this, you have to find a POS solution that provides the combination of features you need, on a budget and scale that makes sense for your organization.

What follows is a checklist of factors and features that will be important for any small business to consider when choosing a POS system.

1. Hardware, software and cloud-based systems

While some POS programs can work with a variety of hardware systems, others require their own dedicated peripherals to function. These range from small and versatile, such as a simple credit card reader that plugs into a phone, to full-service terminals. You need to consider what kind of hardware is required to run your POS of choice, as well as whether you are leasing or buying the hardware from the vendor.

Additionally, think about the different kinds of POS software platforms available. Cloud-based platforms are attractive because they come with simple, inclusive subscription pricing; they're accessible from anywhere with a mobile device; and they can be upgraded with little downtime. However, the vendor retains ownership of the software, and cloud-based systems are not feasible for companies that have unreliable internet access.

2. Pricing structures

Most of the contemporary POS cloud-based systems that are suitable for small businesses feature a monthly subscription-based pricing plan. These types of plans allow you to easily budget for your POS expenses when cash is tight. Others may take a percentage of each transaction fee.

As you vet your POS platform options, inquire about what each subscription fee covers, and if there are extras that come a la carte, including service plans, hardware, customizable features and updates. Finally, be aware that some vendors require you to sign a contract to use their service for a specific length of time.

3. Inventory management

Most high-quality POS solutions include some type of inventory management system. Some services can handle a wide range of SKUs and provide advanced inventory management features, while others can only handle basic inventory management tasks.

When you shop for any technical business solution, you should have a detailed understanding of your needs. Estimate the number of SKUs your system will manage, and decide whether you need premium inventory management features to optimize your operations. Your basic growth projections should include potential product line expansions, and it's important to choose a POS solution that can scale with your inventory needs for the future.

4. Customizable user profiles and permissions

You may want different employees to have unique rights and access to specific features, so look for a solution that supports customizable user profiles. Advanced POS systems include options for integrating user profiles for individuals or groups of employees. You can give certain positions the ability to view, run and edit certain reports, and allow supervisors to access scheduling and timecard features built into the platform.

5. Customer relationship management

Your front-line employees should be able to access and update customer account details. CRM functions in your POS system can also help you identify and target your most loyal customers. Look for a POS platform that features integrated CRM tools so team members can view and edit customer profiles during interactions with them without having to use a separate system.

6. Online store and other systems integration

Some small retail businesses begin as an online-only presence and eventually migrate to brick-and-mortar – or vice versa. Many retail and service companies operate with multichannel or omnichannel strategies as soon as they launch. Whatever journey you take, you need a POS solution that includes online store integration, which saves you from operating separate inventory platforms and enables you to provide a cohesive customer experience across channels.

7. Third-party payment processors

When it comes to accepting payments, consider how third-party payment processors will impact your customers' payment options and your ability to collect cash payments. Some POS vendors require you to use their chosen credit card processing systems, while others are compatible with many options and give you the freedom to customize your own payment suite. Consider your needs and your customers' needs to make sure you have a system with enough flexibility for your business.

8. Scalability

In addition to the evolution of your inventory management needs, you must plan for hardware you may have to purchase, software user licenses, CRM needs, payment transaction volumes, vendor support resources and more. Speak to POS software sales representatives about your growth projections, and get specific answers about how their solution will scale with your ongoing needs.

9. Data management

POS systems can be powerful data management tools that help you leverage the vast amounts of information that come from customer interactions. Data gathered from your POS solution can help you optimize inventory management, improve customer profiles and product recommendations, enhance email marketing strategies, increase your staffing efficiency, and develop innovative products. As you decide on your POS solution, take into account whether it has the capacity to carry out the data management operations that contribute to your improved performance.

10. Ongoing support

When you encounter issues with your POS system at a crucial moment, you need a vendor that provides quick and reliable support. Its customer service could be the difference between limited downtime and hours of potential lost sales.

Choosing the right POS system can facilitate further growth for your small business. Take the time to understand how each of these factors impacts your company and speak with sales reps from different point-of-sale platforms. That way, you'll have a comprehensive understanding of your options, which will allow you to make the right decision for your brand.

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