Just as your retail enterprise has different capital needs during its lifetime, it also has different point-of-sale needs. Use this guide to choose the POS system that best meets your current and near-future needs.
As a new business, you can start fresh and take advantage of the newest technology to create a POS system that's perfect for you. No need to worry about interoperability between devices and integration with legacy systems. Consider the specific needs of your business and customers, then connect with other owners to get their recommendations for POS solutions and check review sites for further vetting. There are options tailor-made for mobile businesses, e-tailers and other types of retail operations. Mobile options can be lower cost than traditional desktop POS systems, very important for a business in cash conservation mode. A few key considerations:
POS components required to best serve your business and your customers (mobile, countertop, both)
POS software and merchant services options available or required
Total upfront and ongoing costs of the system, components and processing
Ability for the system to grow with your business through upgrades and add-ons
Established retail businesses
The most important question for established businesses considering a new POS system is whether to upgrade the existing solution or purchase an entirely new one.
Upgrade: If you want to keep parts of your system, like the operating software or some hardware, your key considerations are interoperability (how components work together) and integration (how software programs and apps work together). Determine what you want to upgrade and then consult with your merchant services and POS providers to select the options that work with the rest of your system. Unless you already have one, you'll definitely need to upgrade your card reader to one that's EMV-compliant.
Adoption: If you want to start from scratch, look for new POS options that provide the same or a better level of functions, services and data, such as credit/debit/gift card processing, inventory return tracking, appropriate reporting and monitoring. You also want to watch the upfront and ongoing costs. It's also important to look for solutions that integrate with your merchant services account (unless you're changing that, too). Consult your network for recommendations and study review sites to create your short list.
If you're planning to grow, your POS solution needs to be able to grow with you. Quantify your growth plans, particularly as they pertain to sales and transaction volume and to physical locations.
Evaluate your cost per transaction to understand the implications of a higher number of transactions, as that impacts your budgets.
Opening new locations? That may require a mix of mobile and desktop POS stations if you plan to expand your kiosk-based operation to brick-and-mortar stores as well.
If you're increasing your product offerings, you may need more robust inventory tracking capabilities and a barcode scanner.
Talk to colleagues who run bigger operations about the systems they use, and vet that list against online reviews by knowledgeable experts and seasoned retailers.
Select the right POS system
"It used to be that buying a POS system was reserved for those businesses with the cash flow to handle the investment of $5,000 to $10,000," recalls Joseph Morales, a small business advisor and POS consultant with Palm Beach, FL-based Level Scale Solutions. "But getting a new POS system has gotten easier, even for start-ups. Now every business has the capacity to move away from the notebook and pen and move towards a scenario where they can run sales and inventory forecasts just like the big boys."
Regardless of your stage, meet with your accountant and merchant services provider to establish your current and near-term business needs, evaluate your sales data to understand transactions, and research your options. With so many effective solutions on the market, you can definitely find one that's perfect for your spot in the business life cycle.