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Updated Apr 10, 2024

15 Essential POS System Features for Your Retail Business

Not all POS systems are created equal. Pinpoint the best POS system features for your needs.

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Written By: Jennifer DublinoSenior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
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Table of Contents

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A feature-rich point-of-sale (POS) system is one of the most valuable tools for a retail business. This software can fill various needs, including tracking inventory, processing credit card payments and providing unique insight into your business’s operations. Accomplishing all these tasks with one system can help streamline your business operations and save money.

While a good retail POS system can integrate multiple business areas into one interface, other components may also be vital. Before buying a POS system for your business, evaluate the features you need and those you can live without.

Editor’s note: Looking for a POS system for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you with free information.

Top POS features for retail POS systems

There are many types of POS systems, and they’re not all created equal. Still, the best ones should have specific, essential features. Here are some of the top features to look for in a retail POS system:

1. Shortcut keys

To speed up checkout lines, a good retail POS system will display buttons for the most frequently purchased items or categories. This way, the cashier can touch a single button to ring up those items. If a customer wants to buy other items, there should be a quick and intuitive way to look up products.

2. Wide choice of payment options

When it’s easy for customers to pay you, they tend to buy more, and you’ll be more likely to earn repeat business. Select a POS system and payment processor that lets you accept all major credit and debit cards, as well as digital payments like Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay

As a bonus, consider accepting PayPal and Venmo, depending on whether your customer base includes many young people. You may also want the ability to generate and accept gift cards and store credits.

Most POS systems accept several payment methods, but some take it to the next level by letting users pay with gift cards and split the payment among different payment methods. The more flexibility you offer your customers, the better.

TipBottom line
Even the best retailers deal with returns. How you handle returns can help you avoid chargebacks and keep your customers. Choose a POS system that supports a customer-friendly refund-and-return policy.

3. Omnichannel integration and management

Businesses can maximize sales and profits by maintaining both an in-store and online presence. Customers often want to buy online and then go into the store to pick up their items. They may also check retailer websites to see if something is in stock before visiting a location.

Your POS system should support an omnichannel experience and offer online sales management tools to increase your online presence and grow your business. These two features work hand in hand:

  • Online sales management helps you regulate e-commerce and build trust with e-commerce customers.
  • An omnichannel platform supports sales whether your customers are in your stores or using off-site locations, such as desktop computers, mobile devices and social media.

4. Customer management tools

Your POS system should let you look up customers by name or other criteria and add their purchase history to their profile. Personalized marketing is a huge trend, and for good reason — consumers respond to personalization efforts. According to a McKinsey report, 71 percent of consumers want businesses to provide personalized service, and 76 percent are frustrated when personalization is lacking. 

When your POS system has excellent customer management tools, it’s much easier to provide a high level of personalized attention based on purchase history. For example, if you see that a customer recently bought a barbeque grill, you can offer promotions on grill covers or barbeque tools. When you realize your customers have finished consumable items, or have old or obsolete items, you can send timely reminders that it’s time to repurchase, effortlessly boosting sales. 

FYIDid you know
POS systems take the effort out of high-level customer personalization, making it easy to boost customer loyalty.

5. Mobility

Many retailers choose a mobile POS system to improve customer convenience and streamline checkout. Consumers hate waiting in line, and a mobile POS reduces this problem. Here are some examples of how retailers use mobile POS systems: 

  • Sales associates can use mobile POS systems to check out customers anywhere on the sales floor, giving them a more personalized experience and allowing them to skip the line. The Apple Store is a perfect example of this usage.
  • Stores with traditional countertop checkout stations can add a mobile tablet to their POS system when the line gets too long. 
  • Retailers can set up mobile POS systems as self-service POS kiosks where customers can check themselves out. 
  • Businesses that occasionally use off-site locations like farmers’ markets and trunk shows also greatly benefit from mobile POS systems.

6. Inventory management

POS inventory management is a valuable feature that allows retailers to track inventory in real time. By integrating business orders with online and in-store purchases, business owners can track supply levels quickly and efficiently.

Real-time inventory tracking also helps retailers save money and avoid mistakes when ordering from suppliers. The sooner you upload products to your POS system, the quicker you can sell online and in person. 

Did You Know?Did you know
In-store tablets improve the customer experience by shortening wait times. They also help retailers maximize space and manage inventory more effectively.

7. Employee management

In addition to managing and monitoring supplies and finances, some POS systems can help businesses track and manage worker productivity. Employee management tools help with loss prevention and create a more reliable, efficient workplace.

Employee management features include built-in time clocks, employee sales information and security management tools. Some systems allow business owners to set permissions for various employees based on role, store or individual. By managing a worker’s access to different business areas, owners can ensure their operations run smoothly and safely while avoiding micromanagement.

TipBottom line
If you've already found the best time and attendance system or the best employee scheduling software for your business's needs, choose a POS system that integrates with these vital tools.

8. Reporting tools

POS reporting tools, including cost and profit analysis reports, store comparison reports, and inventory reports, are crucial for retailers, allowing them to see sales data and determine the best (or top margins) and worst (or low margins) sellers in their product lines. Viewing hourly transactions and live product movement helps retailers adjust purchase orders appropriately.

Reporting tools also help you determine promotion effectiveness, top salespeople and customers, and customer buying trends. You can identify busy and slow days, times and seasons to optimize staffing levels. Many reporting tools let you apply various filters, such as a time frame, to get more precise data.

9. Credit card processing

Credit card processing is a crucial feature to consider when choosing a POS system. You have two primary options: 

  • Choose a POS system compatible with various payment processors. Some POS systems allow you to choose from among the best credit card processors available. This option lets you compare rates and switch processors if necessary. For example, if you have problems with a particular processor you’ll have others at your disposal.
  • Opt for a POS system with in-house processing services. In-house processing services are convenient. However, such systems can be more expensive than POS systems that offer processor compatibility. It can also be more challenging because you must replace the POS system and the processor if you switch services.

Both POS system options are more convenient and accurate than using a separate system for credit card processing, where you ring up the customer’s purchases on the POS system and then manually enter the total on the credit card terminal. 

When your retail POS system has credit card processing ability or compatibility, you can successfully and efficiently accept customer payments.

10. Third-party software integrations

Many of the best POS systems integrate with software that can improve customer management and support more efficient operations. Integrations help you easily adopt new functions, such as recording customer information, maintaining customer loyalty programs and offering targeted promotions. 

Here are some examples of popular POS system software integrations: 

  • CRM tools: While some POS systems have built-in CRM features, others readily integrate with some of the best CRM software platforms. CRM tools can help you create customer profiles, maintain purchase histories, add customer notes and more. 
  • Scheduling tools: Some POS systems integrate with third-party scheduling software to boost customer scheduling efficiency. Ben Adler’s business, Bicycle Consulting, uses the Lightspeed POS system with third-party scheduling software Booxi to help clients create custom bikes. These tools integrate seamlessly, so Adler can record customer booking information without inputting it multiple times. “When somebody makes an appointment on Booxi, and they actually come in the store, I already have all their customer information, including their phone number, their email address and what service they’re coming in for,” Adler explained. “I can automatically create a work order in Lightspeed with that customer information already populated, and so it’s very easy for us to make a quote on the spot.”
  • Loyalty program software: Most POS systems include loyalty program features or integrate with a third-party solution to encourage customers to return and make repeat purchases. Customer loyalty programs use incentives like reward points, referral rewards, prize drawings and bonus point campaigns to keep customers engaged. 
FYIDid you know
Other popular POS software integrations include e-commerce platforms, time and attendance software, accounting software, email marketing services and payroll software.

11. Multiple user accounts and permissions

Many POS systems offer support for multiple user accounts. Unless you’re a sole proprietor, you should choose a POS system with this functionality. Some POS vendors offer unlimited accounts for higher-level service tiers.

When each employee who rings up sales has a unique login, you can track their productivity, isolate problems and reward outstanding performers. This feature also lets you track sales for commissions and employee bonuses. Both can be useful if your company offers these compensation types. The other benefit of this multi-login system is discovering and stopping theft or errors.

12. Bulk-product imports

Entering product information is the most time-consuming part of setting up a POS system. Some POS systems allow you to import all your product information at once, a process known as bulk-product imports. 

Bulk-product imports are essential if you sell a wide variety of products or your offerings change frequently. This way, you won’t have to upload products manually, making product importing an inefficient process if you sell more than a few items.

13. Granular product specifications and bundles

If you have multiple versions of a product, such as different options, colors or sizes, your POS system should be able to distinguish between them. That way, you’ll have better data when it comes to reordering because you know what’s selling on a granular level. 

Additionally, bundling products that are frequently purchased together speeds checkout, increases sale revenue and allows you to offer customers discounts on bulk purchases.

14. Promotions and discounts

Promotions and discounts are valuable sales tools in specific instances, including the following: 

  • A product isn’t selling well.
  • You’re switching out seasonal merchandise.
  • You want to generate additional foot traffic.

If your POS system readily accepts promotions, promo codes and discounts, you’ll have greater flexibility in measuring your retail marketing strategies.

Did You Know?Did you know
Aside from promotions and discounts, you can increase sales for your small business by asking for customer feedback, offering free trials, advertising on social media and staying consistent with email marketing.

15. Scalability

Your new retail store may not need all the POS system bells and whistles available. However, as your business expands, you’ll need a POS system that can grow with you. A scalable POS system helps you avoid moving your information to an entirely new platform when you open a new business location or ramp up your growth.

Jean Iennaco, director of operations for Over the Top Cake Supplies in San Antonio, said her company now has multiple corporate stores and franchise locations. While she initially didn’t need a POS system that supported multiple locations, that feature became critical as her company grew. Iennaco said her Revel POS system has been great for managing the expansion. 

“We initially had another POS system, which wasn’t compatible for multiple-location use, so we switched to Revel, which is compatible,” Iennaco explained. “We have four locations. I can be anywhere and help them out if there are issues. For example, I can check on locations by going into reporting and offering advice on ways to increase sales for the month. It’s user-friendly and convenient for having multiple locations.”

If Iennaco had initially used scalable software like Revel, she wouldn’t have had to go through the trouble of switching systems.

Benefits of POS systems for retail

Whether you’re operating an online shop from your living room or have several physical stores, there are many benefits of using a POS system to run your retail business. From speedier checkout to inventory management, here’s a look at the top advantages of retail POS software:

  • Retail POS systems are easy to use. Modern cloud-based POS software is extremely easy to use. The software resides in the cloud, and the hardware is usually plug-and-play. Beyond setup, using the devices is a breeze. Touchscreens and intuitive interfaces make it easy for employees to learn as well.
  • Retail POS systems support fast checkout. Whether you’re selling online or in a store, speedy checkout is critical. Long lines lead to frustrated customers, and cumbersome online checkouts result in shopping cart abandonment. A POS system can help prevent those scenarios because POS terminals tend to be faster than cash registers at processing payments and can accept several payment methods. If your business uses a mobile POS system, employees can ring up customers on the fly, and sales clerks can check stock and place customer orders in seconds.
  • Retail POS systems make order management and inventory tracking easy. POS systems automate inventory management across multiple stores and can alert you when inventory runs low. More advanced tools automatically place orders and pinpoint sales trends. A POS system also reduces excess inventory by tracking what sells and what doesn’t.
  • Retail POS systems expand payment acceptance. Supporting your customers’ payment preferences helps optimize sales. POS systems facilitate credit card acceptance, as well as NFC mobile payments, contactless payments and digital wallets. Choose a POS system that supports the payment methods your client base prefers.
  • Retail POS systems provide better sales insights. POS systems collect vast amounts of crucial data. They can tell you what items are selling out, which are doing poorly, and what times of the day or week business is best. POS systems can spot trends, reorder inventory and help you forecast. They provide this information in real time, helping you react quickly.
  • Retail POS systems enhance data security. Protecting your customers’ payment data is imperative. One data breach can easily spell your business’s demise. When using a cloud-based POS system, you don’t have to worry if your server is secure; your data is stored securely in the cloud. All you have to do is set strong passwords and use two-factor authentication when available.
TipBottom line
POS systems also help reduce credit card fraud by supporting contact chip cards and contactless chip devices and encrypting credit card data.

Best retail POS systems

Choosing the best retail POS system for your business is a crucial decision involving wide-ranging factors. To help you narrow your options, we’re highlighting a few of the best retail POS systems we’ve reviewed. Compare their offerings and decide which is best for your needs and budget.

  • Clover: Clover’s POS system is an easy and intuitive way to manage your entire retail operation. It has retail-specific features, including a robust inventory management module. You can also use it to schedule and manage employees. If you buy POS hardware from Clover directly, you must use the company’s payment processing service. However, several other payment processors sell and are compatible with Clover POS equipment. Learn more about this POS system’s retail features in our Clover POS review.
  • Lightspeed: Lightspeed provides support for multi-location retailers. Its merchants can use the POS system with a third-party payment processor or Lightspeed’s internal processor. Read our review of Lightspeed to learn about this POS system’s inventory management feature with preloaded catalogs that make setup a snap. 
  • Helcim: Helcim stands out because of its free POS system offering and low interchange plus processing rate. Although it’s not as retail-specific as Clover and Lightspeed, Helcim includes a free hosted online store. Our in-depth Helcim review details the provider’s functionality and features.
author image
Written By: Jennifer DublinoSenior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
Jennifer Dublino is an experienced entrepreneur and astute marketing strategist. With over three decades of industry experience, she has been a guiding force for many businesses, offering invaluable expertise in market research, strategic planning, budget allocation, lead generation and beyond. Earlier in her career, Dublino established, nurtured and successfully sold her own marketing firm. Dublino, who has a bachelor's degree in business administration and an MBA in marketing and finance, also served as the chief operating officer of the Scent Marketing Institute, showcasing her ability to navigate diverse sectors within the marketing landscape. Over the years, Dublino has amassed a comprehensive understanding of business operations across a wide array of areas, ranging from credit card processing to compensation management. Her insights and expertise have earned her recognition, with her contributions quoted in reputable publications such as Reuters, Adweek, AdAge and others.
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