The retail industry is undergoing a massive revolution, thanks to new technologies and a spike in data analytics platforms. At the center of the retail technology environment is point of sales (POS) systems.
POS systems have evolved far beyond just the point of transaction. Today, they’re the foundation for running a successful small business.
Dick Calio, founder of R.J. Calio Consulting – a full-service consultancy specializing in retail technology strategy – regularly performs POS implementations for retail chains. He typically focuses on retailers with 30-35 stores or more.
“The retail industry is undergoing a dramatic disruption,” Calio said. “They’re focused on how to keep the customers engaged. Customers want to buy whenever, however, and wherever they want. Retailers now need to engage on customers’ terms.”
POS refers to the point where a purchase is made and the payment is accepted. In the old days, this was just a cash register, but modern POS systems are a combination of internet-connected hardware and software that performs these tasks:
Integration is critical for POS systems, Calio said. Retailers need a reliable POS system that easily integrates with third-party applications. POS is only as good as the other applications it interacts with; it’s just one piece within your shopper engagement toolkit.
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“Thirty-five years ago, POS systems used to be just that: point of sale,” Calio said. “But now it’s the hub of a store’s entire IT infrastructure. And its main goal now is to drive shopper engagement.”
These are some of the top features to consider when evaluating retail POS systems:
When you integrate a retail POS system, your business gains these advantages:
Other POS system features allow you to provide extra training or reevaluate employees who are performing below average. They can also give you the information you need to decide the best employees to staff at the busiest times.
There are three components to a POS system: hardware, software and payment processing. Many components are compatible, allowing you to choose the hardware, software and payment processor that gives you the best deal.
Every business has different needs. Check out the top retail POS systems below to see which is best for your business.
Lightspeed POS software is web-based, and runs on any laptop, desktop computer or iPads. It offers robust inventory management tools – such as bulk upload and the ability to replenish inventory online. It includes customer and employee management capabilities, supports multi-channel sales and loyalty programs, and gives your business insight through analytics.
Lightspeed offers payment processing, but it also integrates with third-party payment processors. There are four pricing plans starting at $69 per month. Note that you’d supply your own iPad for the hardware. For more information, read our full Lightspeed POS review.
Clover’s POS software runs on its proprietary hardware, or you can use its virtual terminal on any web-enabled device. Some of Clover’s hardware has integrated credit card readers, while other options connect to an external reader. POS hardware starts at $749.
When you buy the Clover hardware, the software comes already loaded. Clover POS software lets you take orders for pickup or delivery, manage your employees’ schedules and permissions, use customer data to customize promotions and strengthen relationships, monitor and manage inventory, and create reports.
Clover’s two plans start at $9.95 per month. The company offers payment processing, and other payment processors support the Clover POS system. However, Clover’s payment processing service doesn’t work with other companies’ POS systems. For more information, read our full Clover POS review.
Epos Now’s POS software runs on the company’s proprietary terminals, iPads, Android tablets, computers or POS systems your business may already have, which would reduce your costs.
Currently, the company is selling its complete POS system with hardware for $449. Its inventory management can handle thousands of items, has an automatic ordering feature, and allows product tracking by sales channel and location. It can also help you manage employees with permissions, unique sign-ins, a built-in time clock and scheduling features.
Epos Now is easy to use, so your staff can be up and running quickly. For more information, read our full review of Epos Now POS systems.
Retail POS systems are in constant flux, gaining new features and capabilities as trends change and businesses grow. Here are some retail POS trends in which to be knowledgeable.
Retailers are continuing to favor handheld POS systems because of their convenience, cost-effectiveness and efficient transactions. In-store tablets improve the customer experience, thereby increasing sales and customer loyalty.
“Tablet-based systems are on the rise,” Calio said. “It creates a convenient customer experience.” He recalled Nordstrom leading the way with handheld devices, bringing POS functionality to wherever the customer was, regardless of what they were buying. “Mobile POS is how retailers are attempting to bridge the gap between buying online and buying in store.”
Similar to nearly all industries, retail hasn’t shied away from the advantages of the cloud. A POS system storing cloud-based data could provide many benefits for your business.
“The real-time aspect alone is huge,” Calio said. “Retailers can manage inventory in real time. A woman can buy a dress online, pick it up in store the same day, and wear it that night.”
Consumers are using their phones more frequently than ever to make purchases, and near-field communication (NFC) makes it possible. NFC-enabled phones act as a mobile wallet, allowing retailers to replace in-store POS hardware, so customers make fast and convenient purchases with a mere phone swipe.
While the retail landscape is changing fast, one thing remains certain: “The smaller retailers are going to have to adapt to these new technologies,” Calio said. “If they cannot adapt, they will go away.”
Business.com editorial staff contributed to the writing and research in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.