What you need to know about various types of POS systems.
Point-of-sale options available to businesses range from simple mobile payment processors to those that can manage large multi-location businesses.
To help you decide which POS system might work best for your company, here is a brief description of each as well as a few suggested businesses for which they are suitable.
Smartphone POS services can process payments and manage some inventory and customer information. In most cases, the app is free in exchange for payment processing. Most payment processors will send you the credit card reader for free. This is a suitable point-of-sale option if you do not manage a lot of inventory and you need to be mobile. Most will work with a portable receipt printer, or you can email receipts to your customers directly from the app.
Suggested applications: street vendors, fair or event vendors, freelance or contract works, contracted professional services, farmers market vendors, music merchandise vendors, mobile services, daycare providers, limo services, lawn care services
iPad and Android point-of-sale solutions are increasingly popular, since they require minimal upfront investment and you can often use a tablet that you already own. Some tablet POS services are "free" with credit card processing; others require a low monthly subscription fee but allow you to choose your own credit card processor. Many support compatible hardware such as barcode readers, cash drawers and tablet stands. Some are rather simple applications; others can manage complex inventory situations and employee time tracking.
Suggested applications: mobile vendors, quick-service restaurants, coffee shops, gift shops, small retail stores, professional services, pizzerias, juice bars, sandwich shops, ice cream parlors, art galleries, small theaters, salons
Terminal point-of-sale systems are the type you are used to seeing in businesses at the counter. While they are hardware/software-based, most still require access to the internet and might even use cloud-based software. They are often sold in all-in-one solutions including barcode scanners, cash drawers and such. Many services also provide 24/7/365 support and cloud-based backup. These also make it easy to restrict employee internet access since they can be configured to only run the POS software. For restaurant solutions they may be integrated with tableside Wi-Fi portable devices, kitchen printers, patron tablet ordering and online ordering. Retail versions can include extensive inventory tools, label printing and eCommerce integration. Some are "free" in exchange for paying for credit card processing.
Suggested applications: full-service restaurants, busy retails, grocery stores, boutiques, antique stores, book or magazine stores, salons, spas, electronic stores
With an online POS, you can use your own hardware. Hardware might be a PC or a tablet. Another advantage is that the startup costs are minimal. PC solutions cannot replace the convenience of a touchscreen; however, if your business is low-volume, high-ticket-price, it may prove speedy enough to suit your needs. Low-volume also makes the use of a standard printer feasible. Online solutions can be logged into from anywhere, using any device. For more information about the tablet options, see Tablet POS above.
Suggested applications: small retailers, art galleries, consignment stores, salons, pet groomers, small cafes, high-ticket retailors
Self-Service Kiosk POS
Most kiosk POS systems are specialized solutions intended for a specific purpose. For example, you may offer a self-service kiosk for patrons to purchase movie tickets, or you may have one to manage parking space time and payments. Another helpful option is setting up a few kiosks in your large retail store for your customers to look up pricing and product availability. Other non-POS uses include patient check-ins and human resources (such as the accepting employment applications). In some industries, mobile apps might replace some popular uses such as check-ins and product look-up or even ticket sales.
Suggested applications: ticket sales, transportation passes, patient check-ins, grocers, product look-up, human resources, parking
The biggest change in point-of-sale over the past few years are the affordable options available for small, or even micro, businesses available. Small companies no longer need to deplete their startup funds on an expensive POS system. While large operations may still require a sizable upfront investment, there are now more portable and Wi-Fi options available so you can better service your customers. Once you have your needs defined and your budget set, you should easily be able to discover the best POS option for your business.