POS systems have hundreds of features – which ones will you actually use? Depending on the specifics of your business, you may need a full arsenal of features, or you may prefer to keep things simple. As you look for POS software, think about what features you must have, those that would be nice to have, and which ones you'll likely never use. Sign up for a few demos and trial versions before making your final decision so you can make sure the POS app is easy to use and has all the features on your must-have list.
In addition to basic cash register features that are included with every POS solution, here are six key feature sets that you should look at closely before selecting a system. Keep in mind that specific capabilities within each feature set vary from system to system. Advanced features may only be offered with higher service tiers, or you may need to add apps or integrations to the POS system.
Mobile App Support
The best POS systems have apps that you install on iPads and Android tablets, and sometimes even smartphones, transforming the devices into mobile POS terminals. You can then use them as mobile checkout devices to ring up customer orders anywhere on the store floor or, for restaurants, take orders and payments tableside. You can also attach the tablet to a stand and add peripherals, such as a cash drawer and a receipt printer, to create a countertop checkout station.
Although some POS systems can be used with both Android tablets and iPads, some are platform-specific. If you have a strong preference for one platform over the other, or if you already have tablets and phones you want to use, this is an important consideration as you evaluate systems. Examples of dual-platform POS systems include Epos Now, Square and PayPal.
iPads are the preferred platform for most POS providers. These devices are well known for their user-friendly interface and stability, as Apple designs both the hardware and the operating software. iPads also have superior security because iOS is a closed platform, making it a less attractive target for hackers (though it isn't immune to malware attacks, and it's important to keep your devices updated). However, iPads tend to be more expensive than Android tablets because they're produced by a single company rather than multiple manufacturers. Examples of iPad POS systems include Vend, TouchBistro, Lightspeed, Talech and Revel.
Android may be the more popular platform with consumers, with over 2.5 billion devices in use, and many developers may prefer Android because it allows greater customization than iOS, but it isn't as popular with POS providers as iOS. Android tablets tend to be less expensive than iOS because multiple manufacturers develop them, so there's more competition in the market, resulting in lower pricing and a broader product selection, which can save you money as you set up your system, add devices, or replace broken, lost or stolen tablets. An example of an Android POS systems is Toast.
Do you need a basic product catalog or menu-item countdown? Or do you need to track quantities, including components or ingredients? Do you need low-stock alerts or automatic reordering? If you have a retail business, estimate how many SKUs you need it to support; some support a limited number. Also, consider whether you need vendor management and purchase ordering tools. If you need advanced inventory management features and they're not available, does the system integrate with inventory software?
Customer Management and Loyalty Programs
How much information do you need to collect about your customers? Do you need their email addresses for your mailing list? Phone numbers and addresses for delivery? Or do you need a system with a built-in CRM (customer relationship management) application that allows you to create customer profiles with detailed purchase histories and to add notes, such as birthdays, preferences or allergies? Do you want your POS system to include or connect to a loyalty program?
If your employees will use the POS system, you need to control the data and functions they can access. For example, maybe you only want your store managers to handle refunds, or perhaps you want all your cashiers to have this ability. Consider whether you prefer role-based permissions or if you want to set permissions individually for user profiles. Also, do you need it to have a timeclock so your employees can clock in and out using the POS system? If you're already using time and attendance software, will it integrate with the POS system?
All POS systems can generate reports, but the number of reports, specific report types and customization options differ between systems. Do you need data on your sales per hour so you can staff your business more effectively? Would a list of your best- and worst-selling items help you refine your product mix? Do you want the system to email specific reports to you automatically? Do you need real-time reporting that you can access using a mobile app?
Most web-based POS systems have integrations or apps that make it easier for you to share data between systems. For example, connecting your accounting software to your POS system saves you the time of exporting sales data from your POS system and manually uploading it to your accounting software. Look for a POS system that integrates with the business programs you already use, such as accounting software, payroll, e-commerce platforms and email marketing services.