Choose the Right Point-of-Sale System for Your Small Business

by Craig Anthony

4 min read

Most likely, your business needs a point-of-sale system. POS systems have many capabilities to help run your business smoothly. They mainly help with payment processing, but have many other benefits. On top of their many uses, POS systems come in a variety of forms. Depending on the industry you are in, you will have different POS system needs.

What Is a Point of Sale System?

“Point of sale” refers to the time and place where a business transaction occurs. A POS system refers to the hardware, software, and support that manages the transaction. POS systems capture the sale, process the payment, provide receipts, and collect and analyze certain types of data. POS systems go far beyond what a traditional cash register can do. Most POS systems are computer-based, but cloud-based systems are also available.

Terminal Systems

Terminal POS systems are the type you see every day at the purchase counter of a business. These systems have a computer-like monitor, a barcode scanner, and a cash drawer. Most of these types of systems have an internet connection. Beyond processing customers’ payments, terminal systems can collect and analyze customer and inventory data. Terminal systems can even be used to track employee productivity. Service providers for the systems often provide cloud-based backup for all of this important information.Though these systems are connected to the internet, safety measures and filters can prevent employees from accessing certain data or browsing the web. Because of the sheer power and numerous capabilities of terminal systems, they are ideal for businesses such as restaurants, retail stores, and grocery stores.

Self-Service Kiosks

Self-service kiosk systems are very similar to terminal systems, but the customer is performing the entire transaction, from scanning or selecting the item, to processing payment, to collecting the receipt. Many of these systems can be highly specialized for their intended purposes. These can be utilized in business that already have terminal POS systems to add self-checkout capabilities or to utilize as a system to locate products within the store. Great examples of these systems in action are movie tickets, transportation passes, patient check-ins, product searches, and parking.

Online Systems

Online POS systems use internet-based software, but the business uses its own hardware instead of purchasing a dedicated terminal. An individual can use a laptop or desktop and integrate the online software POS with relative ease. Typically, this option is less expensive than the terminal option (though sometimes terminal are free in exchange for credit card processing fees). An online POS system is ideal for businesses that are low-volume and high-price, since the speed of the entire POS process is not so important at that point. This type of system is not ideal for higher-volume businesses, such as a coffee shop, where customers can line up quickly and receipts need to be printed fast from a dedicated receipt printer, instead of a typical home-based table-top printer.Types of business that could benefit the most from this type of POS system are smaller-sized retailers, salons, and art galleries.

Tablet Systems

POS software for iPad and Android tablets are widely available and are relatively inexpensive to set up, since they run on a tablet that the business may already own. Tablet POS systems charge a monthly service fee but can wind up costing only a few hundred dollars per year. There is no upfront license fee as there is with terminal POS systems. Tablet systems offer more mobility than terminals, maintenance is all done over the internet, and they are known for being some of the most user-friendly systems available. Plus, all data for this type of POS system is stored and backed up in the cloud and can be accessed from anywhere in real time. Businesses that could benefit the most from a tablet POS system include mobile vendors, quick-service restaurants, coffee shops, small retail businesses, professional services, and even places like delis and sandwich shops. For example, Quickbooks Point of Sale is a cloud-based POS system and runs on iPads. It works seamlessly with the original Quickbooks software. QuickBooks Point of Sale helps with payment processing and inventory management and makes it easy to import sales data.

Smartphone Systems

POS systems do exist in app form for iPhone and Android smartphones. Typically the app itself is free, and the business behind the app takes a percentage of credit card sales; the credit card reader is usually free, too. While most of these types of systems are capable of connecting to a mobile receipt printer, typically customers are emailed receipts directly from the app. Several of these POS smartphone apps are compatible with QuickBooks, such as Square and Shopify.This is a perfect solution for mobile-based businesses that do not have extensive inventory management requirements or have little to no inventory at all. Street fair vendors, event vendors, freelancers, small merchandise vendors, landscapers, limo drivers, tutors, and contract workers are ideal candidates for a smartphone-based POS system.

References & Resources

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