Why You Need A POS System For Your Retail Store
Retail is a large, diverse, and rapidly changing industry, and small retail business owners are increasingly forced to wear multiple hats at once. As a retail store owner, you likely manage an extensive inventory of products. Even a retailer that only sells a single type of item, such as shoes, deals with multiple variants of the same item—color, size, width, etc. At the same time, you're likely considering how best to meet online demand for your product while still attracting customers to your brick-and-mortar location. All in all, retail is a challenging and multifaceted environment, no matter the size of your business.
Fortunately, technology is up to the challenge. A far cry from old-school Windows-based point of sale (POS) systems that only processed credit card payments and didn't do much else, modern cloud-based retail point of sale systems are able to handle virtually every aspect of running a retail business, automating important tasks like inventory management and serving as an important bridge between your in-store and online sales. Oh yeah, they also make taking payments a breeze too.
On top of all the time- and money-saving a retail POS system achieves by helping you manage your business, a tablet-based retail POS system also keeps your business nimble and up-to-date, which is crucial in the fast-changing world of retail. The monthly SaaS (software-as-a-service) model of cloud POS means you receive frequent software updates, continuous connectivity, and the ability to scale with your business as it grows and evolves.
How To Find The Right Retail POS System
Finding the right retail POS system for your business requires you to evaluate various systems and decide which one meets your needs best—and also falls within your budget. If you have one small store or have yet to open your first physical location, then a more basic retail POS will likely suit your needs. However, if you have a large inventory or multiple outlets, you will need more advanced features.
In some cases, your store may benefit from a specialty retail POS. The more tailored a retail POS system is to your particular industry, the better. For example, you may need special features like rental management, appointment management, or even food-service features if you sell some food in addition to retail items.
The following resources can help you evaluate different types of retail POS systems:
For simple, low-volume point of sale needs, retailers will still benefit from having a POS system, even if it's a basic free POS such as Square.
What Features Should You Look For In Retail POS Systems?
At the very least, your retail POS system should offer credit card processing, online connectivity, basic reporting capabilities, and of course customer support. You may also benefit from any of the following features, which are common with many tablet-based, touchscreen POS systems for retail:
- Cloud-Based: Cloud POS systems carry the benefits of mobility—useful for on-the-go sales and line-busting—affordable monthly billing, and constant connectivity (with offline mode). These systems usually have some degree of customizability so you can choose only the features you need.
- Inventory Management: Retail POS systems let you manage large inventory quantities with vast numbers of SKUs. You may also need features like bulk item management, variants, and a matrix inventory.
- Modern Payments: Either via in-house payment processing or integration with a third-party merchant account, retailers benefit by being able to accept modern payments such as EMV and NFC.
- Advanced Reporting: Sales and employee reports help you prevent theft, identify bestsellers, and more. Most POS systems have some preset reports, but a more advanced retail POS system will let you generate custom reports.
- Refunds & Exchanges: Refunds and returns are part of any retail business, and higher-volume businesses especially will benefit from an easy return and exchange system.
- Vendor & PO Management: Keep track of items ordered, vendors, and all associated information.
- eCommerce: Online store integration makes it easy to sell your products on your website, on social media, and online for in-store pickup. eCommerce POS systems will also sync your online and in-store inventories, creating a seamless sales experience for both your employees and your customers.
- Employee Management: With employee management tools, you can set employee permissions, track employees' hours, schedule shifts, track sales and commissions by employee, and even run payroll. Employees can clock in and out on the POS, and it's easy to see which employee handled which sale.
- Discounts: This feature allows cashiers to apply pre-set and custom discounts, either on an item level or for the entire purchase.
- Deposits/Layaway: Some stores may want to let customers put a down payment on an item or put an item on layaway.
- Loyalty: Reward repeat customers with a loyalty program that gives customers points or rewards. (This feature is usually offered as an optional add-on for an additional fee.)
- Gift Cards: You can sell and accept gift cards using your retail POS; options include physical gift cards you scan or swipe., and digital cards you scan from the customer's phone.
- Online Marketing: Send email and text marketing promotions customers can redeem at your store.
- Multi-Location Support: This feature is useful for syncing inventory items and other store information across multiple retail locations.
- Third-Party Software Integrations: It will make your life a lot easier if your POS integrates with your accounting software, scheduling software, email marketing software, or any other software you use.
- Remote Business Management: Most retail store owners will find it useful to be able to check on their store's metrics from home (or vacation, or wherever else life takes you) using a mobile app or an online portal.
Software & Hardware Costs For Retail POS Systems
Cloud-based retail POS software typically starts at around $60/month for one register, but could amount to $200/month, or more, depending on how large of a business you have and how many advanced features you need. Sometimes, you may be able to save money on software fees by paying for your software fees in advance for the entire year.
As for hardware, a typical setup might include a POS screen (iPad or tablet with a stand/enclosure, or a desktop/laptop computer), credit card terminal, barcode scanner, cash drawer, and receipt printer. Usually, you can purchase this kind of hardware setup as a bundle from your POS provider for somewhere around $1,000 to $1,500, or less if you use your own iPad. Other peripherals such as customer-facing displays will, of course, add to the cost, as will additional registers.
However, it's also possible to run your store with just a mobile device and a mobile credit card reader.
If a POS vendor advertises that they will give you free hardware, read the fine print: there is usually a catch, like a multi-year service contract. We also strongly recommend against leasing your POS hardware.
Learn more about retail POS costs by reading this post: How Much Does A POS System Cost?