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Understanding the Point of Sale (POS)

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What is POS

What Is POS?

Let’s discuss the classic POS. No, I’m not talking about your busted up ride from college that you had to crawl through the passenger side door to get in and out of (But don’t get me wrong – that was definitely a POS!). Today I’m talking about the point of sale, which is undoubtedly the most important place you want your customers to visit. Customers who bypass the point of sale are basically bypassing your business altogether – and well, that’s not good. Simply put, the POS is the place where your customers pay you for goods or services rendered. You give them what they want, and they give you money. It’s a win-win situation.

POS Components

In the traditional sense, a point of sale refers to the physical, hardware and software components of retail check-out lines and cash registers. Registers typically run POS software that may be linked to a dedicated server. The software helps track customer purchases, employee sales, inventory fluctuations and other details. In many cases, a cashier is responsible for overseeing transactions and ensuring they run smoothly and correctly, although a lot of grocery stores and chain retailers are letting customers self-check at user-friendly POS stations.

The components of your particular POS will vary according to your business needs. For example, if you own one of those shops that serves up self-serve yogurt, you’ve got to have a scale integrated into your POS. Similarly, retailers need barcode scanners, and restaurants require order customization capabilities.

Streamlining the POS

Stores with multiple points of sale need easy integration and connectivity. After all, who wants to take fifteen thousand hours to run separate reports and compare information from each individual register each week? Hell no!

Enter the introduction of the UnifiedPOS standard established by The National Retail Foundation. In an attempt to make it easier for business owners to interconnect multiple POS systems, a couple of major sales platforms – OPOS and JavaPOS — were developed in the 1990s for in-house POS networking.

Unless you are some kind of tech wizard, this type of set-up can be über-complicated for the average retailer, requiring A LOT of ongoing tech support. Although these types of systems are still being used and updated today, the POS has begun to evolve significantly in recent years. And trust me; the changes are definitely for the better.

Point of Sale Evolution: How Technology is Changing the POS

Thank God for the Internet. No, really. Today’s POS is so much better than those ancient systems we used a couple of decades ago, and businesses are operating so much more efficiently and with fewer boundaries than ever before. It’s like comparing the age of dial-up Internet to today’s lightning fast WIFI access and streaming. You wouldn’t think of going back, and our lives have undoubtedly changed for the better.

Today’s POS is connected to the cloud (that’s a fancy word for secured remote servers accessed via the Internet). In other words, with a new and updated system, each of your points of sale is not only interconnected, but you can access them externally from wherever you are. Sure, you could be that guy that spends his Sunday afternoons at the store running the week’s reports, transferring them into QuickBooks and then backing up your system’s sales information. OR – you could do all of that…from your couch…on your iPad…during a single football commercial break. You see, today’s POS isn’t just better software – it’s better connectivity. You can literally take your POS to-go with iPad-based or other Internet capable devices. With a cloud-based point of sale system, business owners are experiencing:

  • Account Software Integration
  • Social Media Integration
  • Mobile Payment Support
  • Automatic System Updating
  • Automatic Backup
  • Secure Remote Server Support
  • Inventory Management
  • Account Tracking
  • Employee Tracking
  • Auto-Sync

…and a partridge in a pear tree.

Updating or Purchasing a New Point of Sale

If your old POS system just isn’t cutting it, or if you are getting ready to start a new business venture, make absolutely certain you choose a cloud-based system. Not only will you have an easier integration process and simpler reporting, but back-ups are automatic, inventory tracking is easy, there is also no need for an in-house dedicated server, and you damn sure won’t be dealing with endless hours of tech support troubleshooting. Take a look at our POS software comparison page to find a vendor that fits your needs.

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Amad Ebrahimi
Amad has worked in the eCommerce and online marketing world since 2002. He started as an eBay seller, then slowly graduated to building & marketing his own websites and consulting others to do the same. He founded Merchant Maverick out of frustration with all the misinformation and shady tactics that he encountered when trying to find a merchant account for his and his client's businesses. He's the man behind most of the merchant account reviews, and articles posted on Have any questions related to credit card processing? Talk to him.
Amad Ebrahimi
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Responses are not provided or commissioned by the vendor or bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the vendor or bank advertiser. It is not the vendor or bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

    Camille Devaux

    It is nice to know that the point-of-sale technology is increasingly getting better through technology. Making sure that you will not have to wait on a sale is a great plus. A friend of mine looking into the collection of money through her work would love knowing this.

      Joy Butler

      I’d like to thank you for your detailed explanation about POS systems. You’ve taught me that this software helps track customer purchases, employee sales, inventory fluctuations and other details. I certainly agree that this will not only have an easier integration process and simpler reporting, but back-ups are also automatic, and inventory tracking becomes easier.

        Andy Baptist

        Totally disagree that people should only be considering cloud based systems.

        If you want anything developed that is specific to your particular business, having those changes made to a large cloud based application can be very difficult achieve and expensive.

        Poor internet is also a big problem, as is the latency involved when doing everything over a network.

        Some of the features that you have identified as being cloud specific are in fact not specific to cloud systems at all.

          Jessica Dinsmore

          Hi Andy,

          We agree that you shouldn’t ONLY look at cloud-based systems but, for the most part, you’re rarely going to run into large-scale internet issues and most good systems have a competent back-up system now. In our opinion, cloud-based systems are the way everything is going for better or worse so it’d be safe to go that route if you don’t want to be stuck with an outdated system but that’s not to say that you can’t be happy with any locally installed system on the market either.

            Stephie David

            Thanks for sharing such informative article.Selecting an impressive POS system is one of the most important and tricky things to do for both new and experienced business owners. It is therefore recommended to invest a good amount of time in it. Your article provides a complete guide to POS buyers providing them better understanding POS.

              Barbera Peters

              After reading this article I can honestly say that I understand Point of Sale systems so much better. You mention how a point of sale is the most important place for customers to visit since it is the place the customer can go. I always thought the point of sale was more of a phase in the shopping experience but explain how it simply means it is where the customer pays for the goods or services provided. Thanks for the great explanation, I will have to keep it in mind next time I am at a store.

                Anne Lichtig

                Can anyone tell me about Squirrel Systems and how hey compete in the POS world?

                  April Cook

                  I work for a small business and we don’t have the best point of sales set up right now. I think new software could really help us provide better service for our customers. I also like that with a POS connected to the cloud you can access it anywhere. That would be really nice for the owner who travels a lot and can’t always be in the store to get reports. Thanks for sharing this great information!

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