As every retailer knows, PoS, or point of sale, is the place where a retail transaction is completed. Basically, it’s the cashier. So why the fancy acronym? In this time of increasingly advanced technology, you will rarely find an old fashioned mechanical cash register at a local business point of sale.
Today, a point of sale can also be thought of as a point of service, as it’s often where customers return and special orders are handled. Instead of a mechanical cash register, a modern PoS includes a much more complex computer program with many advanced features and functionalities, such as inventory tracking and warehouse management, which used to be handled individually.
At its simplest, a PoS system is a computer program that replaces the basic cash register. All sales and transactions are entered into the computer, which records and tracks it all for you. However, there are many, many variations of PoS systems available for your local business, ranging from simple to all encompassing.
Types of PoS Systems
A typical setup of a basic PoS system today includes a cash register, comprised of a computer and monitor, cash drawer, receipt printer, barcode scanner, and customer display. Additionally, most systems also include a credit card reader and pin-pad device, and, increasingly, a near-field communication (NFC) device for taking mobile payments from cell phones.
Depending on the business and desired functionality, PoS software can be set up to handle a variety of different functions, including sales, returns, exchanges, layaways, customer rewards programs, gift registries, gift cards, coupons, foreign currency, and more. PoS software can also incorporate all of your business functions, like inventory management, purchasing and receiving, sales reports, order tracking, customer tracking, accounts receivable, accounts payable, and even payroll.
PoS for Retail Businesses
For most retail businesses, the PoS unit in the front of the store handles customer sales, but that is just one part of the entire system. Linked back office computers generally handle inventory control, purchasing, receiving, and product transfer from other store locations. Other functions may include storing sales information for use with returns and for reporting and analysis purposes, storing customer information for managing receivables, marketing and buying analysis, and accounting interfaces for independent accounting applications. In some stores with multi-faceted operations, specialized additional features may include software that handles purchase orders, repairs, service, rental programs, and special orders.
PoS for Hospitality Businesses
Like other PoS systems, those used in the hospitality industry keep track of sales, labor, and payroll, as well as generate various accounting and bookkeeping records. In the hospitality industry, however, PoS systems have many more specialized functions
Typically, restaurant PoS software is able to create and print receipts, send orders to kitchen staff and bartenders, process credit cards and other payments, and run daily reports. Many high volume restaurants utilize handheld wireless PoS to collect orders, which are forwarded to a server, who forwards it to the kitchen. Wireless PoS systems are especially common in fast-food restaurants, but can also be found in high-tech restaurants with table-top ordering through a tablet device.
In hotels, PoS systems are also able to transfer restaurant charges to guest room bills with just one button.
Internet versus In-Store
Many PoS systems utilize the Internet, so that owners and managers can access reports from anywhere they have an Internet connection, and receive alerts and reports on their smartphones. This also helps protect the information from a system-wide crash, but may make it slightly more vulnerable to hacking.
For businesses who prefer to keep all of their information on the premises, newer systems are resorting to cluster databases rather than one central server, which eliminates downtime and data loss associated with a server crash. Not only can 100 percent of the information be stored securely, but it can also be accessed entirely from the local terminal.
What Kind of PoS System do I Need?
The selection of a PoS system for your local business is critical to your daily operation and is a major investment that you will have to live with for many years. The PoS system interfaces with all phases of the operation and with everyone that is involved; customers, suppliers, employees, managers, and owners.
When it’s time to select a PoS system, the many different types and functionalities available may make you want to go back to an old fashioned cash register. Resist the temptation, however, as a well-designed PoS will save you time and money, and make your life much easier in the long run.