Whether you’re starting a new business or you’ve decided it’s time to upgrade from that antique cash register, deciding on a PoS (Point of Sale) system can be daunting. There are so many different systems available, from simple to vastly complex. Some PoS systems will practically run your entire business for you, allowing you to monitor the operation from your cell phone, at home, or elsewhere. Which one is for you? Here are some things to consider when deciding on a PoS system that’s right for your local business.
Retail versus Hospitality Industry
PoS systems come with a lot of variability according to the industry they service. If you need to be able to keep multiple bar tabs open at one time, for instance, you’re more likely to find that feature in a hospitality PoS. If you want to scan barcodes or enter SKUs, which helps you track inventory with your sales, you should look for a retail-oriented PoS. If you need to be able to split the check multiple ways for a restaurant bill, once again, that’s a hospitality function, while differentiating tax brackets for retail and wholesale is a retail function. Some PoS systems have general features that can be used for a variety of industries, but if you have required functionality specific to your business, you may want to stick with an industry-specific PoS.
How Much Are You Willing to Spend?
Obviously, the more complex and multi-functional the system, the higher the cost. When you add up your future cost savings, however – such as less inventory loss due to employee theft or unauthorized “freebies,” improved efficiency, and reduced necessity for hands-on monitoring (your time is valuable) – you may pronounce your new PoS system a bargain at any price.
You must also decide whether you want to pay for the system up front or over time, and we’re not talking about financing here. If the system comes with a lot of hardware, and if you decide to keep it all in house (requiring the purchase of a server), your upfront costs could add up to thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. If you go with a cloud-based system, which uses an internet-accessible server, the bulk of the expense is in the software, which may be purchased outright or “rented” by way of a term-limited licensing fee.
Some PoS system vendors will provide you the whole setup for “free,” as long as you commit to a monthly contract for a set number of years. In deciding which route to choose, you’ll need to consider the length of time you expect to use the system multiplied against the monthly payments. Does that add up to more or less than simply purchasing a system outright? Be sure to add interest charges into the equation if you need to finance the purchase.
Is the System Upgradable and Does it Get Along with Other Software?
A PoS system is a major investment, and something you’re going to live with for a long, long time, so you’ll want to choose one that can grow with your business. Yes, it can keep five bar tabs open at once, but what about 25? Can you upgrade without having to purchase a whole new system? A PoS with interchangeable parts and features – sort of like a Lego set – is a good fit for most small to mid-sized businesses. That way you can start small and add on as you have a need. Additionally, if you already have software programs you rely on for certain specialized features of your business, you’ll want to make sure the systems are compatible, so that you’re not having to duplicate hardware.
How Easy is it to Use?
You may be a high-tech genius, but consider all of the other managers and employees who will be using your PoS system, now and in the future. Ask your salesperson for a demo, and bring along your most technologically-challenged employee. Even if the initial training is free, you don’t want to have to go through the hassle and expense of paying for training sessions now and in the future for a PoS system that’s not simple and intuitive to use.
In-House versus Cloud-Based Servers
Larger businesses often stick with in-house servers, which are quite a bit more expensive and require more hardware, while smaller businesses tend to go with the cloud. A cloud-based server is a server located somewhere else in the country, on which you purchase a certain amount of space for your PoS system. The server is accessed through a secure Internet connection, which gives you the freedom to monitor your operation and even make changes from anywhere around the world, as long as you have an Internet connection.
An in-house server offers arguably more security and reliability, as your whole cloud-based PoS system could go down with the loss of an Internet connection. These benefits, however, are questionable; even in-house servers have been hacked, and unless there’s a backup system in place, a server crash could also shut down your operation.
Credit Card Processing Functions
Different PoS systems may have different partnership agreements with various credit card companies. Be sure and find out whether or not the PoS system you’re contemplated will lock you into a particular plan with less than desirable fees, or that excludes certain credit cards.
Before you purchase a PoS system, take a deep dive into their support plan. Don’t just take the salesman’s word for it, call the support hotline during your normal hours of operation and see if there’s an actual support tech on the end of the line (and not an answering service). If your PoS system goes down at 11 o’clock at night or on a Sunday morning, you won’t want to wait for business hours to get help.
Consider All the Possibilities
Purchasing a PoS system is not to be taken lightly. Take your time and consider all the possibilities. Check out customer reviews and insist on demonstrations for each and every system you look at. Start with what you need today, but make sure it can be expanded or upgraded for your needs five years from now. Don’t let a pushy salesman rush you into a decision. Don’t be swayed by a “limited time offer.” It’s the same sales incentive you use with your customers, but if it causes you to rush into a bad decision, it’s not worth it.