One of the most important decisions business owners make today is often the one that gets the least consideration. Choosing the right point of sale (POS) software can make the difference between running an efficient, profitable operation and sorting through a frustrating mess that costs you time and money.
Today there are literally thousands of different point of sale software programs, each with features and processes tailored to the needs of different industries. Businesses should think carefully about the challenges they face on a regular basis before investing in new POS software. For instance, a coffee shop has very different processes than a sporting goods store, and the same POS system would not serve them both well.
Despite the trend toward industry customization, most systems share certain must-have attributes. Here are some of the coolest features you can find in today’s point of sale software.
Quick and efficient checkouts
First and foremost, a POS should make the checkout process easier for the cashier and the customer. Using pre-programmed touchscreen buttons, sales reps can enter information quickly, without any redundant steps that slow the process. Such a user interface—which mirrors the experience of using an iPad—is very familiar to most employees, making it easy to train them on your POS.
Most POS software is now linked to the accounting, customer service and marketing departments, facilitating the transfer of important data that helps everyone do their jobs better. For instance, a cashier can identify a customer by scanning his or her loyalty card or phone app and then transfer purchase information to the marketing department, giving them quick insight into which promotional offers are resonating with customers (1).
Keeping track of inventory
Managing inventory is one of the most time-consuming tasks a business owner has to endure. Your POS software should make this process much easier. The system tracks every purchase and monitors inventory levels as products walk out the door.
Managing orders with suppliers
Another great aspect of inventory control is automatic orders. When inventory drops below a certain point, your POS will produce a new sales order that’s ready to go to your vendor. All it takes is a quick authorization from one of your managers and the order goes out.
Mobile payments on site
Mobile payments are one of the fastest-growing trends in the retail and restaurant industries, and with good reason (2). Taking the checkout device to your customers, rather than making them wait in line, not only saves people time, it also makes your business more profitable. Sales reps can help customers research the features of an item right there on the sales floor and then check them out in the moment they are most engaged. This also reduces the risk of “showrooming,” where patrons browse other websites to look for better pricing on your products.
Mobile payments on the road
Point of sale systems are no longer limited to on-site transactions. You can take your business to a tradeshow or business expo, connect to the Internet and process transactions as if you were in your own store. This feature is especially handy at events where people can sample your products or try out a demo. If they like the experience, you can sell them products, sign them up for your newsletter and possibly even make a new customer for life.
The most important feature to look for in POS software is security protection for your customers. Small businesses that produce a lot of transactions—retailers and restaurants, in particular—are favorite targets for cyberthieves. Criminals believe that small businesses have the fewest resources to combat data breaches. This used to be true, but modern POS systems are changing that.
Nothing is more important than making sure your business is compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), a set of security guidelines companies must follow if they want the privilege of accepting electronic payments. A good POS system will offer advanced security features to help protect customer data, including encryption, tokenization and EMV technology.
Collecting data about the state of your business is essential for success. Extracting information about your profits, expenses, prices, inventory and margins are all important, and a good POS will help you with this. Integrated payments allow you to link your other business operations to your payment system. This way, every time a transaction is processed, a wealth of information is shared across your organization. Anyone you authorize to access this information can get it in an instant, from employee hours to sales figures to lists of items on delivery.
Point of sale software is no longer a one-size-fits-all solution. Businesses have access to solutions today that are fully customizable to meet their needs. By selecting a system that will accelerate your growth and improve your operations, you can leverage all the advantages a POS has to offer.