How To Choose the Right Point of Sale (POS) System

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In 2023, there were an estimated 5.6 million private-sector businesses in the UK. From clothes shops to restaurants, beauty salons to bars, the one thing all these businesses have in common is accepting payments from customers in return for providing products or services.

Managing these transactions might be simple to begin with, but as your business grows, so does the list of things you need to keep track of.  A Point of Sale (POS) system, allows you to effortlessly manage multiple aspects of your business from a single, centralised location. 

The only problem is, which POS system should you choose?

How To Choose the Right Point of Sale (POS) System

What is a POS System?

A POS system is software that helps businesses process transactions and manage sales.

Acting as a digital cash register, it scans items, calculates the total cost, and accepts payments like cash, credit cards, or digital wallets. 

With many features, POS systems can also help track inventory, monitor sales data, and even market your business from one convenient platform.

Packages usually include hardware like a cash register and barcode scanner, but software-only packages are available.

>>Read our article on the Best POS Systems in the UK

What Kinds of Business Need a Point-of-Sale (POS) System?

POS systems can be used by businesses of all sizes but work best for those directly selling their products and services to customers.

Suitable businesses include:

  • Retail Stores such as clothing boutiques, electronic shops and bookstores
  • Healthcare practices, including dental clinics, chiropractic centres and veterinary practices
  • Salons and spas like hairdressers, barbershops and nail salons
  • Entertainment venues such as cinemas, museums and event venues
  • Supermarkets and convenience stores, including multi-location shops
  • Restaurants and cafes, including bakeries and food trucks
  • Bars, pubs and nightclubs
  • Hotels and accommodations, including bed and breakfasts and holiday rentals
  • Service-based businesses like car rentals, photography studios and tutoring centres.

Benefits of a POS System

There are many reasons why you should use a POS for your business, including:

  • Efficient Transactions:  Create an efficient checkout process to improve your overall customer experience
  • Cost Savings: By minimising waste and identifying opportunities for upselling or cross-selling, you can maximise profit margins
  • Inventory Management: Track what’s in stock and what’s running low to know when to reorder products.
  • Customer Tracking: Understand customers’ preferences and offer personalised recommendations or loyalty rewards.
  • Reduced Errors: Minimise mistakes in pricing or calculations, which can happen with manual methods
  • Streamlined Reporting: Generate reports on sales, inventory, and other essential metrics.
  • Integration with Other Systems: Connect your POS system with other business software, such as accounting or customer relationship management (CRM) systems, for seamless data sharing.
  • Enhanced Security: Features like secure payment processing and user authentication protect sensitive customer and financial data from theft or fraud.
  • Remote Management: Whether you have one location or multiple, monitor sales, inventory, and other essential metrics from anywhere with internet access.
  • Compliance Management: Easily meet regulatory requirements and industry standards such as data security and record keeping. 

How To Choose the Right Point-of-Sale (POS) System?

POS Features to Consider

Modern POS systems often have a long list of advanced features. There are so many, in fact, that it can be overwhelming to know where to start.

While the POS features you’ll need depends on your circumstances, some of the most important you should consider are:

  • Payment Processing: Check that the POS system supports multiple payment methods, including cash, credit/debit cards, mobile payments, and digital wallets, that cater to your customer’s preferences.
  • Inventory Management: You can generate barcodes, monitor stock levels, track product movement, set reorder points, and receive alerts for low inventory items.
  • Order Management: Look for a POS system with comprehensive customer order features, enabling businesses to track orders, manage order status, process refunds and exchanges, and communicate order updates with customers in real time.
  • Customer Relationship Management: Consider POS systems with features that enable you to capture customer information, track purchase history, segment customer data, and execute targeted marketing campaigns.
  • Gift Cards and Loyalty Programmes: Consider POS systems that offer built-in support for gift card issuance and redemption and loyalty programme management features that allow businesses to reward customers for repeat purchases and encourage brand loyalty.
  • Employee Management: Look for features that allow businesses to manage employee schedules, track employee sales performance, assign roles and permissions, and generate payroll reports.
  • Sales Reporting: The POS system should offer analytics tools that provide insights into sales trends, product performance, customer behaviour, and other key metrics to inform business decisions.
  • Customisation Options: Look for POS systems that offer options to tailor the system to your business needs, including customisable menus, pricing rules, receipt templates, and reporting formats.
  • Offline Mode: Consider a POS system that offers offline functionality, allowing transactions to be processed even when your internet connection is disrupted.
  • Multi-location Support: Choose a POS system that supports centralised management and reporting across all locations to streamline operations and maintain consistency.

Types of POS Systems Available

There are several types of POS systems, each catering to a different business set-up.

POS System TypeDescription
Desktop POS SystemsThe old-school cash registers or desktop-based systems seen in many stores. They include a cash drawer, barcode scanner, receipt printer, and sometimes a customer display. They are reliable but may lack some modern features.
Cloud-based POS SystemsSimilar to traditional POS systems, but instead of being tied to a fixed location, they can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection.
Handheld POS SystemsLightweight and portable, ideal for businesses requiring mobility, such as food trucks and market vendors. They offer flexibility, but features are usually limited to payment processing, order management, and receipt printing.
Mobile POS SystemsApps that transform smartphones or tablets into POS systems. Handy for businesses on the go, like food trucks or pop-up shops. They’re lightweight, easy to set up, and often have features like inventory management and mobile payments.
Tablet-based POS SystemsIt runs solely on tablets like iPads or Android devices. They are popular in restaurants and cafes because they’re easy to use, take up less space than traditional systems, and can handle complex orders and payments.
Self-service Kiosk POS SystemsTouchscreen terminals that let customers place orders and make payments themselves. Common in fast-food restaurants, cinemas, and supermarkets. They streamline the ordering process and reduce the need for staff intervention.
Multichannel POS SystemsAllow businesses to sell their products or services through multiple channels, such as online stores, physical retail locations, mobile apps, and social media platforms. Each channel operates somewhat independently, with its inventory, sales, and customer data.
Omnichannel POS SystemsTakes integration to the next level by providing a unified and cohesive shopping experience across all channels. They enable seamless synchronisation of real-time inventory, orders, and customer data, regardless of the channel used for purchase.
Open-source POS SystemsAdvanced solutions where the source code is freely available for users to customise, add new features, and integrate with other systems to suit their specific requirements.

You can also get specialised POS systems tailored to your industry. The benefit of this is that it often comes with helpful features you just wouldn’t get with the more generalised systems. 

For example, retail-specific systems may include features to help manage variations of products like different sizes and efficient returns and exchange management. 

In contrast, hospitality and restaurant POS systems may include table management, menu customisation, kitchen display systems, split billing and delivery management. 

The three main types of industry-specific POS systems are:

  • Retail POS systems such as Lightspeed Retail, Epos Now, and Square for Retail
  • Hospitality & Restaurant POS systems like Lightspeed Restaurant, YumaPOS, Epos Now Hospitality and Square for Restaurants.
  • eCommerce POS systems such as Shopify, Zettle, and Square.

Cloud-Based vs Traditional POS Systems

Cloud-based and desktop-based POS systems offer businesses distinct advantages and disadvantages.

Cloud-based POS systems offer flexibility and accessibility since they can be accessed from any device with an internet connection, making them ideal for businesses with multiple locations or those that require remote management. 

They also often come with automatic updates and backups, reducing the burden on businesses to maintain and secure their data.

However, you will be reliant on your internet connectivity, meaning that if the internet goes down, the system may become inaccessible, disrupting your business.

On the other hand, desktop-based POS systems offer more stability and reliability. Since they operate locally on a dedicated device, they are not dependent on internet connectivity, making them suitable for businesses in areas with unreliable internet service. 

Desktop POS systems can offer faster processing speeds and response times since they do not depend on internet bandwidth for operation. Businesses also have more control over data security and compliance as data is stored locally.

However, they may require more upfront investment in hardware and software licenses, and updates may need to be manually installed, which can be time-consuming. Multi-location businesses may also find the remote management capabilities more limited than those cloud-based systems offer.

Integration with Other Software and Hardware

One of the biggest benefits of using a POS is expanding its capabilities by integrating your system with other 3rd party software.

These integrations allow different parts of your business to communicate and share data effortlessly, streamlining operations and improving overall efficiency. 

Some popular POS integrations include:

  • Accounting integrations that allow sales data and financial transactions to be automatically synchronised, eliminating the need for manual data entry and streamlining bookkeeping processes
  • Inventory management integrations to get alerts for low-stock or out-of-stock items, ensuring that popular items are always available to customers.
  • eCommerce integrations synchronise product listings between your physical stores and online channels to create a seamless omnichannel shopping experience for customers.
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) integrations that track purchase history and analyse customer behaviour to create personalised marketing campaigns.

Compatibility with 3rd party software varies widely between POS systems, and some may charge an additional cost, so it’s important to check the integration capabilities of your chosen system before signing up.

If you already have existing hardware, such as tablets and card readers, you must consider their compatibility before signing up for a new POS system.

You’ll have to purchase new, compatible hardware if they’re incompatible, increasing your costs. 

POS Scalability and Future Growth

For growing businesses, the scalability of your POS system should be one of the main deciding factors. 

Although most modern POS systems are user-friendly and require minimum training, it still takes take to set up and optimise your system.

Expanding your existing POS system instead of starting again with a new provider, will keep downtime to a minimum.

Key considerations should include whether your system can:

  • Handle increased sales and workload without significant changes or disruptions.
  • Expand to include new locations or sales channels.
  • Manage multiple users for growing teams. 
  • Be upgraded to add new features as your business’s needs change through add-ons and integrations.
  • Be used with various hardware and infrastructure options, such as adding more terminals or upgrading to faster internet connections.

You should also consider the upfront and monthly costs of expanding your system. Choose a system that offers flexible pricing options and transparent pricing structures to avoid unexpected expenses as the business grows.

Point-of-Sale (POS) Security and Compliance Considerations

Whatever system you choose, you must ensure it will protect your business’s and customer’s data.

Without adequate security measures, the data you store on your POS system is vulnerable to data breaches, exposing sensitive information such as credit card numbers.

In turn, these data breaches can damage your business’s reputation, legal liabilities, fines and penalties, so it’s not something you should ignore. 

Look for features like data encryption, which scrambles sensitive information so hackers can’t easily access it, and user authentication, which means only authorised users can access the system.

Depending on the type of business, there may be specific regulations or standards that your POS system needs to comply with. For example, companies that handle credit card payments must comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).

Regular updates help fix security vulnerabilities and protect the system against new threats. 

In case of a system failure or data loss, having backups ensures that important data can be restored quickly and efficiently.

Cost and Pricing Models for POS Systems

When considering a new POS system, you must ensure it aligns with your budget and offers value for money. 

POS systems range from affordable, entry-level, pay-per-use packages to advanced solutions costing £300+ monthly. 

The type of cost you pay will depend on your POS provider and needs but may include:

Initial SetupEvaluate upfront expenses, including hardware, software licenses, installation, and setup.
Subscription or LicensingDetermine if the POS operates on a subscription model or requires one-time licensing fees. 
Transaction FeesConsider your customer’s preferred payment method and understand how the transaction fee will impact the overall cost.
Additional FeaturesBudget for extra features, integrations, or add-ons that enhance functionality. 
Hardware and EquipmentFactor in expenses for POS hardware like terminals, tablets, scanners, printers, and cash registers. Compare prices and quality, and consider leasing vs. purchasing options.
Training and SupportEvaluate costs for training, onboarding, and ongoing technical support from the provider. Assess if included in subscription or as additional fees, and the level of support offered.
Scalability and ExpansionAssess if the system can handle additional users, locations, and features without significant expense or upgrades.

You might find it helpful to work out the potential return on investment (ROI) when implementing your new system, considering factors such as increased efficiency, improved customer experience, reduced operational costs and enhanced sales opportunities. 

You can do this in several ways, but the most common is to divide net profit by the total cost of the POS system and then multiply it by 100. 

For example, if a clothes store pays a total amount of £300 for their POS system but generates an annual net profit of £30,000, they would have a ROI of 10,000%. 

User Interface and Ease of Use

The user interface is like the system’s dashboard, where employees ring up sales, manage inventory, and process payments. The interface must be intuitive and straightforward, meaning it’s easy for employees to understand and navigate without extensive training.

A system with a simple and intuitive interface can reduce training time and help employees become proficient faster. This is particularly important in fast-paced environments where staff turnover may be high, and new employees must get up to speed quickly.

Cluttered or confusing interfaces will slow transactions and lead to long customer wait times. On the other hand, a streamlined interface with easy-to-find buttons and clear prompts can help employees process transactions quickly, even during busy periods.

Your POS system should be customisable to accommodate your preferences, such as menu layouts, adding shortcuts for commonly used functions, and adjusting screen layouts for different types of transactions.

The system should also be accessible and include features such as larger fonts, high-contrast options, and screen reader compatibility to ensure equal access for all users.

Why POS Support and POS Customer Service is So Important

The profitability and efficiency of your business depends on your POS system working as it should. However, problems can arise, disrupting your business and daily operations. 

Whilst not a deciding factor, you should still consider the support options for a potential new POS system, ensuring they get the customer service you need if the worst happens. 

POS support can be provided through various channels, including online tutorials, user manuals, live web chats, and phone support.

Some POS system providers may offer support and training as part of the package, while others may charge extra fees. Consider whether the cost is reasonable and fits within the budget.

Check if the support is available 24/7 or only during specific hours. It’s important to know that help is available when needed, especially during busy times or an urgent issue.

You should also think about the quality of the support provided. Is the support team knowledgeable and responsive? Do they resolve issues quickly and efficiently? You can understand this by reading customer reviews on websites like Trustpilot. 

To help you get started the most out of your POS system, many POS providers offer some form of training in the form of in-person sessions, online courses or video tutorials. 

The training should be easy to understand and, ideally, tailored to the needs of your business so you and your employees can use the system effectively. 

Will additional training and support be available as the business grows or if new employees join? The POS provider should be able to accommodate changing needs and provide ongoing support as required.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I compare different POS systems to make the best decision for my business?

What are some common mistakes to avoid when selecting and implementing a POS system?

Do all POS systems have monthly fees?

How can I ensure a POS system is compatible with my payment processing setup?

How can I ensure a POS system is compatible with my preferred hardware devices, such as scanners and printers?

How do I know if my business needs a POS system upgrade?