Many retail and restaurant point-of-sale (POS) systems are set up as all-in-one packages, with hardware, software, and scanners packaged as an integrated bundle. While these types of systems can be great for simple retail operations handling basic transactions, they don’t suit everyone’s needs. Customizable or specialized solutions often are needed for specific application. What’s more, more retailers and restaurants adopting off-the-shelf consumer hardware such as iPads and Android tablet as POS hardware creating more options for POS software.
A study by IHL Group reveals that 28 percent of North American retailers are adopting mobile POS in one form or another, and the mobile POS market in North America is expected to exceed $2 billion. Apple iPads are proving exceedingly popular for POS applications and many cloud-based POS apps are free or very inexpensive. Others are looking to adapt mobile devices to use a Square credit card reader or similar transactions systems on various consumer mobile systems.
Whether you choose to use off-the-shelf mobile hardware such an iPad or Android tablet, or if you are looking to upgrade the software for your current POS system, there are criteria you should consider to make sure you choose the best POS software for your needs.
Choose Functionality to Suit Your Business
Depending on your business, you need to consider the specific features you need in your POS software. For retailers, be sure you have the following:
- The ability to scan by barcode or SKU.
- Custom product parameters to accommodate size, color, models, and other product variables.
- Multiple tax options to accommodate retail and wholesale.
- Customer invoicing for service products.
- Receipt printing, including the ability to email electronic receipts.
- Discounts, coupons, gift cards, and special offers.
- Customer reward and loyalty programs.
If you are in the hospitality or restaurant business, there are other options to shop for:
- Printed or electronic receipts with space for a gratuity.
- The ability to handle multiple open tabs.
- Order tickets sent directly to the kitchen.
- The ability to change the menu and accommodate specials.
- Accommodating advance reservations.
- Floor layout and the ability to assign seating.
- Integration with a customer database for loyalty programs and “to go” orders.
These are just a few of the features to look for when considering POS software for your operation. List your needs in advance and match your specific requirements to the list of software features.
Ease of Use Trumps Functionality
You can purchase POS software with all the latest bells and whistles the industry has to offer, but if those features are too complex to use then they have no value.
Ease of use should be a primary consideration. If the system is not intuitive and easy to understand then your employees will struggle to use it correctly and it will lead to larger problems down the road. As a litmus test, see how well you can use the software without having to look at the manual. If the system is relatively easy to use then your staff will use it properly.
Many vendors, especially hosted solution providers, offer a trial period or demonstrations. Be sure to test the software in advance so you don’t have to triage problems in the middle of a major sale or on a busy night at the bar. Also see if you can teach the system to employees in an hour or so; it it’s too difficult to learn keep shopping.
Cloud versus Server Software
Depending on your operation, you also want to consider whether a hosted or enterprise software solution best fits your needs.
Historically, POS software has run in-house on a server that integrates inventory management, accounting, and other functions. If you have a single storefront or a closed retail environment and sufficient IT support, then adopting an enterprise POS software solution might be your best option.
As more retailers and restaurants adopt mobile POS solutions, it opens new software possibilities. If you are using consumer mobile hardware such as an iPad, you will probably want to adopt a cloud-based system using a downloadable app. Even if you choose to use an in-house software solution, you will need to deploy a secure wireless network to make sure that the POS hardware can connect to the transaction system, whether that system is on a server or hosted on the web.
Alternative payment systems have forced many retailers and restaurants to open their closed POS systems. PayPal, Square, Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and other payment systems require cloud access.
Shop for Support
The POS system means money to retailers so it has to be up and running at all times. Any software solution needs to have solid support behind it. Shop for the best service track record, help response time, and service level agreements.
POS software is the engine that powers transactions so it has to be reliable and easy to use. If you carefully consider your requirements in advance, it will be easier to choose a POS software platform that can grow with your business.