Traditionally, a point of sale (POS) has been defined as the place where a sale is transacted. In a typical retail environment, the POS would be the cash register or cash drawer.
These days, however, POS systems aren’t relegated to the front counter of a shop, and they aren’t made up of just a cash drawer. Instead, they can be compact and even portable, allowing entrepreneurs to sell from virtually anywhere.
They also incorporate sophisticated software and digital features that do everything from transaction recording to inventory management.
POS Hardware And Software
The standard cash register is still used in most retail environments, but the hardware has changed a lot over the years. Cash registers used to be manually operated, but as technology advanced, register hardware began to incorporate electronics. Eventually, cash registers gained networking functionality to connect with central reporting hubs via landline telephone cables.
These days, sales systems usually incorporate digital technology and Internet connectivity, including touch screens, tap-to-pay readers and online administrative interfaces.
This latter feature allows customers to pay by simply tapping a chipped card or compatible smartphone against a special reader embedded in the POS terminal.
Modern POS hardware may also include customer-operated components that can be used at self-serve kiosks, or customers may be presented with a touch-screen at a checkout counter to approve the total of a transaction and include tips or sign transaction receipts digitally.
POS software, sometimes referred to as ePOS, often includes a web interface in addition to a user interface. The user interface can allow workers to access limited functions and make adjustments to certain transactions while the web interface typically offers a wider array of administrative functions.
These may include the ability to add inventory, change item descriptions, add users to a terminal location and generate specific reporting for individual terminals.
One beneficial feature of using ePOS software is that it may feature the ability to track transactions and archive them off-site. This means that business owners have the ability to review transactions and generate reports without having to actually be physically present in a store.
Using a web interface, archived transaction records can be pulled without the need to manually print off reporting from a register using standard register tape.
Mobile POS Equipment And The Internet
An exciting development in POS hardware and software has been the development of affordable mobile card readers. These are devices that can plug into a smartphone or tablet to access an online POS system.
Business owners can use mobile card readers to accept payments while away from a traditional retail environment, thereby allowing them to sell in more places. This type of system is often referred to as mPOS.
These systems function by using a data connection that transmits each sale over the air. In some cases, a WiFi signal may be required to use these types of card readers, but in others, a mobile device’s cellular data connection is all that is needed.
How To Choose An ePOS System For Retail
When it comes to choosing an ePOS system, there are a number of factors that will affect a business owner’s decision. POS integration into existing systems can be a challenge if your retail environment isn’t updated to work with modern networking components.
Because most transactions are processed using debit and credit cards as well as online wallet payments, your POS terminal must include the ability to read cards, chips and scan QR codes on smart devices.
POS system costs are another factor that can influence purchasing decisions. Digital POS equipment can range in price from free, as in the case of some simple smartphone card readers, to hundreds of dollars per terminal.
Most modern POS software is available on a subscription basis, and subscriptions can cost on average around $100 per month. The cost of a POS machine and software subscription is usually based on the included features as well as the number of units and users required.
Speaking of features, you also want to think about the features included in your small business POS software. Some POS software includes the ability to manage inventory, apply discounts, generate coupons, accept gift cards, place special orders and generate reports from the software’s user interface.
Depending on the level of functionality your business requires, some of these features may be overkill while others may be a necessity.
Preferred payment method is another consideration when choosing an ePOS system. If you don’t plan to accept cash, ePOS software offers a lot of potential.
If you do plan to accept cash in addition to cards and online wallet payments, you will want to make sure your POS software can integrate with your cash drawer or accounting system.