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Point-of-Sale Systems Software Purchasing Guide

Choosing the right point of sale system is essential for any business with a physical storefront and the POS purchasing guide below is meant to help with that decision. These systems can be used to manage a number of different business areas including both inventory and pricing thus providing a greater degree of efficiency and control when compared to cash registers. With a POS system in place, fewer man-hours are required to run a business and losses due to human error will be reduced. Knowing how to choose the right system is therefore vital to your business's success. Use the following POS purchasing guide as an aid to making your decision:

POS System Trends

EMV-Compliant Systems: EMV is an acronym for Europay, MasterCard and Visa and refers to cards with newer fraud prevention technology. These cards do not have the magnetic stripe that used to be common on debit and credit cards. Over the next year, business owners should expect to see more POS systems that are compliant with this technology. Many merchants have already made the switch and because the EMV deadline has passed, those who have not will feel increased pressure to do so.

Mobile Payments: A large number of consumers use smartphones on a daily basis to make purchases both online and in brick and mortar stores. This trend is expected to continue with the adoption of e-wallets and other mobile payment options that allow consumers to complete purchases on their own devices. Near Field Communications (NFC) is a payment option that allows customers to pay using a smartphone simply by placing it near the POS device.

POS Systems Based in the Cloud: Proprietary POS systems that are hard to maintain or have a steep learning curve are about to become outdated. Over the next year, look for cloud-based POS systems to become even more widely used. Their benefits include relief from the high upfront costs of proprietary POS systems and from the burden of having to deal with upgrades and software issues on their own. Business owners will also get the ability to view and manage their POS system from their mobile devices.

Tablet-Based POS Systems: These are designed to replace clumsy standard POS systems. Customers have shown a preference for tablet systems both when ordering and when checking out. On the merchant's side, these systems have been shown to provide a range of benefits. Merchants will like the fact that employees are already familiar with the technology, which makes training them much easier. In addition, tablet systems are less expensive and take up less space.

POS System Types

Retail POS Systems: Retailers have simpler needs when compared to other POS users. This is because their transactions are completed at one time and there is often not much variation in their products. Retailers may want a POS system with features such as the ability to make special offers as well as to handle returns and exchanges. If a store sells merchandise that comes in multiple styles, they should opt for a POS that supports matrices. This allows them to have a single inventory and price entry for a particular item but they will still be able to track sales of that item's different variations.

Hospitality POS Systems: Restaurants and other businesses in the hospitality industry have their own needs when it comes to POS systems. A retail-style restaurant may use a POS system that sends orders to the kitchen thus reducing the time needed for each transaction. Similarly, a quick service restaurant will have orders taken on a POS system with terminals at the front; the orders are displayed in the back so that food can be immediately prepared and given to the customer. A table service restaurant will use a POS system that allows for the creation and storage of open checks so that customers can order more items over time. Systems used in this type of restaurant will also be able to track different tables and show which server is responsible for each table.

Hotels will use POS systems that allow for easy management of room assignments. Along with that, guests can have meals served in the dining room charged to their room using one of these systems. Hotel managers should make sure to choose a POS system that can integrate with their property management software.

POS System Devices

POS systems may consist of simple devices with standard software or they may be custom systems that come with specialized devices for input and output. Options include smartphone apps that connect with a retail POS system via WiFi or a cell phone network. A small retail shop may have a standalone POS terminal that can record transactions and that integrates with bookkeeping software. The larger the business, the larger and more complex the POS system will have to be.

Input hardware can include wireless or hardwired handheld scanners for barcodes and RFID tags as well as scales for weighing products. Output devices can include a variety of different printers including the receipt printer; in a restaurant, this might include printers in the kitchen and bar for relaying orders. Printers for labeling shelves and products may be necessary in larger retail operations.

Tablets have recently become a popular option for taking payments and for answering customer questions. Standard devices such as Android and iOS tablets reduce the need for specialized devices thus lowering the cost of repairs and replacements.

POS System Features

Tools for Employee Management: Many POS systems come with tools for managing employee profiles so that permission levels can be controlled. There are also time tracking features that can help with payroll processing. Some POS systems have messaging functionality allowing management to message employees at the workstation.

Tools for Managing Customers: Sales and customer management are highly interconnected so that customer management tools are a feature on all modern POS systems. One of the most basic tools is the ability to track the contact information of customers along with sales data. This ability is helpful for customizing customer outreach via email or social media.

Social Media Tools: Social media websites offer an inexpensive way to enhance your online presence and many POS systems make using these websites easier. They can collect your customers social media contact information to make it possible to send them offers and other sales information.

Integration with an Online Store: Systems that offer this feature allow customers to place orders online. These systems can also track inventory between physical and online stores. In a restaurant, this kind of feature can help to speed up the take-out and delivery processes.

EMV Compliance: In October of 2015, credit card companies began issuing EMV chip cards, which means that merchants must be able to process them. If a business is shopping for a POS system, it is a good idea for them to purchase one with this functionality so that future upgrades will not be necessary.

Mobile Payment and Near Field Communications (NFC): Along with EMV processing capability, it is important to find a POS system that allows for the management of different mobile payment options including NFC.

How to Choose a POS System Vendor

Look at Support and Training: The vendor should provide assistance with getting the system up and running. They should handle installation along with training for staff. They should also provide support at all hours. If the system goes down late at night or on a weekend, they should be there to get it back up.

Check for a Solid Track Record: This is one of the most important factors for a business owner to consider. Given the importance of the POS system purchasing decision, they should look for references and follow up on them in depth.

Demo the POS System: Business owners should look at the system in the vendor's showroom and try it out. They should consider whether it is easy to use and to configure. It should meet their present needs and potential future ones as well.