How to choose the right point of sale system for your business

25 April 2019

From popular franchise restaurants to smaller independent boutiques, any business that accepts card payments in a physical location needs a point of sale (POS) system. It’s an important element to have in place when a business opens, but it’s not always something at the top of a business’ list of considerations.

As a tool used to record transactions, manage inventory and provide powerful reporting, data and analytics, a POS system is essential. With various point of sale systems available however, how do you know which is the right kind for your particular business? Many are designed around industry best practices; they serve the majority of businesses based on the most common needs. But when businesses move away from traditional practices, these systems start to fail. Here, we’ll detail how to choose the right point of sale system for your business.

What should you consider when selecting a system? 

Selecting a POS system involves a little research and consideration before making an investment. Here five factors which could influence your decision.

  • Features and functionality

What features will you need to run your business as smoothly as possible? This depends entirely on the type of business and the industry. If you are opening a retail store, then inventory management will be required. A bar or café, meanwhile, will need an open ticket function to manage orders more efficiently. Certain POS systems are designed with different features tailored to certain tasks, so choosing one that offers the functionality that your business needs is important.

Employee using POS system

  • Online capabilities

Many POS systems now operate via Wi-Fi, allowing businesses to store data securely in the cloud, as well as offering access from multiple devices. If you’re considering a non-cloud-based, or fixed solution, you’ll probably still require an internet connection. Be sure to contact your internet provider and give them advanced notice of your intention to trade, so that your connection is tested and functioning smoothly before you get your business up and running.

  • Hardware

What hardware do you require to make the POS work? Some systems will need you to buy hardware, others will run on your existing equipment, while others will need an iPad or laptop. A cash drawer, receipt printer and device to operate your POS are essential, though some businesses opt for handwritten receipts as it allows them to delay buying a printer. Retail businesses will also benefit from a barcode scanner to speed up the checkout process.

  • Budget

The cost of POS systems depends on the size of the business and the capabilities you require, so it’s important to have an idea of how much you want to spend. Likewise, it’s your choice of whether to go with a one-time licensing fee or monthly payments; the former means you won’t need to make recurring payments, while the latter is more flexible in the long term. 

Waitress adding order to POS system

  • Support

Some customer support comes at a cost, while some POS providers charge extra for priority calls or phone access. Find out in advance by reaching out to providers to see what support is available to you; it’s important to make sure you can reach your provider in an emergency.

POS systems and their pros and cons

Below, we’ve listed a number of POS systems and their pros and cons, to help you choose the system that would best suit your business.

  Best for: Point-of-sale pricing Offline 
Support Reporting Pros Cons
Square Small businesses Free Some Mon-Fri
(work hours)
phone and online
Track sales, customers and inventory
  • Easy sign-up
  • Simple setup
  • No monthly fees
  • Low prices
  • Multiple devices
  • Lack of support
  • Costly add-ons
  • Potential account cancellations
Lightspeed Retail Inventory management £69/
Yes, w/ server 24/7 phone and online End-of-day reports, sales, and customer history and more
  • User-friendly
  • Robust inventory management
  • Strong customer service
  • Pricing
  • Not suited to small businesses
  • Sometimes crashes
EPOS Now Small businesses £10/
Yes 24/7 phone Sales by employee/location, daily sales, transactions by time and more
  • Affordable
  • Easy and intuitive
  • Strong customer service
  • Limited features
  • Difficult to implement
Shopify E-commerce businesses £22/
Yes 24/7 phone and online Only available with Shopify and Shopify Advanced - sales reports, sales totals, sales by day, customer reports
  • Varied, flexible tiers
  • Free hardware
  • Easy interface
  • Straightforward integration
  • Weak offline functionality
  • Additional fees
  • Minimal analytics
Vend Built-in loyalty programmes £39-89/
Some 24/7 phone and online Costs and trends. Advanced package provides employee reports, discount reports and more
  • Loyalty programme
  • Simple and intuitive
  • Optional integrations
  • Receipt customisation
  • Additional support costs
  • Slow processing
  • Only compatible with Google Chrome

Frequently asked questions about POS systems

Here, we have answered a few of the most common questions people have before investing in a POS system for the first time.

  • Is my business too small to warrant a POS system?

Any business that sells a product or service can benefit from a point of sale as long as it fits its needs and budget. Even a small business run by one person warrants having a POS system, as it saves time in the long run so you can focus on growth.  

  • Will my POS system be too complicated for my staff to learn?

On the contrary, most modern point of sale systems are user-friendly and require very little training, if any. Although they are highly intuitive, any mistakes that will be made can be rectified and identified. A POS system means you can see exactly what the problem was so you can work on amending the issue in the process.

point of sale system

  • What is the difference between POS systems and cash registers?

Cash registers are simply machines that record sales, give change and store money. They require a separate card processor system if you want them to take card payments, too. Similarly, while they can carry out simple reporting such as daily sales, they don’t feature software that can help you run a business in the way that POS systems support.  

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  • If I buy a POS system, does that make me PCI (payment card industry) compliant?

Not necessarily. PCI compliance requires that you comply with a checklist of requirements that are designed to ensure sellers and organisations process cardholder data safely and securely to prevent fraud or data breaches. This is important when running a business, so when you purchase a POS system, it’s essential that you make sure it’s PCI compliant.

That said, just because your POS software or payment processor is PCI compliant, it doesn’t guarantee that you are as a seller. In order to be compliant, you have to make sure your Wi-Fi network is secure. You have to have somewhere you can store customer data, too. PCI compliance surrounds the entire payment ecosystem. And since the rules of compliance can change, you may have to manually update the software, payment terminal, Wi-Fi or other systems in your environment to ensure they stay compliant. 

  • Should I buy the POS hardware or the software first?

Many businesses, particularly retailers, make the mistake of buying the hardware before the software, and then find the two aren’t compatible with each other. Not all scanners, weighing scales, or card readers will work with retail software packages. If you’re in doubt, buying the software and hardware from the same vendor can reduce or eliminate compatibility issues and can help reduce your overall technology costs.

Gazprom Energy is a leading and award-winning business energy supplier, helping thousands of small businesses manage their gas and electricity contracts. To find out more about what we can offer your business, visit the homepage or call us today on 0161 837 3395.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this article are those of our third-party content providers alone and do not represent those of Gazprom Energy. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. Gazprom Energy accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.


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