Dispensing with manual systems, nearly all retailers now use POS software in the transaction process, which may include the use of barcode scanners, weighing scales and cash registers, as well as payment terminals, touch screens, tablets and a range of other software applications, many of which are connected to other programs, such as inventory control, stock ordering and billing.
Although traditionally associated with the retail, wholesale and hospitality industries, POS systems now have much wider application in any business which requires the processing of monetary transactions, the tracking of goods and processes, keeping records and scheduling services to customers, and the invoicing and tracking of payments.
By their very nature, POS systems do not lend themselves to standardisation because the needs of merchants and retailers are very diverse – this means that any off-the-shelf solution will have to be customised to fit each individual case. There is also a lot of pressure placed on databases by POS systems because of the numerous submissions and retrieval of data involved with any normal retail business. In addition, the environment in which they are used places a premium on accuracy when it comes to POS software, not only because monetary transactions are involved, but also when it comes to stock control and reorder levels.
Finally, and not least, such systems may need to take account of factors such as promotional discounts, loyalty points and rewards, and cash rounding-up.
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The Best 10 POS Software Solutions
1. Lightspeed Retail is a cloud-based retail management tool which provides services to small, medium and large sized businesses. The software includes a host of valuable POS features such as inventory management, ordering and invoicing tools, and has extensive reporting functionality.
To iimprove SEO and search rankings, the vendor has included tools which allow retailers to add metadata to products, along with page headings, and products tags and descriptions. There is also a blogging feature which retailers can use to better build a relationship with their customer base.
2. Erply is a web-based, fully hosted POS and retail management system. The software centralises and manages all areas of a retail organisation, including POS, the sales back office, inventory management, accounting and customer CRM. The system is scaleable, so that it can be used in a one-man business, or by multi-national retailers, with key features including centralised price list management, customer and supplier databases, the ability to create and manage sales campaigns, and the facility to handle customer loyalty programs and generate coupons.
3. Adyen is an international payment company which allows businesses to accept e-commerce, mobile and POS payments. The software provides merchants with an online service for accepting customer payments in the form of credit card, debit card, bank and electronic funds transfer. The platform acts as a payment gateway and payment service provider.
4. Vend is a POS platform specifically built for the iPad, and is used extensively by many retailers for managing customers, sales and inventory, at a very low cost. The system is designed to be compatible with hardware and equipment such as bar code scanners, cash drawers and similar POS products.
5. Shopify POS was originally designed as an e-commerce solution but has now been developed into a broader POS application. The app provides retailers with the essential tools they need to manage their retail store capabilities, with features that include an easy to use check-out interface, built-in tracking which allows staff to attach orders to existing customers, or create a new one, and the facility to cater for other add-ons such as customer discounts and shipping charges. Shopify has a suite of management tools available through Android, iOS and web applications, and has partnered with a few well-known hardware vendors.
6. Miva Merchant is an e-commerce shopping cart software which offers an extensive range of marketing tools, integration with various payment gateways, and a number of SEO options. This cloud-based software provides a safe and secure means for businesses of all sizes to scale-up in a sustainable manner. Miva Merchant currently supports six currencies, and key features include ordering and inventory, payment and billing, and reporting, as well as the shopping cart functionality.
7. Touch Bistro is a mobile POS solution on the iPad designed for the restaurant industry. Staff can manage reservations, view the menu, and review sales reports with a few simple touches. Rather than servers having to move between clients and terminals for order management, they can stay with customers and submit orders instantly online to the kitchen and bar. This reduces errors and increases efficiency.
8. Poster POS is an iPad and cloud-based POS and Inventory management solution for cafes, restaurants and stores. It is easy to set-up, has an intuitive interface, and is cheaper than many other POS solutions on the market. Functionality includes remote access, inventory, table maps and serving orders, barcodes, payment card acceptance, and an open API.
9. QuickBooks POS is an on premise, web-based and mobile POS solution aimed at businesses of all sizes. The software allows users to build customer relationships, manage inventory and automate their banking processes. An adjunct to the popular financial software program, the QuickBooks POS package allows users to enter sales information directly into the company’s accounting system. Other key features include barcode scanning, credit card processing, discounts, gift cards and a full customer history.
10. Square Point of Sale, formerly known as Square Register, is a free POS app which gives small business retailers all they need to accept payments. Payments can be accepted either via a Square Reader or Square Stand. The app enables retailers to keep track of sales, manage inventory, and view analytics about their business.
Choosing the POS Software
In deciding which POS software to purchase, it is important to determine the needs of your particular business. Some packages can undertake intricate online accounting, whilst others can track customer purchasing behaviour and habits, reorder stock, manage inventory etc.
There is no “one size fits all”, and no standard set of POS features as every program is designed to meet different needs and requirements, but some of the more common functionality includes:
Inventory Tracking – this informs the retailer if any item is in stock, either in store or at another branch, and if more stock is expected. The more sophisticated systems will generate a purchase order and automatically reorder from the supplier if stock levels fall below a predetermined limit.
Customer Management – often integrated with CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools, these systems allow retailers to target valuable and repeat customers from their purchasing habits, use of loyalty cards etc.
Reporting Functionality – a robust POS system should offer a range of flexible reporting options, enabling a retailer to track sales by customer, product, branch etc.
Sales Reporting & Analysis – this feature allows retailers to capture and analyse valuable sales data, such as best-selling (and slow-selling) lines, revenue generation, profit margins and other key business information. This aids key decision making and business profitability.
Systems Integration – A POS system should be able to integrate with other business applications and systems.
Types of POS Software
Although there is an enormous array of POS tools on the market, the software can be divided into three broad generic categories:
Mobile POS systems – Whilst the primary purpose of such systems is to manage payments, some also allow for inventory control. They are suited to individual retailers because they are usually cheap and, in some cases, there are free apps which can be downloaded.
Terminal POS systems – These are the most common type of systems and typically comprise both hardware and software elements. Their principal advantage is controlled access and cloud back-up.
Cloud-HostedPOS systems – These systems allow retailers to access POS functionality online. They are a good cheap option for start-ups.
Examples of POS Software
1. LevelUp is a mobile ordering and payment platform which uses QR (Quick response) code technology to allow for transactions to be made at local businesses via IPhone and Android phones. The app allows registered users to securely link their credit or debit card to a unique QR code embedded within the app. To pay, users scan the QR code on their phone at LevelUp terminals located at local businesses who have signed up for the service.
2. QuickBooks POS is an on premise, web-based and mobile POS solution aimed at businesses of all sizes. The software allows users to build customer relationships, manage inventory and automate their banking processes. An adjunct to the popular financial software program, the QuickBooks POS package allows users to enter sales information directly into the company’s accounting system. Other key features include barcode scanning, credit card processing, discounts, gift cards and a full customer history.
3. Square Point of Sale, formerly known as Square Register, is a free POS app which gives small business retailers all they need to accept payments. Payments can be accepted either via a Square Reader or Square Stand. The app enables retailers to keep track of sales, manage inventory, and view analytics about their business.
A robust POS software system has a number of benefits for a retailer, including improved efficiency and security, reduced possibility of error, improved reporting and an enhanced customer experience. In addition, such packages provide valuable insights into the profitability of a business and the effectiveness of the POS process, and enable managers to pro-actively manage inventory and reordering.
There is an extensive range of POS software products on the market, some of which have general application, whilst others have been designed specifically to deal with one or more elements of the POS process. It is, therefore, critical that research is done before investing in any of these products and, where available, trials should be arranged to make sure the software meets the need of the particular retailer.