Learning the Basics of Point-of-Sale Systems for Your Small Retail Business.

Picture this: you are launching a new business with a retail angle. You have thought of just about everything, from the design of your website to what you are selling and which products make up your inventory. There is just one consideration you have yet to tackle: the point-of-sale system.

For small business owners and entrepreneurs especially, the process of selecting the right point-of-sale system (or POS, as they are often abbreviated) can be somewhat daunting and confusing. What happened to the days when all businesses used the same basic kind of cash register? Why is a more specialized POS even necessary for your retail business?

The Benefits of a Modern POS System

Don’t worry, questions like these are common among first-time retail business managers. It’s also worth noting that, while picking out a POS requires a bit more homework than in the old days when you simply had to find a functional cash register, the extra effort is worth it. Modern point-of-sale systems are higher-tech than their analogue forerunners, integrating with your business computer system and making it much easier to track your inventory numbers.

Indeed, a good POS shouldn’t just do your math for you when calculating how much patrons owe, how much tax you need to charge on a transaction, or how much to subtract for a coupon promotion. Rather, a POS should subtract items from your computerized inventory list as you sell them so that you know precisely when you need to order more of a specific product. Everyone from booksellers to record stores to specialty beer shops can benefit from this seamlessly integrated inventory tracking.

How to Choose the Right Point-of-Sale System for Your Business

Now that you understand why a sophisticated POS system can benefit your business’s bottom line let’s take a look at how you can go about choosing the right POS for your business. As you might expect, given the way technology has added so much to the inventory-tracking capabilities of point-of-sale systems, different pieces of POS software can bring a whole slew of other features to the table as well. In other words, don’t assume all POS systems are identical in what they can do, or even in what they do well. Doing your research and, if possible, trying out demos of different POS programs can help you make a smarter decision about which software is best for you. Here are a few factors to take into account as you shop.

  • Your POS software can and should be specialized to suit your industry: If you operate a general type of retail store, your options for point-of-sale systems will probably be wide open. However, it’s always worth doing a Google search or two to see if there are any POS programs out there designed specifically for businesses like yours. For instance, a pharmacy is going to need a point-of-sale solution that can track prescriptions and aid in HIPAA compliance while a movie theater is going to need a POS that can track and report the number of tickets sold to each film. Think about what your business needs are and then try to find a POS system that meets them.
  • If you have repeat customers, you should be able to track their purchase history: If your retail business is firmly based on regular clients or repeat customers, you should have a POS that can track their order history. That way, your POS will be able to help you keep track of your best customers, making it easier to upsell them or replicate their orders in the future.
  • When in doubt, focus on inventory-tracking: If you aren’t entirely sure what you want out of your point-of-sale system—or what you could need as your business continues to grow—it’s a good idea to focus just on the basics. The most vital element of a quality POS for most retail businesses is a strong inventory-tracking feature. You want a POS that can tell you how many versions of a specific product remain in the storeroom, or how many drafts of beer are left in a keg. Ideally, your point-of-sale system should even be able to alert you to when it’s time to order a new shipment of a product.

The idea of which POS system is “best” will vary dramatically from industry to industry and from business to business. By doing some research and having a few key features that you know you want, though, you will be able to get a point-of-sale system that isn’t just a cash register, but a hub of intelligence that helps you run your business more effectively.


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