Plenty of review sites are happy to tell you which is the “best” POS system for retailers, but what does “best” really mean? There’s no such thing as one specific “best” retail POS system. What qualifies as best for one business may be a poor choice for another. Retailers who are evaluating their POS options need to match the features of a POS system to their operation’s unique needs.
The first step in determining which is the best POS option for a retail business is deciding which type of POS is the best fit for the way it does business. The five types of POS systems for retail are mobile POS, tablet POS, terminal POS, online POS, and self-service kiosk POS.
Pros and Cons of Different Types of POS Systems for Retail
The primary job of any POS system is completing sales transactions accurately, quickly, and efficiently. But that’s just the beginning of the features retailers require to meet their customers’ demands and gain a competitive advantage.
Four vital functions of retail POS systems are sales reporting and analytics, customer relationship management, inventory management, and employee management. All types of POS systems for retail support these operations to some degree. The challenge for retailers is to match their POS strategy to the size of their operation, its business processes, and its short-term and long-term goals.
For example, a cloud-based POS system meets four specific needs of retailers:
- Advanced data management and security
- Support for tablets and other mobile devices
- Enhanced appointment bookings and reservations
- Multichannel ability to combine online or app-based scheduling with on-premise systems
Retailers must also ensure that the POS system they choose includes all the hardware components the business requires:
- Register screens display transaction information and product databases. Tablets are increasingly replacing bulky, hard-wired monitors and terminals.
- Barcode scanners retrieve product details from databases, ensure prices are accurate, and update inventory levels automatically.
- Credit card readers support mobile payments such as Apple Pay and Android Pay, as well as EMV readers (Europay, Mastercard, and Visa).
- Cash drawers keep cash payments safe.
- Receipt printers provide customers with the information they need about the purchase. Many customers now prefer email or text receipts to printed ones.
Comparing Retail POS System Hardware Options
A common misperception is that retailers must choose between a mobile POS, tablet POS, traditional POS, online POS, or self-service kiosk POS. A typical retail POS system will combine and integrate several POS form factors. The key is to know how to fashion the ideal POS system for your business based on its unique characteristics.
Mobile POS Systems Handle Payments on the Go
Even brick-and-mortar retailers are increasingly reaching out to customers in far-flung locations. A key advantage of mobile POS is the ability to get the system up and running in no time. Customers are demanding more payment options, and retailers see mobile POS systems as a way to accommodate their clients’ preferred payment type.
Often a mobile POS app is offered to retailers for free, along with a credit card reader, in exchange for payment processing fees. Receipt printers are also available, although many retailers choose to use email and text receipts instead. Mobile POS systems are popular with street vendors and sellers at fairs, farmers markets, and other events.
Tablet POS Systems Reduce Upfront Costs
POS apps for Apple iPad and Android tablets are growing in popularity, and not just because they are among the most inexpensive POS options. Like other mobile POS systems, tablet POS software is often offered for free in exchange for payment processing fees, but they are also available without payment processing for low monthly subscription fees.
Most tablet POS apps connect wirelessly to barcode scanners, receipt printers, and other hardware devices. Many vendors also offer cash drawers and tablet stands for use in conjunction with the systems. While some focus primarily on transaction processing, other tablet POS apps support inventory management, employee scheduling and time tracking, and sales reporting. Gift shops, small retailers, professional services, salons, and pizzerias are among the most frequent users of tablet POS systems.
Terminal POS Systems Offer Big Retailers an All-in-One Solution
When most people think of “point of sale,” they tend to envision the traditional terminal-based approach that places a hard-wired terminal on the checkout counter. Attached to the terminal are a barcode scanner, a cash drawer, and a receipt printer (if the terminal lacks a built-in printer). Most terminal POS systems are now linked to the internet and include cloud-based backup.
Common features of terminal POS systems are WiFi links to portable devices, kitchen printers for restaurants, and integration with online orders. They typically provide retailers with extensive inventory management features, label printing, and customer-facing displays. These are also among the most expensive POS options for retailers, in part because of the 24/7 support that is provided at no extra charge.
Online POS Systems Let Retailers Choose Their Own Hardware
Retailers who want the flexibility to select the hardware they prefer to use for their POS operations can opt for an online POS solution, although there are limitations to this approach. For example, while startup costs can be minimized by running the online POS app on a PC, retailers lose many of the benefits of touchscreen displays. Also, the systems may not be able to accommodate high-volume businesses—particularly receipt printing—from a standard PC-connected printer.
The benefits of online POS systems are the ability to sign into the system from any location, easy connections to tablets and other mobile devices, and low startup costs. Online POS is often a good choice for small retailers, salons, pet groomers, neighborhood cafes, and low-volume, high-ticket shops.
Self-Service Kiosk POS Systems Empower Customers, Save Money
These special-purpose POS devices are increasingly popular for such uses as purchasing movie tickets at a theater, allowing retail customers to find information about products, and customer appointment check-ins. The kiosks are usually connected to a full-featured POS system, so they may lack the ability to link to printers, track employees, and generate sales reports.
Typical settings for self-service kiosk POS systems include ticket sales, transportation passes, grocery check-out stands, and in-store directories.
Choosing the POS System Type That Will Work for You
A retailer’s choice of a POS system isn’t a matter of either/or. It’s important to work with a great POS vendor to craft a POS solution that checks all the business’s boxes in terms of features, price, usability, and expandability. A business’s POS system can provide it with a competitive advantage while also freeing its employees to spend more of their time serving customers and less time processing transactions.
When you partner with talech, we devote our time to identifying which types of POS systems for retail businesses will suit your unique needs best. We use this information to work with you in applying a solution to provide you with an innovative POS solution that levels the playing field. Reach out to us today to sign up for a demo and to learn more about how talech can be your valued POS partner.