Point-of-Sale 101: What are POS Systems & Who Needs Them?

A point-of-sale (POS) system helps businesses manage the sale of goods. It enables merchants to take payments, handle their inventory, and run other aspects of their store.

At its most primitive level, a POS system comes in the form of an electronic cash register–you know, that bulky contraption that retailers use to ring up customers. However, advancements in retail technology have paved the way for a newer and better type of point-of-sale system: the mobile POS.

VendHQ point-of-sale (POS) system
photo credit: VendHQ

What is a mobile POS and why should you care?

If you’re planning to run a retail business in this modern world, mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) systems are the only solutions you should look into. Why? Because unlike cash registers, mobile POS systems are sleeker, more powerful, and much easier to use. Additionally, they work on laptops, iPads, and mobile phones so conducting business on the go or in tight spaces is a breeze.

Think of it this way: When you’re selecting a phone system for your business, you wouldn’t choose a rotary dialed telephone. Instead, you’ll check out touch-tone, wireless, or mobile solutions because they’re more superior. The same thing can be said about POS systems. Why go back to an old cash register when you can use something cheaper, lighter, and stronger?

The ins and outs of a mobile POS system

What do you get with a mobile POS system? Specific features may vary, but for the most part, mPOS solutions offer these basic functionalities:

1. Payments and Checkout

A mobile payment system lets you accept the usual cash, credit, and debit cards, so you can ring up your customers with ease. The best mPOS solutions also allow you to accept mobile payments through services like PayPal, Google Wallet, LevelUp, and more, giving customers an added convenience of paying using their phone.

As for receipts, mobile POS systems enable merchants to eliminate paper receipts and just send them via email, saving time and trees. Need your physical receipts? Simply attach a receipt printer and you can produce paper receipts like any other POS.

2. Inventory Management

Any good mPOS solution should have an inventory management system that lets you track your store’s stock. Some systems even offer automatic alerts or reordering based on specific stock levels to make sure that you always have the right amount of merchandise in your store.

Unlike traditional cash registers, mobile POS solutions offer streamlined or automated inventory features, thus saving time and minimizing errors. This is essential because of the huge costs that come with having too much or too little stock. According to Entrepreneur, the National Retail Federation estimates that “U.S. retailers lose $224 billion due to excess inventory and $45 billion from not having inventory in stock”. Fortunately, if your store is armed with a great mPOS system, you can keep your inventory levels in check.

3. Customer Relationship Management

This is where modern POS solutions have a huge leg up over traditional cash registers. Most mobile POS systems offer features that help you build stronger relationships with customers. From shopper analytics and purchase histories, to loyalty programs and personalization tools, you can use your mPOS system to serve shoppers better and keep them coming back.

4. Hardware & Peripheral Support

Your equipment and peripheral needs will vary depending the type of store you have. For instance, if you’re planning to accept credit cards, then you’ll need a credit card reader or dongle to swipe them. Some businesses also call for barcode scanners or label printers.

Most mobile POS systems have no problems working with hardware and peripherals. However, it’s best to contact your providers directly to be sure if the equipment you need connects with their systems.

5. Integrations

Are you running an ecommerce site in conjunction with your brick and mortar store? Do you use different apps for accounting, productivity, and analytics and are wondering if you can make those programs work with your point-of-sale software? If you’ve selected a good mPOS solution, then you have nothing to worry about.

A lot of mobile POS solutions integrate with other applications allowing you to seamlessly transfer data from one program to the next. If you’re in the process of selecting a POS for your business, be sure to check the vendor’s integration page or API to determine if it works with any apps or systems that you’re using.

Who needs a POS system

If you’re starting or running a retail business–whether it’s a clothing store, a food truck, or even an ice cream stand–then you need a mobile point-of-sale system. You literally won’t be to complete transactions without it.

But do remember that not all POS solutions are created equal. While a good point-of-sale system can help you start and run your business, a great one can help you grow it. That’s why it’s critical that you spend ample time selecting the one that’s right for your store. So do your research. Read and bookmark relevant articles (like this one), see what other retailers are using, and test drive a few solutions for your company.

If you’re shopping around for a POS solution, check out Vend, a cloud-based point-of-sale, inventory management, and loyalty iPad app that helps retailers manage and grow their business. Loved by 8,000+ retailers worldwide, it’s the first HTML5 retail POS and works easily on any device or platform, including iPads and existing POS hardware. It even works offline.

About the Author: Francois Bondiguel is from Vend, a point-of-sale, inventory, and customer loyalty software that helps over 8,000 retailers manage and grow their business. Connect with Vend on Google+ and LinkedIn.