Once upon a time, small business owners knew all their customers on a first name basis. Mr. or Mrs. Jones would approach the cash register and have a conversation about their family, the weather, or maybe upcoming specials at the store. The merchant paid attention to their needs and made appropriate notes to order merchandise based on those conversations.
Times have changed. The cash register rarely receives cash anymore and the friendly merchant has been replaced by a point of sale (POS) system. That’s not to say that customers aren’t still treated with kindness and respect. The difference today is that inventory management is not controlled by the cashier. It’s tracked by software.
While there are a lot of things small businesses need, such as invoice software and payroll services, having a good POS system is a crucial part you can’t forget. Viewing your POS system as only a means to accept payment is doing a disservice to your business. Yes, the primary purpose of POS is to do payment processing, but the best systems also manage inventory, provide a mobile payment solution, and are adaptable for eCommerce and online sales. Choosing the right POS system is critical for small business owners.
Square – Best Mobile POS System
Rated by multiple sources as the top mobile POS system for small business owners, Square is designed to take payments from wherever your customers happen to be. The mobile version can be run from an iPad, iPhone, or Android device. You can split checks, manage inventory, and print or email receipts, making Square extremely popular with mobile vendors.
Retail businesses have the option of using Square for Retail. Remember our friendly neighborhood merchant from earlier? This system does his job for him. The POS retail system from Square can process payments at the register or online, manage inventory, compile real-time reports, issue gifts cards, manage employees, and provide customer support.
Square for Restaurants adds another dimension to the retail platform. In addition to payment processing and inventory management, this software also offers editable food menus and floor plan optimization. All the hardware you need is provided as part of their Premium and Plus plans. Implementation is fairly simple, but there are specialists available to help if needed.
Vend – Best For Multi-Store Retailers
Though less popular than Square, the multi-store solutions from Vend offer mid-size and enterprise level businesses solid POS systems to manage teams. Vend is designed specifically for retail, so all functions are in place to make the management of your stores more efficient. You can manage a catalog, transfer inventory, and do mobile counts and reconciliation.
What sets Vend apart from its competitors is its team reporting features. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Access and user permissions can be set up for employees based on responsibilities and trust levels. You can also set sales targets and assign them to teams. The POS system will track sales by employee, making everyone accountable.
Retailers can use their own hardware to run Vend or purchase proprietary equipment when they sign up. This POS can be adapted for ecommerce, with best in class security and award-winning support. It can be synched with accounting software and used for inventory control both online and off. They also offer a customer retention program.
Shopify – Best for eCommerce
This POS system is available for brick and mortar businesses, but when it comes to eCommerce there really is no one else who does it better. Shopify has over one million users worldwide in the eCommerce space and integrates with pretty much all of the standard web design platforms, including WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace.
Shopify can be used as an all-in-one solution for online small business start-ups. Register your domain, build a website, add a shopping cart and bank account. You’re good to go. Shopify even offers the marketing tools, including email marketing, Google shopping, and Facebook ads. You’ll have to spend some time setting it all up, but the software is simple to use.
From a management perspective, Shopify provides payment processing and shipping tools. You can manage inventory and run reports. Need funds to get up and running? Shopify Capital is a resource to find the money you need. You can try it out for free on a fourteen-day trial or subscribe for $29 per month. Other options and features are listed on their website.
Revel Systems – Best Loyalty Program
I know what you’re thinking. It looks a lot like a CRM, right? It does, because it is. Revel Systems is more than a point of sale system. It’s built to be a fully functional CRM that tracks activity and sends promotional offers and emails to keep your customers coming back. This additional functionality makes them the clear leader in POS systems loyalty programs.
Most point of sale systems designers start out with a payment processor and build out from there. Revel Systems focused on customer relationship tools first. Their system, which is cloud-based, is popular with restaurants, coffee shops, and pizzerias. It gives you the ability to create menus and tracks inventory. It also, of course, communicates with your customers.
Revel Systems does real-time reporting with details on customer preferences, hourly sales trends, and special orders. It connects those data points directly to the customers who placed the orders, giving you the ability to customize outgoing communication inside their CRM. This may sound simple, but it’s actually fairly unique in the POS space.
QuickBooks – Best For Integrated Accounting
This is by no means an afterthought. We’re including this on our list because QuickBooks is the most popular accounting software in the world. Did you know they had a POS system? It should come as no surprise to you. QuickBooks Point of Sale can handle your payment processing (obviously), inventory tracking, and customer rewards program.
We’re not going to go out on a limb here and tell you that QuickBooks or any other POS system we’ve profiled here is better than any other. They are all great systems that will make running a small business a simpler and more organized process. The one recommendation we will make is, “Don’t go into business without a POS system.”