A point-of-sale (POS) system is the central hub for any retail business through which all sales, refunds and exchanges are processed. A great retail POS system is affordable, have detailed reporting features and key integrations like accounting and ecommerce. We spent hours examining the top six POS systems, arriving at the best overall.
Top 6 Retail POS Systems for 2018
|Square POS||(Overall Best) Businesses that need a easy-to-use POS system with no monthly fee|
|Square for Retail||Businesses that need low-cost retail management functions not included in Square|
|Lightspeed||Small retailers looking for a POS system with robust reporting capabilities|
|Shopify POS||Retailers that also run an ecommerce store through Shopify|
|Springboard||Businesses that want a retail POS system with detailed insights like foot traffic data|
|Quickbooks||Retailers that use Quickbooks for their accounting and bookkeeping|
How We Evaluated POS Systems
Point-of-sale systems ring up sales, process payments and handle customer returns and exchanges, but can also track inventory, analyze sales data, create shopper profiles and help manage employees. Since processing sales are the primary function of a POS system, we compared transaction fees and overall operational costs when determining the best POS systems. However, we also considered each product’s additional retail management features.
We evaluated POS systems for retailers per the following specific criteria:
- Price: We looked at retail POS software fees, hardware fees and transaction processing fees
- Ease of use: We looked at POS systems that are naturally user-friendly
- Inventory management: We looked at how many stock keeping units (SKUs) each POS can handle and extra features like low stock alerts or reordering automation
- eCommerce integration: POS systems should enable retailers to manage the digital and physical aspects of your business in one platform
- Customer relationship management: We looked at what customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities each POS system has like loyalty programs and customer directories
- Reporting capabilities: POS systems should provide insights such as your most profitable item
- Accounting integration: We looked at POS systems that integrate with popular accounting software for seamless bookkeeping
- Employee management: POS systems should have employee logins, time cards and calculate payroll hours
- Tech support: Retail POS software providers should be available to answer questions if something goes wrong
- Reliability & security: We only included systems that are able to process transactions securely and have a reliable system
Based on the above criteria, Square is our top POS system for small business retailers. It is by far the most affordable option with no monthly fee while still providing an easy-to-use interface and great features to help retailers process payments and manage customer data. Square is also extremely easy to set up, making it a terrific option for retailers looking for a low-cost POS system.
Best Overall Retail POS System for Small Businesses: Square POS
Square POS is the best overall point-of-sale system for small retailers. The software is free to use and allows retailers to process payments, upload inventory and store customer data. There is also no equipment to buy so you can start accepting payments right away. This makes it a bargain compared to other popular POS systems a great value for small businesses that don’t need third-party integrations or more advanced inventory reports.
Square POS Pricing
Square POS has no monthly fee to use their service and provides users with a complimentary magstripe that works with any iOS or Android phone or tablet saving users the cost of additional equipment purchases. However, retailers pay a 2.75 percent transaction fee, which is higher than the industry standard.
Square POS Features
The POS system includes basic inventory management such as the ability to manually add items and adjust stock levels. Square’s inventory management capabilities are nowhere near as advanced as Lightspeed and the other more expensive programs on our list. However, it has the basic features needed to run your business.
Here’s what’s included with Square POS:
Sign in from any computer to handle your inventory from anywhere. Retailers can manually adjust stock, add item descriptions and receive customized daily emails detailing stock levels. However, businesses cannot create purchase orders through Square, scan bar codes, transfer inventory or search a detailed item library like they can with other options on our list like Lightspeed.
Customer Relationship Management
Square customer directory automatically sets up a profile for each payment card and tracks all transactions associated with that payment method. Square stores vital contact information and allows users to message shoppers directly through the platform or make notes in customer profiles for future visits. Overall, Square POS offers an industry standard CRM solution, but it does not offer more advanced customer insights like foot traffic as found in Springboard.
Square Dashboard and Analytics
Square Dashboard provides real-time reports including average customer spend, repeat visits, top-selling categories and gross sales that can be accessed from anywhere. Retailers can set up daily emails to receive easily digestible sale and customer data. However, Square’s reporting capability is limited to historical information about transactions and does not include more predictive analytics like purchasing trends found in Lightspeed.
Square offers a free ecommerce store and also partners with many major platforms like Big Commerce and WooCommerce. Although Square gives retailers the option of creating a very basic ecommerce store, it does not have as many customization options as Shopify, for example, which is geared toward online sellers. Square POS also integrates with accounting platforms like QuickBooks, Commerce Sync, Xero, TaxJar, Zoho Books and Jobber for free.
What Square POS Is Missing
Square POS doesn’t have advanced features like the ability to create and receive purchase orders or detailed sales reporting. If you are looking for those features, Square for Retail or Lightspeed would be better options. Square’s loyalty programs, marketing solutions, employee management and payroll services all come with an extra fee, whereas solutions like Springboard has those features built-in.
What Users Think About Square POS
Overall, retailers love the low costs and predictable fees. Square POS is very easy to set up and intuitive to navigate. The main drawback is the lack of advanced management and reporting features. To learn more visit our Square POS Review Page.
Where to Find Square POS
Square POS has great customer service and is always available to answer any questions. Best of all the software has no monthly fee. Visit the Square website to sign up and receive your free magstripe card reader.
Best Retail POS System for Basic Inventory Management and Reporting on a Budget: Square for Retail
Square for Retail is a moderately priced POS system processes transactions like Square. It also lets retailers manage purchase orders and vendor lists, calculate projected profit margins and managing an unlimited number of employees at a low cost compared to products with similar features. Square for Retail is the best point-of-sale option for retailers that like the Square platform, but want additional retail management functionality.
Square Retail Pricing
Square for Retail costs $60 per month per location for one device. Additional devices are an extra $20 per month per device. Unlike Square POS, Square for Retail does require specific hardware: Square Stand or Square Register and an iPad. With an iPad, Square Stand costs $975. Square Register is available for $49 per month for 24 months.
Square for Retail Features
Square for Retail has higher hardware costs than Square POS, but these amounts are similar to hardware costs for other POS systems. Square for Retail includes most of the features from Square POS but with added inventory management and reporting capabilities. Overall, if you’re looking for more sophisticated features on a budget, Square for Retail is still your best choice.
Here’s what’s included in Square for Retail:
Like Square POS, Square for Retail has the ability to track items and set low stock alerts. However, Square for Retail can also create and print bar code labels, receive orders, track returns, create and process purchase orders, manage vendor lists and project profits and profit margins by item, which are functions not offered by many of the products we compared.
Customer Relationship Management
Like the traditional Square POS, Square for Retail can automatically create customer profiles based on payment information and track transactions per customer. In addition to these basic features, Square for Retail can also add time-stamped notes to customer profiles and track which employees added which notes.
Unlike Square POS, Square for Retail includes employee management for an unlimited number of users. Retailers can assign different permission levels per employee, track shifts and optimize scheduling. This POS system also includes more detailed reporting like sales volume by an employee.
Square for Retail includes more sophisticated reporting than the free version. Reports include the cost of goods sold, inventory history, projected profit, labor vs. sales, inventory and sales by category and discounts. Square for Retail’s reporting functions are similar to those of Lightspeed, so that is another option if advanced reporting features are important to you.
Like Square POS, Square for Retail integrates with most major ecommerce and accounting platforms. Square also offers a free ecommerce store. The Square platform also has a number of other business solutions that can be added to the POS system including payroll, appointments and employee management.
What Square for Retail Is Missing
Both Square POS and Square for retail do not include loyalty programs, marketing solutions or payroll services in their base price. Square POS does not include employee management. Each of these is available for an additional monthly fee. If you’re looking for a POS software that has these functions included, Toast or Lightspeed would be a better fit.
What Users Think About Square for Retail
Square for Retail is similar to the free version with a few extra upgrades. Retailers love that it is easy to use and offers more in-depth inventory management. One drawback of Square for Retail is that it can only be operated on an iPad and no offline setting, so if the internet goes out, retailers cannot process any transactions. For more information read our full Square for Retail review.
Where to Find Square for Retail
Square for Retail is the best retail POS software option for business owners that like the Square platform, but want a few more features. Like Square POS, Square for Retail also offers a 14-day free trial. Visit the Square for Retail website to sign up.
Best Retail POS System for Premium Reporting: Lightspeed
Lightspeed is a higher-priced, but robust, point-of-sale system. The retail POS software includes over 40 sales and inventory reports, giving you data on best-selling products, profit margins and more. Lightspeed also offers employee performance reports so you can identify your top sales staff easily, view average transaction value and properly prepare for rush hours. Lightspeed POS is the best point-of-sale solution for retailers who want advanced reporting capabilities.
Lightspeed starts at $99 per month for software and $699 upfront for hardware. Hardware kits include receipt printers, cash drawers and bar code scanners. The software can run on tablets, laptops or desktops. With Lightspeed, retailers can choose their own payment processing service and find the most competitive rate, unlike competitors that charge a set percentage.
Lightspeed POS software includes more than 40 sales and inventory reports, giving you maximum data on your best-selling products, profit margins and more. Lightspeed also includes employee performance reports so you can identify your top sales staff easily, view your average transaction value and properly prepare for rush hours.
Lightspeed features include:
Lightspeed streamlines operations by letting retailers order new and repeat stock through the retail POS software and combine orders into one master order to get the best pricing. Lightspeed can also create custom orders, bundle items for gift baskets and anticipate shopping trends in your customer base. The ability to anticipate inventory needs and shopping trends are what sets Lightspeed well above the competition.
Customer Relationship Management
Like Square POS and Square for Retail, Lightspeed also has a customer directory feature that tracks transactions and gathers data. Lightspeed also lets users assign VIP status to certain customers. Business can set up promo codes for specific items or customers for targeted sales. Lightspeed also has a built-in gift card function. However, unlike retail POS systems like Springboard, Lightspeed’s loyalty program requires an integration.
Reporting and Analytics
Lightspeed includes more than 40 built-in reports that cover inventory, sales, employee performance and more all in one analytics dashboard. What sets Lightspeed apart is that this system goes the extra step to translate data into actionable business tips and insight. For example, Lightspeed can take sales and traffic data and translate that into staffing and inventory reports to help you prepare for peak hours.
eCommerce and Omnichannel Integrations
Lightspeed Retail customers also have access to Lightspeed eCom, which is a robust platform that lets retailers set up an online store that integrates seamlessly with their brick-and-mortar business. This integration also offers retailers the option to sell on Facebook and lets customers buy online and pick up orders in-store. Shopify and Square also have integrations that can be used for selling products on social media.
What Lightspeed Is Missing
Lightspeed includes just about everything a small retail business would need. However, some features like loyalty programs and marketing are only available through third-party integrations that come with a fee. Retailers who have more than five employees will also have to pay extra. At $99 per month, Lightspeed is already a pricier option, so adding on extra integrations might be too costly for a small business.
What Users Think About Lightspeed
Overall, Lightspeed has positive reviews. The learning curve for this POS is slightly steeper than other options like Square, but that is because Lightspeed offers more features. Lightspeed provides business insight well above industry standard, so we recommend this POS for retailers looking for more robust reporting capabilities. Visit our Lightspeed Retail Review Page for more information.
Where to Find Lightspeed
Lightspeed Retail is the best option for businesses that want robust reporting capabilities because this POS software has the ability to forecast inventory needs and provide business owners with more than 40 sales and inventory reports. Visit the Lightspeed website to sign up for a free trial.
Best POS System for Retailers with eCommerce: Shopify POS
Shopify POS is a flexibly-priced point-of-sale solution and an ecommerce platform for store owners. Unlike the other POS systems on our list which are primarily brick-and-mortar platforms with ecommerce extensions, Shopify is ecommerce-based and has additional online sales channels like Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon and BuzzFeed. Overall, Shopify POS is the best solution for retailers with ecommerce.
Shopify POS Pricing
Shopify POS offers three different software options: Basic Shopify for $29 per month, Shopify for $79 per month and Advanced Shopify for $299 per month. Shopify operates on iPads. Retailers can add extras like cash registers or receipt printers as needed. With so many options, Shopify has the most flexible pricing of any system on our list.
Shopify Operating Costs
|Online Credit Card Processing|
|In-store Credit Card Processing|
*Shopify has options to pay for one or two years in full at a 10 percent and 20 percent discount respectively.
Hardware costs for all POS systems:
- Chip and swipe reader: Free
- Tap, chip and swipe reader: $89
Shopify POS Features
All Shopify plans include an integrated ecommerce platform. In addition to Basic Shopify, Shopify and Advanced Shopify, there is also Shopify Lite for selling on social media and at pop-up events or Shopify Plus for large-scale enterprises. Shopify also has its own app store where you can find extra features and plug-ins. If you already have a Shopify ecommerce account, using the connected Shopify POS system is your best option.
Shopify POS includes:
Shopify is an ecommerce-based platform. If you already have a Shopify online store, you can add a brick-and-mortar sales channel without any additional fees. If you’re setting up a Shopify account for the first time, your online store is included. Most major POS systems such as Square don’t have an ecommerce solution that is as robust as Shopify.
All three Shopify plans include unlimited product SKUs and basic inventory management. Overall, Shopify’s inventory management capability is comparable to Square’s inventory management. More advanced inventory tools like those that as included with Lightspeed are only available with Advanced Shopify.
Customer Relationship Management
Shopify automatically creates customers profiles with each new order and tracks customer transactions like Square, Square for Retail and Lightspeed. Since Shopify POS combines ecommerce with in-store selling, the POS tracks customers across both channels. However, Shopify does not have all the CRM functions of Lightspeed, such as a VIP customer classification.
Multiple Sales Channels
In addition to combining ecommerce and in-person selling under one dashboard, Shopify also has options to sell on Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon, BuzzFeed and more. This is the only POS on our list that has some of these sales channel integrations. Shopify also has a built-in communication tool for employees for cross-platform communication.
What Shopify Is Missing
Like Square and Square for Retail, Shopify requires retailers to use their proprietary payment processor whereas Lightspeed lets you choose your own provider at a potentially less expensive rate. Shopify also does not have an offline mode, so if the internet goes out in your store, you cannot process payments.
What Users Think of Shopify
Shopify has excellent user reviews for retailers looking to sell through multiple channels. If you are looking to have ecommerce with your brick-and-mortar store or already have a Shopify online store, Shopify POS is the best option for your business. If you are not looking to sell online, we recommend choosing a different system such as Square. Visit our Shopify POS Reviews Page for more information,
Where to Find Shopify
Shopify is the best option for retailers with ecommerce. This program also lets retailers switch between different pricing plans as needed. Visit Shopify’s website to get started with a free 14-day trial and receive your free card reader.
Best Retail POS for Customer Insights: Springboard Retail
Springboard Retail is a moderately priced POS system with a comprehensive CRM and real-time sales dashboard that works on any mobile device. Springboard Retail is the only POS system in our list offering real-time foot traffic data but is also the only one requiring retailers to pay for costly online training. However, the advanced CRM and real-time data capabilities make Springboard Retail the best POS system for retailers who want detailed customer insights.
Springboard starts at $69 per month for single-location retailers with Plus and Professional options for multistore retailers and omnichannel sellers. Springboard is cloud-based and hardware agnostic so that it can be used on any PC, Mac, tablet or smartphone. Like Lightspeed, Springboard users can choose their own card processing service to get the best rate.
Springboard lets you sell anywhere from any device. This system also has advanced CRM and loyalty programs included, whereas other systems charge extra for these capabilities. Additionally, Springboard offers real-time data. Overall, Springboard is the best option for retailers looking for in-depth customer insights.
Springboard Retail POS includes:
Springboard Retail has tools built for managing stock across multiple store locations like real-time and custom inventory reports. Springboard also has a personalization option to accommodate special inventory items such as embroidery or monograms. Overall, Springboard Retail’s inventory management features are above average.
Customer Relationship Management
Springboard’s customer dashboard feature is what makes this retail POS system the best option for shopper data and insights. Retailers and their employees can view a shopper’s full story on any device and can track extras like “favorite color” or “pet’s name,” which is a feature not found in any of the other products we compared. Since Springboard is also highly mobile retail associate can look up customers and see their preferences from anywhere.
Reporting and Analytics
Springboard Retail is the only retail POS system on our list that has real-time foot traffic data included in its reporting. This reporting metric helps optimize staffing and detect sales opportunities. In addition to foot traffic, Springboard also offers real-time data reports similar to Lightspeed.
Springboard Retail integrates with major ecommerce, accounting and marketing platforms. eCommerce integrations cost $59 per month which can quickly become very pricey if you need multiple integrations. Springboard also has two different application program interfaces (API) so that retailers can build custom integrations.
What Springboard Is Missing
Springboard has reporting and customer relationship management tools that are above industry standard. However, the more advanced software options are some of the most expensive retail POS software on our list. Springboard also has a mandatory online training program that starts at $795. Combined with the ecommerce integration fee, Springboard can be too pricey for many small businesses.
What Users Think About Springboard
Aside from the high price point, most reviews for Springboard are very positive. The customer relationship management and reporting tools are very thorough. Retailers also like that Springboard is hardware agnostic. Visit our Springboard Retail User Review Page for more information.
Where to Find Springboard
Springboard offers a 7-day trial period. Their website is full of Help and FAQ articles and their customer service is available via chat or call. Visit the Springboard website to book a consultation.
Best POS for Retailers That Use QuickBooks Financial: QuickBooks POS
QuickBooks POS is a downloadable POS solution that does not require an on-going monthly subscription. QuickBooks POS is the only software on our list that only supports a PC or Microsoft tablet, but it works seamlessly with QuickBooks Financial. Therefore, QuickBooks POS is a great point-of-sale solution for retailers who use QuickBooks Financial or those who want to combine their payments and bookkeeping in a single solution.
QuickBooks POS Pricing
QuickBooks POS has a one-time software fee of either $1,200 for the basic QuickBooks POS $1,700 for the pro version or $1,900 for the multistore version. Each license is valid for one user. QuickBooks POS runs on a PC or Microsoft Surface Pro. Hardware is not included in software purchase.
QuickBooks has two options for card processing fees. The most popular option is $19.95 per month and 2.3 percent plus 25 cents for swipe and dip transactions, 3.2 percent plus 25 cents for keyed transactions and 1 percent plus 25 cents for transactions with PIN numbers. Alternatively, businesses can pay a higher flat rate of 2.7 percent for swipe and dip transactions, 3.5 percent for keyed transactions and 1 percent for PIN transactions without a monthly fee.
QuickBooks POS Features
QuickBooks POS has all the basic features retailers need to make sales including payment processing, inventory management and storing customer data. QuickBooks POS is a great point-of-sale option for retail stores that use QuickBooks for bookkeeping because they integrate seamlessly without any added fees.
QuickBooks POS includes industry standard inventory management including product tracking, low stock alerts and purchase orders. QuickBooks also supports multiple vendors and lets you add pictures to each product, similar to Square.
Customer Relationship Management
Like all of our POS for retail options, QuickBooks tracks sales by the customer so retailers can see each shopper’s full transaction history. QuickBooks also lets retailers apply special coupons and discount codes to particular customers.
QuickBooks POS connects directly with QuickBooks Finance. Retailers that use QuickBooks to manage their finances and bookkeeping can simplify that part of their business by using QuickBooks’ corresponding POS. This is the strongest feature of the QuickBooks point-of-sale system.
What QuickBooks POS Is Missing
QuickBooks’ upfront costs are much higher, and buying POS software outright also means it won’t be continuously updated. Businesses will have to purchase new versions when they want to upgrade. Customer Support for QuickBooks POS costs $89.95 per month or $299 for the year. Other systems like Square, Square for Retail and Lightspeed offer free customer support.
What Users Think About QuickBooks POS
The main benefit of QuickBooks POS is that it directly integrates with QuickBooks Financial and there are no monthly fees for software. The biggest customer complaint about QuickBooks POS is that retailers have to pay for software upgrades. Visit our QuickBooks POS Review Page for our full review.
Where to Find QuickBooks
QuickBooks POS can be purchased through authorized local resellers. Visit the QuickBooks POS website to request a free trial and find a seller near you.
The Bottom Line
POS systems are crucial software tools that serve as the central hub for your retail business. In addition to processing sales, POS systems collect and analyze data to help inform business decisions, manage employees and inventory and help build your customer service and marketing efforts. Because POS systems have so many crucial applications across your business, choosing the right one is crucial.
Square POS is our top retail POS system because there is no monthly software fee yet has all of the industry standards features a brick-and-mortar retailer needs to run their small business. Best of all there is no monthly fee and no equipment to buy. You can get started processing transactions immediately with the app or request your free credit card reader by signing up for Square today.