2018 Point of Sale (POS) Systems Reviews & Pricing Guide
A point-of-sale (POS) system allows retailers, whether ecommerce or brick-and-mortar, to make sales transactions. It can also combine inventory, management, and other business functions in one piece of software, or through integrations. A cloud-based POS system can work with a cash register, tablet, or even a mobile phone.
POS System Reviews
Most POS systems are easy to implement and learn, and they work well for a variety of businesses. Below we feature some of the best POS systems reviews. Keep reading this guide if you’d like to learn more about the features, types of POS systems, and what you’ll need to get started.
Shopify is an ecommerce POS solution that offers three plans for small businesses. Pricing for app plans range from $29 to $299 per month. View Profile
Lightspeed offers POS systems for retail, ecommerce, and restaurants. Plan pricing ranges from $59 to $289 per month. Hardware costs extra. View Profile
How a POS System Can Help Your Business
A POS system should get you away from the outdated pen-and-paper or spreadsheet way of managing your business. Whether you’re running a restaurant, an auto repair shop, a merchandise table at a festival, or an ecommerce retail business, a POS system can do more than help you take credit cards as payment. The right POS system can help you track inventory, manage your employees, and even serve as light customer relationship management (CRM) software.
There are niche POS systems out there that cater to your type of business, even. For example, if you run an auto repair shop, you’ll need a POS system that allows you to process payments, track parts inventory, and schedule appointments. A restaurant would need a POS system that can also track inventory and process payments, but it should also include table management, menu management, and reporting.
In this guide, we focused on the software-as-a-service (SaaS) types of POS systems, as they are becoming the norm for businesses everywhere. We also include a pricing guide, a suggestion of hardware you might need, and a look at the future of POS services.
How to Choose the Right POS System
Picking out a POS system that’s right for your business is a bit like when you wrote your first business plan. You’ll need to evaluate your needs and wants, and decide whether you’re willing to compromise some of your wants for a better price point. After all, every small business needs to keep the bottom line in mind, so you don’t want to pay for a robust system if you aren’t going to use all the bells and whistles.
Keep in mind as you read the following features available how your business will scale. If you’re an ecommerce business now, do you have plans to move to a brick-and-mortar location later — or vice versa? The right POS system is the one that gives you everything you need, and you don’t pay for anything extra, until you need it.
Basic Features of a POS System
A POS system gets its name from the obvious feature of processing payments, but there are many more features included that are considered basic and a part of any POS software solution (more on hardware later). The features listed below are the must-haves that you’ll need for operating your business smoothly, whether it’s online or off.
Sales Processing: The first order of business of a POS system is to allow you to complete transactions for a customer. A POS app will work with the hardware you have to record each payment, whether by cash, card, check, or gift card. It also makes it quick and easy to accept credit card payments, without you having to run an end-of-day charge report.
Inventory Management: All modern POS apps give you control over your inventory, so you can transfer data from a spreadsheet to the software or add items manually. You should also be able to assign serial numbers and other variants to products. This is also where you’ll be able to manage purchase orders.
Staff Management: Employees get their own logins to the system for time tracking, register permissions, and sales tracking. Many POS systems will also include payroll functionality.
Reporting: All the data that flows through your POS system can be collected and analyzed, so you can see what customers are buying, when they’re shopping, and which employees helped with sales. The data can be used to help you figure out commissions, payroll, inventory restocking, and planning for future sales, discounts, and more.
Basic Marketing: Although not all POS apps include marketing tools, it’s becoming a standard feature. You should be able to track customer information, such as contact information, and order histories, which can help you create targeted marketing campaigns.
Advanced Features of a POS System
Many POS apps include features that aren’t necessary for completing a sales transaction, but they can be useful in helping you run your business more efficiently and effectively. They’ll include tools to help you get repeat business, see whether your products are moving, and make it possible for you to sell both online and off with omnichannel sales platforms. Often these features come with an added monthly fee.
Accounting: The best POS systems include accounting capabilities in its software, so you don’t have to use a separate system for tracking revenue, taxes, accounts receivable and payable, and payroll.
Advanced Marketing: Some POS software includes more marketing features, such as loyalty programs and gift cards.
Mobile Payments: Most POS apps today have mobile functionality and allow you to take payments through a tablet or mobile phone. This expedites the checkout process to get customers in and out quickly, and it allows you to make your business as mobile as you need it.
Custom Reporting: Some POS systems let you craft your own reports, so you can use the data that the POS app tracks the way you want, and see it laid out in charts, graphs, or raw data.
Loyalty Programs: One of the ways POS apps help you retain business is through the use of custom loyalty programs, or integrated loyalty programs, so customers can earn free products or discounts.
Automatic Orders: Inventory management is one thing, but you can simplify more processes if you pick a POS that sends alerts when stock is low, and reorders products automatically from vendors.
Integrations: Even if a POS system doesn’t include the advanced reporting, accounting, loyalty programs, or CRM, many offer the ability to accept integrations from other business applications you may already use.
Pricing Guide: How Much Will a Complete POS System Cost?
The last thing you need when planning to start a new business is hidden costs, which is why we broke down the estimated cost of a complete POS system here. Prices vary depending on the type of POS system you need, whether you’re online or off, and the amount of hardware or extra features you need. We calculated an average and estimated monthly cost for four different types of businesses each with $10,000-per-month card revenue in the chart below, but the rates vary based on average transaction amount, as well.
What Went Into the POS Pricing Costs Above
We factored in an average cost of leasing hardware, a service plan, software, and processing fees from some of the top-rated POS providers. This is only an estimate, as all fees, monthly charges, and your business’ credit could alter the numbers.
The hardware that’s necessary largely hinges on the type of business you’re running. A food truck operation can get away with fewer pieces of equipment than a full-service dine-in restaurant, such as using only a tablet, cash drawer, and a card reader, which adds up to about $40 per month.
A full restaurant might prefer to use a few tablets, cash drawers, card readers, and receipt printers, which averages about $180 per month to lease, plus about $90 in service plans, which lets you get equipment fixed if anything goes wrong with no added costs at the time of service. Retail and service shops could get away with fewer setups, likely, and average about $125. An ecommerce business only needs a mobile phone, PC, or tablet to run the software and website, and if you rent a tablet, it should cost about $16 to $20 per month. Actual cost will vary by seller, so keep in mind that the prices below are estimated. Learn more about the hardware options here.
Most POS system providers offer a few different plans, so you can choose a low-priced one if you don’t need many advanced features. We chose a plan that made the most sense for the types of business examples in the chart above. An ecommerce business won’t need more than the basic plan, which averages about $40 per month. The more feature-rich plans that include gift cards or custom reporting might be necessary for retail, restaurant, or service businesses, which average to about $60 per month.
To accept credit cards at your place of business, you’ll need processing services, and those come at a cost. The structure of credit card processing fees can be complicated, and they vary with each merchant service provider. You can expect to pay flat fees, plus a percentage, usually. Your payments are typically included with your payment to your POS system provider.
You’ll pay less when you have the credit card present versus keying in a number, so we assumed an ecommerce business would pay higher rates than a B&M shop, so we chose a flat rate of 2.9% plus $.30 fee for online business with $50 transactions. For the physical shops, we considered an average of 2.19% plus $.15 fee with $50 transactions, and we made this a flat-rate fee, but typically it would depend on the ticket total (you’ll pay more in fees for lower tickets, and less for the higher tickets, usually). All example businesses in the chart are assuming $10,000 revenue per month.
You may want to add on services or features to make inventory easier, or easily reach out to your customers with marketing campaigns. Some of these features or add ons could cost extra, such as being able to offer and accept gift cards, social media marketing, or a loyalty program. Square is a good example of a POS provider that offers add ons. A loyalty program costs an extra $25 per month, gift cards start at $.80, and features like employee management will run $5 per employee per month.
All POS Reviews & Pricing
You should have a good idea of what you can expect from a POS system, as far as features and basic pricing go. Here’s a list of reviews of all POS providers, and more specific pricing.
All POS Reviews
Lightspeed Retail is a POS system that has inventory and customer and store management features. Prices start at $99 per month. View Profile
TouchBistro offers solutions for payment processing, employee and customer management, and more. Prices range between $69 to $399/month. View Profile
Breadcrumb POS allows users to take table orders, manage menu inventory, and accept credit card payments. Prices start at $65/terminal/month. View Profile
Square Register offers solutions for payment processing, inventory management, and more. Price ranges from $0 to $999 depending on hardware. View Profile
Revel POS is an iPad POS system for restaurants, bars, & retail shops. The installation fee starts at $649, & the monthly fee is $79/month/terminal. View Profile
Toast POS is a customizable Android POS system built specifically for restaurant owners. Price starts at $79/month/terminal. View Profile
Bindo POS offers solutions credit card processing, inventory management, rewards, and more. Base price is estimated at $89/month for 1 register. View Profile
Clover POS offers solutions for accepting payments, tracking inventory, generating reports, & more. Prices range from $0 to $29.95/device/month. View Profile
Types of POS Systems
In addition to all the basic and advanced features of modern POS systems, some software are designed to help specific businesses with tailor-made features and tools for your business.
Restaurant POS System
Restaurants and quick-service eateries have specific needs compared to, say, a retail or ecommerce business. You have plenty of options when it comes to the restaurant category of POS apps, so just make sure the one you pick includes the features listed below.
Table Management: You should be able to create your floor plan layout in the POS app, number tables, assign servers to sections or tables, and update table status.
Customized Menus: The ability to create custom menus in your POS system means everyone in the front of house and kitchen stays on the same page for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Order Management: The best restaurant POS systems seamlessly integrate with kitchen display system (KDS) software to make order management much easier for both front- and back-of-house staff.
Reservations: Most POS systems for restaurants will include a feature to make it possible for a staff member to record and track reservations for customers.
Top POS for Restaurants: Lightspeed Restaurant
Retail POS System
A POS system for retail businesses needs rarely go beyond the basics that most POS software offers. However, there are a few features that could make your life a little easier and inventory a little faster.
Product Details: Adding product variants in a POS system is vital for keeping track of details such as sizes, styles, colors, and more.
Social Media Sales: A retail POS system that allows you to connect to your social media, such as Facebook, for online sales is one way to get inventory moving (and it’s part of the future of POS systems and retail).
Shipping: Many retail shops offer the option of shipping an item to a customer, so having a POS system that integrates with shipping services is important.
Top POS for Retail: ShopKeep
Service POS System
Service-based businesses have different requirements of a POS system than other business types. Of course, the basics could be all you need, but if you’re running a salon, auto repair shop, or design shop, you might appreciate a niche POS system.
Appointments: A service-based POS system lets you enter and track appointments with calendars for each employee, SMS appointment reminders for customers, online booking, and customer check-ins (with the right equipment).
Specialized Inventory Management: You likely have separate categories of inventory for products you use and products you sell to customers, so having a POS system that anticipates your needs is helpful.
Top POS for Service: Clover
Ecommerce POS System
An ecommerce-based business can easily get away with using almost any POS system. If you’re looking for the most complete package, then you want one that offers ecommerce-specific features.
Website: Some POS systems meant for ecommerce businesses include a turn-key website that’s designed just for your business with a shopping cart and everything you need ready to go.
Discount Coding: The ability to create discount codes through your POS system and accept those codes automatically through your e-retail website is important for any ecommerce business.
Top POS for Ecommerce: Shopify
Small-scale POS System
Whether it’s a food truck or a merch table at concerts and farmer’s markets, if you’re running a small-scale business that’s always on the go, you need a POS system that’s as mobile as you.
Mobile Functionality: You’ll need a mobile POS system that lets you use a tablet or mobile phone along with a card reader or other equipment that’s portable, secure, and easy to use.
Affordability: Small businesses or microbusinesses typically don’t usually have a lot of money to spend on a POS system, so it’s important to find one that keeps costs down.
Third-party App Integration: A pared-down POS system for the mobile business might be light on features, but they should offer lots of integration options with other helpful apps.
Top POS for Small-scale: Square
What Type of Hardware You’ll Need for Your POS System
The bare minimum of hardware required to run your business is none, if you’re operating your business online only. A cloud-based POS system is all you’ll need to take credit cards, manage inventory, and even do a little bit of light marketing to your customers. If you’re running a mobile business or a traditional B&M shop or restaurant, you’re going to need a bit more than that.
Many POS system providers are also resellers of hardware, or they have their own branded hardware that you can buy or lease. You can get the hardware separately or you can find bundles that include everything you need. Whether you buy or lease only depends on how much you’ve budgeted for hardware. Keep in mind that leasing means you can easily and affordably upgrade if something better comes out soon.
Mobile or Traditional Card Terminals
Depending on the POS system you choose, you may not need to purchase a separate credit card terminal. For example, Square includes a mobile card reader when you sign up for its service. If you would prefer a more traditional terminal or multiple terminals at your checkout counter, then you may need to purchase them. Many POS systems are compatible with the various brands of terminals available.
Tablet or Computer
Choosing a cloud-based POS system means you don’t have to have it installed in your shop by a professional. All you need is a tablet or computer (or mobile phone), which means you can likely already use existing hardware you own. Make sure the POS system you choose is compatible with your chosen type of tablet or computer (i.e., iPad vs Android, PC vs iMac, etc.).
People have been moving away from cash and reaching for debit and credit cards more often (plus Google and Apple Pay, too) — in fact, only 12 percent of people surveyed recently said they preferred using cash payments. Even with that low percentage, you’ll need a cash drawer if you have a physical store.
As technology advances and public trust in tech grows, more people are choosing to have receipts texted or emailed to them. Not only does that save you in receipt paper, it also gives you a chance to market to those customers. However, you have to anticipate some people are still going to want a printed receipt for in-store purchases.
You have a few options when it comes to barcode scanners, which are helpful for inputting inventory and sales. The traditional scanner is wired and can be cumbersome, but they’re affordable and generally reliable. There are wireless Bluetooth-enabled barcode scanners, which makes it much easier to scan items, regardless of the product’s bulk, shape, or how far away it is from the checkout counter. Alternatively, you could use smartphones as barcode scanners with an app.
6 Questions to Ask Before You Pick a POS System
Choosing a POS system is a big deal for any business owner. The good news is you’re here to do your due diligence. Before you’re ready to commit, ask these questions.
- Which features do I need?
Consider the must-haves of your POS system, whether it should be mobile, extra user-friendly, or if it offers marketing features.
- What can I afford?
Beyond the monthly fee for the software, think about the hardware and peripherals you’ll need. Also, consider how much the POS system provider charges for extras, such as a loyalty program or the ability to offer gift cards.
- Do I need a niche POS system?
A regular POS system will likely work for retail or ecommerce, but if you’re running a restaurant or you’re in the service industry, you may need an industry-specific POS solution.
- Can I easily scale the POS system as my business grows?
As your business grows, so will your POS system needs, whether that’s adding more terminals, more robust software, adding features, or training for new employees. Make sure the POS software provider offers excellent support.
- Does the POS software integrate with other software and hardware I use?
If you want to continue using enterprise resource planning (ERP) software or CRM, you want to ensure you can connect all your apps with your POS system, so you have a streamlined process in place for managing all your moving parts.
- Is there a free trial of the software I can try beforehand?
It can be helpful when a POS system provider allows for a free trial, so you can test it to make sure it will be easy to use for all your employees. Shopify is one of the many POS systems that offers a free trial.
- Which features do I need?
The Future of POS Systems
Think about how far POS systems have come, and it might not seem like such a stretch to consider that one day customers may be paying for goods with just a glance. The future of POS systems could offer more autonomy, more customer data, and the ability for a retailer or restaurant to anticipate the needs of a customer better than ever.
Self-checkout with Mobile Phones
This is one of those “the future is now” bits, though it isn’t implemented everywhere yet. Some retailers have made it possible for shoppers to use their smartphones loaded with the store’s app and a saved credit card to make purchases as they shop. Customers only have to show their receipt at the door, and they’re done. If it catches on, it could make checkout counter lines a thing of the past.
Many of us already use our fingertip to unlock our mobile devices, so the next logical step would be to use that same fingerprint to pay for goods or services. It’s already implemented in some setups, but it certainly hasn’t been adopted by the majority of retailers. Someday soon, though, machines will likely take payments from fingers and iris recognition. For now, biometric POS systems are a bit pricey, and it may take a while for customers to feel comfortable with the technology, even though it appears to be one of the most secure methods of payment.
Tracking customers and their shopping habits is nothing new when it comes to Big Data, but times are changing, and so is technology. Using cookies to track a customer online is easy enough, and in-store shoppers are now being tracked through their smartphones and in-store sensors.
You’ll be able to see how many customers pass through your store every day, week, month, etc. Another possibility: Tracking the behavior of those customers as they shop. You’ll be able to examine the path a customer takes in your store, where they stop to browse items, and how much time they spend in your business. That data can be used to help you rearrange your products, pathways, and come up with solutions to help drive sales.
Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology has been around longer than most of us realize, but perhaps that’s because it only recently became a big part of our everyday lives. The most common places you’ve seen RFID used include warehouses, marathons, key fobs, and kiosks. It’s still a big part of inventory management, but it can also be used to help a customer. Real-time inventory management means you could scan an item and let a customer know instantly whether you have a certain size or color of a product in stock in the back.
You may have heard about Memory Mirrors, which are used by Neiman Marcus. It uses RFID technology to connect the retailer’s inventory and POS system with the mirror that’s seemingly magical. A customer stands in front of the mirror wearing an article of clothing, and they can change the color or pattern, if there are other options, by just waving their hand.
Social Media Sales
As the social media landscape changes, retailers are responding by making it more possible for customers to make direct purchases from Facebook pages, and even from shoppable posts. A shopper who sees an outfit on an Instagram model can purchase all the pieces with just a click. Pinterest is getting on board, too, with Buyable Pins, so browsers can click “buy it” rather than “pin it” on items they want.
Put a bunch of those technologies together, and you could enable customers to walk into your store, try on an article of clothing, stand in front of a mirror, and then change the color of clothing with a swipe of their hand. They can then simply walk out the store with the chosen article of clothing, and receive a digital receipt for the item they purchased without ever having to stand in line or pull out their wallet. Beta stores, like the Amazon Go shop in Seattle, are already doing it.
The Bottom Line
You already know you need a POS system, but when you choose one that delivers all the functionality you need to streamline your everyday processes, you know you’ve picked the right one. The right POS software can scale up as your business grows, integrates with hardware and software you already use, and is easy to use for everyone in your business. Read through the reviews of the best POS systems to find the one that’s perfect for your unique business.
Top Retail Influencers of 2018
We’ve scouted the web for retail influencers that are making a positive impact online and created the list below of the top retail influencers of 2018.
Our goal for this list is to present helpful tips to small business owners who are looking to succeed in the retail industry, right from the experts themselves. We found that the retail influencers listed have remarkable credentials, knowledge, and expertise pertaining to the retail industry, as well as an impressive quantity of social media followers.