For new small businesses, setting up a POS system can be as easy as downloading an app. More complex businesses may require professional POS installation. However, for most small storefronts, your POS setup process will be somewhere in the middle requiring a few days of DIY data entry, hardware setup, and setting configurations.
Factors like budget, business size and type, system capabilities, and hardware compatibility each impact how you set up your POS system.
Here’s how to set up your POS system, including inventory, customer data, and employee accounts, in six steps:
1. Choose a POS System
First and foremost, you’ll want to choose a POS system that can accommodate your unique business needs. POS systems operate on different types of hardware at different price points, so it’s important to take budget into consideration.
Evaluate Industry-Specific Features
Start by understanding which POS tools and features you’ll need for your business:
- Inventory management: Track inventory in real time as it is sold, including variants like sizes and colors, and easily reorder items as needed. The best POS systems will have fairly robust inventory management features.
- Multiple payment options: In addition to cash and credit cards, retailers need options to accept e-wallet payments, store credit, refunds, and alternative payment options like PayPal.
- Multichannel: Retailers that sell online or at events need a POS that can connect with other sales channels.
- Customer relationship management: Create customer profiles with contact information and purchase history to use for email marketing and loyalty programs.
- Table mapping: Create floor plans for your dining room to track guests and open tables including their servers, orders, and how long they have been seated.
- Menu management: Enter menus with pricing and recipes for different meals, days of the week, and special discounts like happy hour.
- Ingredient-level inventory management: Track stock levels as you sell and prepare each dish.
- Split checks and tipping: Servers can easily split checks multiple ways and let guests add tips.
- Customer relationship management: Create customer profiles with contact information.
- Online ordering: Allow customers to place pick-up and delivery orders and pay online.
- Booking integration: Manage room reservations or integrate with third-party booking software.
- Event organization: Manage events and rentals for ballrooms and conference spaces.
- Guest feedback and surveys: Send and collect surveys after each guest’s stay.
- Appointment management: Manage your calendar, allow customers to book appointments, and sync appointments to your payment processor.
- Retail sales: Many service providers, like spas and salons, also need to process retail sales.
- Online booking: Allow customers to create accounts and book appointments online.
- Invoicing: Some service providers, like mechanics, cleaning agencies, and contractors need to generate invoices for appointments.
The best POS system for your business should have all the features you need at an affordable price point, be easy to use, have responsive customer support, and be able to grow with your business.
Consider Hardware and Compatibility Issues
If you’re an established business, you’ve likely already made investments in other hardware and software to manage day-to-day operations. When it comes to setting up your POS system, you want one that will seamlessly integrate with the rest of your existing technology, so be sure to check for compatibility before you invest in a system.
For new businesses, make sure you choose one that you are comfortable with. For example, if you’re familiar with the iOS operating system because you use an iPhone, you might be best-suited with an app-based POS that runs on iPads. Or if you prefer a desktop computer, consider a browser-based POS system.
Should You Rent or Lease POS Hardware?
Leasing a POS system can look like an attractive option. It offers lower upfront costs and reduced ongoing fees, and you get to return the hardware when you’re finished. However, renting hardware doesn’t always save money in the long run and investing in your own equipment gives you more freedom and flexibility.
If you want to own your POS system but need lower upfront costs, there is a third option. Some POS companies will offer payment plans or installment payment options, meaning you can pay for the product over time and still own the hardware.
2. Decide Between Professional Installation and DIY
After choosing a POS system, you’ll need to get both the hardware and software up and running. Choosing between installing the POS system yourself and hiring a professional to do it comes down to your resources and availability. While booking a professional installation will typically come with a price tag, doing it yourself requires technical know-how and enough time to dedicate to the process.
Technically, you can set up a POS system in a matter of minutes, as long as you have all the necessary hardware on hand. More complicated or custom solutions may take more time and expertise—such circumstances may warrant a professional installer.
When to Have a POS System Professionally Installed
If your budget allows, it’s a good idea to opt for professional installation. This is especially true for small businesses with lots of customization, integration, and add-ons. Larger and multilocation businesses will also want to enlist a professional.
Pros and Cons of Hiring a Professional
|Accuracy: A professional is more likely to properly install your POS system as they have relevant experience and knowledge.||Additional costs: Professional installation usually costs money—around $500 or more.|
|Training: Professional installations typically come with training for you and your team. It’s always best to check directly with your POS provider.||Scheduling: You’ll have to schedule an appointment for installation, so your POS system won’t be immediately available for use. This also means you have to coordinate days and times with multiple parties, which can be difficult depending on everyone’s availability.|
|Data entry: For retailers with lots of SKUs and product information—or restaurants with recipes, ingredients, and menu items—professional installation usually includes entry and setup for inventory items and tracking.|
When to Install a POS System Yourself
If you don’t have the budget for a professional installation, you might be looking at doing it yourself. In fact, some POS setups are so simple that you won’t need a professional.
For example, if you’re just getting started, you’ll likely be able to plug and play. If you have a single-location small business, there won’t be many customizations, so setup is more straightforward than for a chain store or a large restaurant. Plus, many POS systems have robust content libraries and support resources to help users get up and running.
Pros and Cons of Installing a POS System Yourself
|Learning the system: Setting up your POS system allows you to get to know the software and how to use it.||Complications: It could take longer to set up the system than you had initially planned.|
|Lower costs: You’ll save money on any associated installation fees by setting up the system yourself. Bear in mind, though, that time is money.||Room for error: You might set it up incorrectly. This could end up being more costly if you have to pay a professional to fix it.|
|Missing features: By installing yourself, you may accidentally overlook some features or functionalities of the system.|
3. Set Up Your Inventory Management System
Once you’ve chosen and installed your POS system, you’ll need to square away the inventory management process. Whether you’re a retailer or restaurant, tracking inventory is one of the most valuable features of a POS system. Almost every POS system includes some level of inventory management. If you have a larger business, you’ll likely need a more sophisticated system—some businesses may also use third-party integrations to connect inventory management software to the POS.
Import Your Stock List
To start, import your stock list. Depending on how you’ve been tracking products before implementing your new POS system, this might mean uploading data from an Excel spreadsheet or turning an integration with your existing third-party software on. While many POS systems can handle this process automatically, it’s still a good idea to do a manual review after importing to ensure the data looks clean.
If you go the professional installation route that service often includes setting up your stock list. Some POS systems allow you to manually enter individual products but require support for importing product data in bulk. If you have large inventories, make sure to ask about how this process works before signing on with a POS provider.
Organize Your Products
Once your inventory data is in the POS system, it’s time to add more information for each SKU.
- Set stock levels with the amount of each product you have on-hand
- Categorize each item by product type. Some businesses also add seasonal categories or note which area of the store or stockroom products are located.
- Add descriptions to each product to help identify and locate items
- Add other necessary identifying data (like vendor name, barcode and SKU information, wholesale pricing, and retail pricing and markup)
Once you’ve input all your product data, make sure all of the automations surrounding your inventory data are in place. Most importantly, make sure settings are correct so that the system automatically adjusts on-hand stock levels when a product is sold. Some POS systems will also allow you to customize low stock alerts, so you get a notification or report when in-stock items reach a certain level.
4. Import Customer Data
After setting up your products, you’ll need to import your customer data. If you have an existing customer database, even if it’s just a list of first names, you’ll want to import this into your POS system. Many systems can handle a basic Excel spreadsheet or CSV import. Update each customer profile with whatever information you have available, including email address, phone number, physical address, age, occupation, and purchase history.
Create Customer Profiles and Segments
After you’ve added your customers to your database, you’ll want to organize them to send targeted, personalized promotions. Identify top spenders, frequent shoppers, and other key customer groups based on similarities.
Some POS systems can generate reports or automatically segment your top-spending customers and most frequent visitors. You can also create lists based on the types of products each customer buys.
Set Up Automated Marketing Campaigns
Use your customer segments to build automated marketing and customer relationship management (CRM) campaigns. Some POS systems have built-in features for email marketing, loyalty programs, social media promotions, and customer feedback collection. Other systems can integrate with popular third-party solutions for marketing.
POS marketing campaigns with easy setup include:
- Customized email receipts: Many POS systems let retailers customize email receipts with contact information, social media handles, and coupon or promotional information.
- Automated surveys: After a customer makes a purchase, send an automated email or text message with a survey on their experience.
- Points-based loyalty program: Many POS systems have the capability to set up a points-based loyalty program where customers can automatically earn points with each purchase.
More advanced automated marketing campaigns can include new customer welcome emails, birthday coupons, and reminders for customers to come back. Many systems also sync with Facebook and Instagram, so you can create, share, and even boost social media posts right from your POS dashboard.
5. Establish Employee Accounts and Permissions
If you have a team or staff, you’ll want a POS system that allows for employee profiles and permissions. Once your inventory and customer data is set up, the next step is establishing your employee accounts. Start by designating yourself as the administrator and owner of the entire account.
Next, think about the types of employee roles and permissions you’ll need. If you have a retail store, you may just need an associate and manager level—one to handle sales and manage customer data, and another role to process returns, voids, and adjust inventory. Restaurants may need several different roles and permission levels for staff like servers, bartenders, and managers. Create each role and assign the appropriate permission levels.
Once you’ve created your employee roles and permissions, create an account for each staff member and designate the appropriate corresponding role. It’s important for each employee to have their own login so that you can easily track sales and run performance reports. It’s also a lot easier to solve issues with register or inventory discrepancies when a specific employee is assigned to each transaction.
Many POS systems also have time-tracking features or scheduling add-ons, so you can use your system to track work hours for payroll. Some systems can also generate payroll reports and include tools for employees to clock-in and clock-out.
6. Train Staff on How to Use a POS System
The final step in setting up a POS system is training your employees. Your business tools are only effective if your people are using them correctly, so it’s important to maximize your investment with proper training.
Schedule a Training With the POS Provider
Your POS software provider should offer some sort of onboarding for new teams. This could include a video walk-through, small group or one-on-one sessions, or even on-site training. Ask if your provider offers training for new hires as well.
Most POS systems have some combination of online libraries, knowledge bases, guides, FAQs, and video tutorials that you can use to train future new hires.
Distribute a Manual
After the team has been trained on how to use the POS system, you’ll want to have technical documentation that’s easily accessible. Keep printed documents in the staff room, add notes to your workplace communication system, and remember to train all new hires how to use the POS.
Look for Ongoing Customer Support
You might face technical difficulties with your POS after you’ve gotten it up and running, so find out what type of technical support your POS provider offers. Sometimes, support is included with every package—others may require higher-tier packages for complimentary support. You should also determine how to contact support (e.g., phone, email, ticketing system, live chat, etc.) and know what their availability is.
Learning how to set up a POS system depends on the resources you have available, the type of POS you’re installing, and your small business needs. You can install your POS yourself or hire a professional to do it for you. From there, import data for inventory management, customer profiles, staff management, and other essential business operations to create a control center for your business.
Now that your POS setup is complete, learn how to use your POS system to manage day-to-day operations.