With all the capabilities of modern point of sale (POS) systems and all of the solutions available to retailers, finding the best POS system for your small business can seem complicated, and at times nearly impossible.

On the surface, they all look the same and promise a similar set of essential features, the ability to accept credit card transactions, inventory tracking, customer loyalty tools, and employee management just to name a few. However, choosing a point of sale system is not a decision that retailers should make lightly.

This powerful tool is the lifeline of your day-to-day operations, empowering you to better manage all areas of your business, including supply chain management, marketing, accounting, and staffing. So, how do you determine the best POS system for your small business? Not to worry, we did the legwork so that you can avoid making a costly, uninformed decision.

Benefits of Using a POS System

Before we can address the qualities of a ‘best in class’ retail POS system, we first need to discuss what modern POS systems are capable of.

Enhanced Sales Transactions and Payments
Today’s point of sale system performs the same basic functions as an electronic cash register such as calculating change and sales. However, it was designed to operate as an all-in-one solution that provides robust inventory management and control, omnichannel capabilities like integrated ecommerce, and access to customer relationship management, marketing, and reporting tools.

Supply Chain and Inventory Management
With most modern POS systems, keeping track of your store’s inventory is easier than ever. Today’s point of sale software allows retailers and managers to instantly import their inventory data and keep track of when stock items are low.

Marketing and Customer Outreach
Today’s point of sale software allows retail businesses to leverage the latest in digital marketing, enabling you to coordinate email blasts, encourage engagement on social media channels and promote discounts.

Staff Management
With modern POS software, you can oversee your employees, track performance, build intuitive schedules and ensure that your store is running smoothly, even when you’re not there.

Data Reporting and Analytics
In the modern world of sales, data can tell you everything about your business. It pays to know what’s working, what’s not, and what you can do to boost your outreach. Many small business owners avoid analytics because they feel like they won’t understand the reports, but with today’s POS software and user-friendly design, makes reporting simple to view, understand and export. You can even see real-time data in the palm of your hand – with a smartphone app that’s integrated into your POS system.

Of course, while many modern POS systems offer all of these capabilities, the ones that stand out have a particular set of qualities that are rare in the market. What you want to look for in a POS system is the ability support every aspect of your business.

Without further ado, here are some features to consider when choosing the best POS system for your small business.

The Key Features of a Quality POS System

If you were to boil down the goal of a retail store, what would you say is the most important aspect? It’s likely that you thought of sales first, and for a good reason. A store that is unable to sell its wares will not last long in today’s competitive retail market.

The best POS system makes selling as easy and organized as possible. Here are a few things you should expect — or rather, demand — from your POS software, to help support your business.

Short Transaction Times
Whether your goal is to be a high volume seller or to corner a niche market, transactions that take too long will be a drain on your staff and your customers. See, spending too much time processing a sale comes at a significant opportunity cost; customers will grow impatient, your employees will get frustrated and be too occupied to handle other duties throughout the store. The best retail POS systems make it easy to access product information in the computer and ring up sales.

Investing in a mobile, iPad-based solution like ShopKeep also allows retailers to process a high-volume of orders during peak hours without slowing down. The iPad’s flexible, portable design quickly turns a fixed POS station into a mobile register making it easy to reduce wait times by processing transactions mobility.

User-Friendly and Customizable Interface
The best POS systems have an intuitive user interface that is easy for customers and staff to navigate when they are engaged at the point of purchase. One of the capabilities that tend to separate an average POS system from the best retail POS systems on the market is customization. A customizable POS system allows users to do things that you might not think of first when shopping for new software, like toggling sales tax, managing add-ons to sales and providing notes to avoid misunderstandings in the fulfillment of a transaction. Not only will a simple, user-friendly system save time you’d otherwise spend training your staff, but it also allows you to cut down on human error during the checkout process.

All of these little options can be crucial to building a POS package that fits your retail business, rather than molding your business to fit into a static POS software package.

Diverse Payment Types
In the modern world, we’re all going digital, and this includes paying for goods. Retailers that don’t accept all forms of payment are missing out on potential profits. That being said, the best POS system for your budget, is one that has a diverse payment platform that can handle cash, credit, and debit, as well as newer methods such as Apple Pay, and other forms of NFC or contactless payments.

With advancements in payment technology and security, this area is bound to keep on progressing. Your small business needs a POS system that can handle these advancements.

Not only do you want a POS system that can keep up with the evolving payment landscape, but you also want one that offers a seamless payment experience for your customer. What does that mean, exactly? It means that customers want their goods or services, they want stellar customer service, but they don’t really want to be bothered with the actual transaction part of the equation.

A great example of this is rideshare service, Lyft. A customer uses the app to to hail a ride, hopefully the driver provides quality customer service, and when the customer arrives at the destination, payment is made with a few clicks. Or if the customer fails to initiate the payment, their card is automatically charged the fare within 24 hours. So, in this case, the actual payment portion of the transaction takes a back seat to the service and quality of the experience.

Ecommerce Integration
In a market where 81 percent of shoppers will look up an item online before making an in-person purchase, ecommerce is more critical to a retailer’s success than ever.

The best retail POS systems allow you to integrate your brick and mortar business with an online webstore where shoppers can browse products and do their preliminary research before visiting your physical store location.

Integration with tried-and-true eCommerce sites like BigCommerce streamline inventory management by syncing items across both online and offline channels, so your inventory is automatically updated whenever you make a sale. Not only will local customers be able to browse your store digitally, but so will the rest of the world – significantly broadening your customer reach and visibility.

Learn How To Grow Your Business with BigCommerce and ShopKeep

Reliable Hardware and Support
Since modern POS software focuses on many of the operational aspects of running a small business, we tend to forget about the actual hardware. Whether you’re setting up a basic cash register to track sales or a robust iPad POS system to manage all aspects of your business, you’re going to need reliable hardware to get the job done.

While POS systems are often judged based on the software and functionality, let’s not forget about the company that provides the software, and ultimately customer support. Will customer care be available to you when you need to troubleshoot errors that can have an impact on your business? Regardless of how reliable a product is, it is important to partner with a point of sale provider that is equipped to offer dedicated support on a variety of channels. This can include email support, an FAQ page, tutorial content, chat, and phone support.

Food Truck customer iPad best pos system

Intelligent Retail Store Management

By now, you know that the best POS system for retailers is one that simplifies the process of running a retail business. This includes day-to-day functions like processing transactions, managing inventory across online and offline channels, and pricing adjustments. However, this is only a portion of what a modern POS system can offer your small business.

Store management has always been important, but before the dawn of easy-to-use POS software, inventory and supply chain duties have always been handled in the traditional, hand on paper method. The problem? Paper can’t calculate totals, or handle short-term sales projections. The best retail POS software is software that empowers small business owners with this data so that they can make smarter business decisions with ease.

Inventory Management in Minutes Not Hours
Imagine the ability to import and manage large inventories with thousands of SKUs within minutes, or set up order triggers so that you never run out of items or miss a sale. Or a platform that gives you the ability to identify best sellers, putting more money in your pocket and hours back in your workweek. A quality point of sale system makes this all possible.

One of the most overlooked wastes of time, money, and human capital is the lack of an efficient method for inventory tracking, yet countless retail stores unknowingly becoming victims of this pitfall. Your POS software should give you the tools to make real-time inventory management simple, fast, and reliable.

Whether you deal with a diverse range of specialized merchandise or you move huge quantities of product in your retail sector, a POS system should be able to handle the inventory management tasks that allow you to track costs and profit margins per item, differentiate between items that have a variety of arrangements, and identify items that are running low.

With quality retail POS software, you’ll never have to worry about having sufficient stock items. How’s that for peace of mind? With a comprehensive sales tracker integrated with your inventory charts, you can set-up stock alerts, automatic reordering based on the timetable for re-stocking and filling your shelves.

We can’t stress it enough: The best retail POS systems are customizable to your unique business needs so that you never have to sacrifice the efficiency of your retail operations.

Marketing Integrations that Boost Your Business
Another huge store management chore is the curation of customer lists and marketing campaigns. Smaller retail stores don’t tend to have the margins in the early going to have a fully operational marketing department, so it’s likely that the marketing duties are going to rest squarely on your shoulders alone.

Thankfully, modern POS features can support your marketing efforts until you have the ability to create smart marketing campaigns on your own. Customer lists to use in compiling email newsletters will ensure that your customers build brand loyalty, and a system that integrates with digital marketing software cultivates the ability to increase sales and grow your business’ reputation.

The best retail POS systems will allow you to interact with your customers, be receptive to reviews and strengthen your brand, directly from one simple source.

Simplified Staff Management, Payroll, and Training
Gone are the days of building employee training regimens, managing time clocks and creating schedules on paper. A great POS system allows you to do all of this from one simple source.

You can control employee permissions, build up-to-the-minute schedules, control training, update employee databases, and oversee the time clock; even when you aren’t physically in your store. For a retail business owner, this is absolutely crucial. The best part is that all this control and oversight allows you to break down staff performance and single out top performers and the employees that need extra training.

Additionally, a great retail POS program can make other aspects of staff management a lot easier. Don’t have the money for in-house accounting? No problem! Modern POS software can integrate with accounting software like QuickBooks to ensure that your employee payroll is well managed, and you never have to exceed your projected labor budget – and that can be worth its weight in gold.

Reporting with Return on Investment in Mind

You may think that you’ve heard everything that POS software can do to support a smooth-running retail business, but consider this: almost every part of the retail process can be fine-tuned and improved using data and analytics.

Do you want to judge the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns? Or see which of your brand’s products are selling the highest relative to their market alternatives? Maybe you just want to ensure that you’re addressing your customers concerns and having positive customer interactions. All of this information that was previously based on an inexact science is available thanks to analytics.

Sales data can ultimately give you a detailed look at how your various product lines are performing, as well as each individual staff member. In turn, this information can help you make informed decisions about personnel and whether or not you should decide to take a low performing product off the market, or improve it based on feedback like customer reviews.

The best retail POS software can compile sales data over time and show you the trajectory of your store’s sales developments. The success of new products or new team members become more clearly visible than ever before through management of a top notch retail POS system.

Here are a few ways the best retail POS systems available to small business owners can improve sales.

ShopKeep pocket best pos system

Understand Your Customer and Fine-Tune Your Marketing
One thing data can absolutely provide for your retail business is a solid, complete understanding of your consumer. With analytics made available by a high quality retail POS system, you can draw up customer personas and tease out the qualities that your store must have to entice your audience.

This goes hand-in-hand with your store’s marketing efforts. This data can allow you to judge your campaigns, see who views your advertising the most, and get a complete view of your marketing ROI. What could be more useful than if all this capacity was made available for you in the palm of your hand, as part of a POS system package?

End of the Day Reporting That Brings Peace of Mind
At the end of each day, compare customer traffic with total revenue and measure the effectiveness of storewide sales, promotions, and coupons. The best retail POS systems will provide a register summary for the entire day, so you can confirm payment amounts and check for discrepancies each day.

Making Business Decisions On-The-Go
The best retail POS software will package all your data and analytics reporting in a simple, portable package, whether you opt for an iPad POS or want to manage your business from your phone. In today’s market, POS software must come with a mobile app for a constantly available, up-to-date snapshot of how your business is performing at all times.

No longer do you have to be afraid to leave your store for more than a few hours. With the level of remote access and control allowed to you by way of a great retail POS system, you can roam freely while never losing grip on your business.

Sales Forecasting for a Winning Sales Floor
An essential aspect of running a successful retail business is understanding inventory and sales trends. This allows you to accurately forecast future sales and minimize the risk of overstocking slow moving inventory. Viewing inventory and sales reports make it easy to understand historical performance that empowers the owner to make smarter purchasing decisions in the future.

SEE ALSO: Tracking Industry Trends in Retail with Mackenzi Farquer

So What is the Best Retail Point of Sale System?

So, you’ve found a POS system that checks all these boxes. What’s next?
The best retail POS system provides you, the small business owner, with the tools and information that minimizes the stress of running a retail business. So far, we’ve gone over, what you should expect from a modern POS system and how they can support every aspect of running a retail business.

But now we’re going to give you the broad qualities that your POS system should ultimately provide for you, your business and your budget, regardless of your unique needs. The best retail POS system is…

Customizable
Your service provider should offer you the ability to customize and include as many or as few of the support features we mentioned as your business requires. While it’s great to know that your POS system can have positive effects on all ends of the retail spectrum, your unique retail store may not need in-depth functions.

Thus, the best retail POS system will be the one that you can customize to use however you need it, without sacrificing functionality and reliable use.

User-Friendly and Easy to Operate
None of what your POS system can do for you matters if you can’t use it and teach others to use it in a short period of time. What’s the point in having a complicated iPad POS platform that’s variable and portable if you don’t know how to use it? A great POS system is easy to use and a great POS service provider will allow you to test out your software package before making the final purchase. Reach out to providers that seem to offer the best retail POS system on the market. Sometimes hands-on experience is the only way to find out if a certain POS system is the one for you and your business.

Accurate
When dealing with small margins, supply chain management, and up-to-the-minute data reporting, you can’t afford to not trust your information. The best POS service providers build software that gives you reliable, accurate and comprehensive information, on profits, sales, customer data, marketing ROI and much, much more.

When peace of mind in your POS system choice can be the difference between success and failure in retail, you deserve the absolute best retail POS system on the market.

Affordable
Going along with your ability to customize your retail POS, your system should be affordable at each level of feature simplicity. Let’s say you need the full range of support services mentioned already, in order to seamlessly track inventory, sales and coordinate staffing, marketing, and all around store management.

The best POS system on the market for your needs will be able to offer all these services at a cost that works for your unique budget and business needs.

Check out our POS Buyer Guide for more in-depth analysis.

Innovative and Evergreen
You don’t want a POS system that becomes obsolete the next time a new payment method comes out or an innovation in retail inventory management becomes standard.
The best retail POS system is one that can be updated to stay current as the retail environment changes constantly.

Merchant number1 best pos system

Secure
Data security is a huge issue in the modern technology market, especially recently. You can’t afford for your business’s sensitive data to fall into the hands of parties who will use it for the wrong reasons, and you certainly can’t afford to gain a reputation as an insecure business.

For example, the Target breach in 2013 devalued company stock, and hurt the brand’s national image. If a temporary lapse in data security can hurt even the largest of retailers to this degree, just imagine what it can do to a small, one-location boutique retailer. For any small business owner, data security is a huge priority, but for retailers, security is absolutely crucial, especially concerning the data found in their point of sale system.

Each time your business accepts a credit card transaction, the customer is exchanging their sensitive payment information for a good or service. Opting for an iPad point of sale system that uses cloud-based software is an excellent option for small retailers concerned about security. Unlike traditional point of sale systems that store data locally within the point of sale, with a cloud-based system, data is stored in a secure cloud-based server. Thus, limiting the chances of a credit card breach.

In addition to opting for cloud-based point of sale software, check the company’s track record to ensure that it has never had any serious issues with data breaches. Secondly, a provider’s website will tell you if their product is PCI compliant, an important factor in maintaining security while processing payments with bank cards and credit cards. Remember: it only takes one incident to ruin your small business’ public image.

Backed by Customer Service
The best POS system for retailers has a support team to help you choose your package using their expertise, as well as implement and troubleshoot it. Like we mentioned above, even the most reliable systems will have small problems, and in order to avoid lapses in your retail store’s operation, you need an expert team on hand to give you constant care and put out the fires when they arise.

The Modern POS At a Glance

Retailers should demand more out of their POS system in today’s business climate than ever before. For every function that your business carries out, there’s a way that a modern retail POS system can support your daily operations.

From crucial day-to-day functions such as inventory management, employee management, and sales tracking, to behind the scenes tools like data collection, reporting, marketing, and building customer loyalty, a great POS system is a crucial tool for a retail business to stay afloat.They should be detailed and multi-function capable without sacrificing a user-friendly interface. They should be customizable while maintaining ironclad data security. And they should be provided by a company that understands the unique needs of your retail business, and able to provide around the clock support to help you meet those needs. Of course, all of this should be packaged in a mobile optimized, intuitive bundle that meets your company’s budget.

As the owner of a retail business, the quality of your POS software can make or break your place in a competitive retail environment. Keep these factors in mind as you search for the best retail POS system on the market today.

Yamarie Grullon

Yamarie Grullon has years of experience creating helpful & engaging content for small business owners. As Director of Content Strategy at ShopKeep, the #1-rated iPad Point of Sale System, Yamarie provides merchants with practical advice on all things related to business or point of sale.