Choosing a POS software app is not a task to be taken lightly. Whether you are switching POS systems or looking to make your first purchase, having robust and reliable software is an integral part of your business’ success. To make sure you’re checking all the boxes - before you make your decision - here are 6 things to keep in mind before taking the plunge.
Businesses are like snowflakes; no two are alike. What might be important to one small business owner may not cross the mind of another. There are infinite combinations of business priorities, and for this reason, it’s important that before you do any research on POS software applications, you determine exactly where your priorities lie.
Determining what your business’ specific needs are in a POS software app is the first - and ultimately most important - thing you can do at this stage of the research process. If you’re a quick service restaurant serving a dozen dishes, your needs are going to be different than if you’re a vape shop with hundreds of different skews. Some POS software can handle the needs of a variety of businesses, and some, well, can’t. So before you go a step further, make a list of all the unique needs of your business. Only after you have completed this step can you then start searching for a POS software app that will fulfill this wish list.
Thanks to today’s software as a service (SaaS) model small merchants can access the same kind of business tools used by larger companies. Cloud-based POS software has made this possible and now, for a low monthly fee, small businesses can have access to top-of-the-line POS software.
That was the good news. The great news is that there is plenty of POS software that is not only reasonably priced, but can get the job done.
But before you go off choosing POS software, you need to opt for a POS provider that offers transparent and competitive pricing. Contracts are fine (you can often save a significant amount of money over the course of a year), but they should definitely be optional. If a provider doesn’t have a pay-as-you-go option, that should be a red flag. Ask them why not, and if they dance around the question, say “thanks” and a firm “goodbye.”
While we are already talking about how much money you are going to be spending, let’s also touch on another topic involving money: hidden fees. Fees are fine but don’t when they are hidden or disguised. It’s unethical, frustrating, and downright annoying. So how does one go about avoiding hidden fees? Question everything, and then repeat. When you’re speaking to a POS vendor on the phone, ask them about additional fees you might encounter. Ask them for a list of fees. If they say no or beat around the bush, scratch them off your list.
All POS software is going to give you sales data to a certain degree, but not all reporting options are created equal. Your POS software should generate detailed sales reports that allow you to deep dive into your data and help you optimize your business and pricing strategy. If a POS software’s reports feel lackluster and like they are missing something, they probably are.
Another aspect to consider when choosing a POS software app is how easy it is to access all of your data directly from your phone or tablet. Does it feel natural and easy to navigate? Or does the app feel awkward and unnatural? Some POS software providers allow you to check business stats such as net sales, transaction counts, average sales value, and the total number of customers, in real time. If a POS software app can do all of that, and feels user friendly, move it to your shortlist.
Software integrations are key. The ability to sync with other solutions in your software stack might not be the be-all and end-all to a POS system, but it will help you optimize your business and streamline processes.
Essentially, POS integrations allow business owners to use a variety of tools by letting applications speak directly to one another. These integrations make running your business easier, so it’s important to know what types of integrations will be most valuable to you and whether or not the POS software you’re evaluating offers them.
It’s no surprise that small business owners are often concerned about the risks of mobile POS. But that’s natural. If entrepreneurs didn’t ask questions and weren’t skeptical at times, they’d be setting themselves up for failure. So ask away. But the reality of the situation is that most mobile POS software apps have the same number - if not fewer - risks associated with them as traditional POS systems do. If you have concerns regarding the safety of your customers’ data and the cloud, we understand.
But since no customer information should ever be stored in the cloud, by choosing a provider that encrypts data at the point of sale, you can rest easy that your customers’ information is safe with your business. However, when exploring POS software, make sure to investigate the security of your data, particularly when it comes to transactions.
No one wants to think about having to switch POS software before they’ve even made a decision, and hopefully you’ll never have to. Periodically, however, issues arise and you might have to adjust your plans accordingly.
In case this ever happens, it’s important to consider hardware while you’re making your initial investment into software. Opt for a POS provider that pairs quality, durable, and non-proprietary hardware with robust software. Then, if you ever do need to switch POS providers, you’ll be able to use your hardware with your next system. Choosing POS software that must be used with proprietary hardware essentially means you might be out a significant amount of money if your business ever undergoes a shift. So safeguard yourself from this in the future by being conscious of software and hardware compatibility.
At this point, if you feel a little overwhelmed with information, it’s understandable. Choosing a quality POS software application is an important decision. Because of its importance, it should never be rushed. So take your time, do your research, and ask around. The time you spend making the correct decision now will save you both time (and money) down the road.
Sara Sugar is ShopKeep point of sale’s in-house Content Marketing Specialist. Sara uses her distinguished journalism background to boil down topics like POS system technology, payments, and payment security for small business owners.