While many SMBs swap their old cash registers for state-of-the-art POS systems primarily for ease of use during service, there is tremendous value in the analytics and reporting features POS software brings to the table. Different POS products (some of which are targeted at specific industries) have their own selections of reports, but a few categories of reports and analytics are available in nearly every POS system out there.
If you're new to using a POS or unfamiliar with analytics in general, these five types of reports are a good starting point. Using the data your POS is already collecting can help you improve daily operations, eliminate time spent doing administrative work, minimize waste and boost revenue.
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The easiest way to take advantage of the data collected by your POS system is by reviewing the analytics dashboard (if there is one) or pulling a general summary report (which is available in nearly any system). POS dashboards offer an obvious advantage over summary reports in that they are live and reflect the current state of your business, but dashboards and summary reports typically showcase similar information.
A general summary report or analytics dashboard will display quick facts like net sales during a certain span of time (as well as percent change from previous periods), number of transactions, transaction totals, invoice totals, deposits and outgoing costs. A bird's-eye view of all the data across different spheres of your business is valuable even if you also pull more detailed reports. General summaries can help you identify problematic areas and drill down into them to solve the problem. Overviews like these can also be helpful for sharing information with business partners or collaborators who only require a snapshot of what's happening, not an in-depth analysis.
If your POS system doesn't have a dashboard, check under the reporting section for automated summaries. A lot of POS software includes built-in general summary reports that can be emailed to you on a specified basis (daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly), but if that's not an option, you will have to pull the report manually, which still only takes a few minutes.
Accounting reports are one of the best features of POS systems for business owners. Almost all POS systems have general ledger reports, which provide a detailed account of assets, liabilities, customer deposits, accounts payable and more.
You should be able to customize your own accounting reports within your POS by inputting general ledger codes and descriptions and mapping your accounts based on categories you determine, like refunds, revenue or cash adjustment. In a good POS system, once you've run the general ledger or other accounting report, you can export the information to Excel. Since Excel is compatible with QuickBooks, arguably the most popular accounting software among SMBs, this is a massive time-saver. Individual accountants may also appreciate having the information they need delivered in Excel. If you already own a POS and are not using the built-in accounting reports, you're missing out on one of the best time-saving features these systems offer.
Tracking inventory through a POS not only instantly makes it harder for employees to steal, it also streamlines the ordering process and makes it easier to diagnose and minimize waste.
Inventory summaries, one of the most common reports, typically give an overview of current inventory in stock, which can be helpful for staff as well as owners – there's no need to run to the stockroom to check on inventory if there's a live dashboard or report available. Inventory valuation reports are also a popular choice among SMBs; they offer a look at the total monetary value of your current inventory. Finally, there are inventory reorder reports, which automatically capture all the items in your inventory that have fallen beneath the required quantity you've determined. So, if you decide you always need a minimum of 35 green widgets, the moment your green widget inventory hits 34, it will appear on your inventory reorder report.
Specialized inventory reports are also available in some systems, like raw ingredient reports (used primarily in restaurants or food production facilities) or parts reports specifically for manufacturing businesses. Many POS products also allow you to integrate your inventory analytics with third-party accounting software to completely streamline the process. POS software with live dashboards (rather than defined reports) may even showcase order workflows, tell you when inventory is scheduled to arrive, and allow to-the-minute tracking on outgoing payments and deliveries.
Sales tracking, payment tracking and customer information
POS sales information is invaluable to SMBs that want to pinpoint demand and eliminate low-performing products or services. There are many types of sales reports, and they vary in layout and function depending on the type of business they are geared toward. For example, a retail store will have a different-looking report from a landscaping company, because the nature of the products and services is so different.
In general, sales reports allow you to view every item you sold, as well as a summary of top performers and low performers, total revenue, average order amount, orders by time of day, sales tax breakdowns, deposit history, sales trends, most and least common payment methods, and more. Many sales reports and dashboards also include customer and employee information so each transaction can be easily reviewed in full when there is a dispute or questionable activity. Customer information can also be used to pinpoint how many return customers versus new customers you have, and how often repeat customers make purchases.
Sales reports can also inform future business decisions and even boost revenue. For example, if an expensive form of credit isn't broadly used among top purchasing clientele, an SMB may decide to no longer accept it and save the difference. Such reports also make it easier to strategically order inventory, avoiding overstocking during slow periods or running out of stock during high-volume times. Of course, sales analytics become more valuable the longer the system is used, so there may not be any massive revelations in the first few months. But once it's tracked a year or two, this feature will make it easier to diagnose customer purchasing and payment patterns and adjust accordingly.
POS labor reports aren't applicable to all businesses, but they work for enough SMBs that they are worthy of inclusion on this list. Most POS systems allow you to create individual employee profiles, which means you can view labor reports of each employee to see information like their average hours worked, average sales amounts, average number of transactions, and percentage of total labor costs based on individual or job title.
Time-entry reports are also popular, especially among SMBs that rely on hourly employees who aren't necessarily on a 9-to-5 schedule. You'll find information like job titles and corresponding pay scales (including overtime rates), payable hours totaled, overtime totaled, and, in some cases, timestamps of the hours each employee worked. This type of information is not only much faster to gather through a POS than by doing it manually in Excel, it also provides insights into managing labor costs and optimizing your scheduling method.
SMB owners who pull labor reports might find, for example, that they have too many employees working during slow times or certain members who aren't pulling their weight. The ability to empirically track performance increases accountability and makes it easier to build an outstanding workforce.