Here's how POS reporting can help you make important decisions about sales and inventory.
- Reports from your POS system can provide detailed insights into your business's performance.
- POS reports can give you an overview of your sales data as well as details on your inventory tracking.
- POS reporting can help you determine products to order, promotions to run, and where to chase future growth.
- This article is for business owners who want to know which POS reports they should run.
While many small businesses swap out 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 target 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, reduce time spent doing administrative work, minimize waste and boost revenue.
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What is a point-of-sale (POS) report?
Thanks to software working behind the scenes, POS systems capture a lot of important data that can be used to direct business decisions. They allow you to organize this data into reports that you can use to analyze different aspects of your business, such as which employees make the most sales and which products your customers are buying the most of.
What makes POS reporting so attractive to small business owners is that reports can be run easily and in real time. All newer systems store the data in the cloud so you can access it anywhere you have internet access.
Every time an employee rings up a sale, inventory is scanned, and information about the product and customer – and sometimes even your employee – is collected. Some POS software can also amass data on feedback and promotions. That data can be analyzed to give you an overview of your sales for a certain period of time, or you can zero in on a specific area of your business.
Key takeaway: POS reporting can filter information from your sales data, so you can see which employees are top performers and which products are selling out.
Why you should run POS reports
A POS report provides a treasure trove of information that can help all aspects of your store or restaurant. From sales forecasts to optimized marketing, here are some of the reasons why it pays to run POS reports.
1. Drive staffing decisions
Do you have a top-performing sales clerk or waitperson who has a knack for upselling? Are you utilizing them to the best of their abilities?
Data you collect on employees can determine who works when. You can then create schedules based on what's best for your business, like scheduling your star employees during peak hours. It can also help you determine how many employees to staff per shift. You'll understand your busy and slow times, ensuring you aren't over- or understaffed at any time.
2. Make purchasing decisions
Inventory tracking and management is a big headache for any business owner to do manually. Taking stock and ensuring you have adequate inventory often becomes guesswork.
A POS system can automate the entire process for you. An inventory report can help you make purchasing decisions, preventing you from running out of hot items and getting stuck with too much inventory of the poorly selling SKUs.
3. Compare sales from several stores
Business owners operating several storefronts or multiple sales channels tend to have a harder time keeping track of sales. A POS system can help manage that, enabling you to compare performance based on location. That can help you make sales, staffing and marketing decisions. For instance, you may focus your marketing dollars in one market if another doesn't need it. The same goes for staffing. By running POS reports comparing store performance, you can determine how much staff you need based on demand.
4. Improve your marketing strategy
Reaching new customers and retaining existing ones are keys to success. Data culled from a POS can improve your marketing and outreach, ensuring you target the right customers.
Many POS systems have built-in customer relationship management software. It can give you insight into who your customers are, what they like to purchase and how often. You can then run promotions based on that information.
It can also tell you if a marketing campaign is working based on how many new versus existing customers are purchasing your products.
5. Help set your growth plan
You want to hold on to your loyal customers at the same time you're looking for new ones. One way to do that is to reward their loyalty with promotions and discounts. Determining which customers are deserving of these deals is easier with POS reporting.
By running a report on your customers, you can determine which are new and which have shopped with you before. This information can be important to gauge the health of operations, because if you aren't retaining customers, it may be due to the products you sell or the customer service you provide. If you have a lot of repeat customers, it may be a sign you need to get busy finding new customers.
Key takeaway: POS reporting can be very beneficial to business owners for a multitude of reasons. It can inform staffing, purchasing and marketing decisions. It can also help you manage multiple locations and make plans to grow.
5 types of POS reports to run
Small business owners don't have time to run every report their POS systems offer, but there are some they shouldn't ignore. Here's a look at five of them.
1. General analytics
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 has 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 for SMBs, this is a massive timesaver. 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 timesaving 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 for 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.
Some systems also have specialized inventory reports, like raw ingredient reports (used primarily in restaurants or food production facilities) or parts reports specifically for manufacturing businesses. Many POS products allow you to integrate your inventory analytics with third-party accounting software to 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.
4. 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, which vary in layout and function depending on the type of business they are geared toward. For example, a retail store's report will look different from a landscaping company's, since 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 your 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 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.
5. Employee management
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 information not only is much faster to gather through a POS than by doing it manually in Excel, it also provides insights for 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.
Key takeaway: There are a few POS reports that most business owners should run. If you who want an overall view of your business's performance, general analytic reports should suffice. If you want to delve deeper into specific areas of your business, you'll want to run reports on accounting, inventory, sales and employees.
Mona Bushnell contributed to the writing and research in this article.