If the prospect of setting up a POS system for your small business feels daunting, take heart – it may not be as difficult as you think. Although setup requirements vary depending on the system, many new POS systems are tablet-based and easier to install than their legacy counterparts.
Setup instructions are usually available on company websites, so you can determine whether or not you can set up the system yourself, or if you'll need help. Many companies offer video tutorials or step-by-step guides to walk you through the process. Some provide remote assistance, and others can recommend local installation partners who can set up the POS system for you, though these services cost extra.
More advanced POS systems may have complex setup requirements, and the company may charge a setup and installation fee upfront to preconfigure your system before they ship it, so it's plug and play once you receive it. Alternatively, they may offer remote or onsite setup assistance, data migration, and training services, and you pay either a set fee or by the hour for these services.
Whether you choose a simple POS system you can set up yourself or one that's more advanced that the company installs for you, be sure to give yourself ample time to set up the system before you plan on using it. In addition to the hardware setup, you'll need to spend some time setting up the software, adding inventory or creating a menu, and training your employees to use the system.
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Consider compatibility issues before you buy
The first step, before you even choose a POS system, is to determine whether there are any parts that you already own and want to use and if there are any services you want to be able to use with the system. If so, you need to check for compatibility before choosing a POS system so there aren't any unpleasant surprises and expenses. Here are some items to check before you select a system.
- Verify that the POS system integrates with your credit card processor and your card reader or terminal – unless you plan to use it alongside your system instead of with your system.
- If you already own tablets that you intend to use with your new POS system, make sure they're supported. Look at platform (Apple, Android, Windows) and tablet model (for example, the iPad Pro 9.7 or Samsung Galaxy S4).
- Also, make sure the operating system (such as iOS 10 or Android 8.0 Oreo) on your tablet is up-to-date and is compatible with the POS app.
- If you already own other pieces of POS hardware that you want to use with your system, such as a receipt printer or cash drawer, check with the POS software company to make sure it's compatible.
- If you plan on integrating the POS system with business programs you already own or plan to use, such as your accounting software or payroll service, verify that integrations or plugins are available, and find out if there's an extra cost to use them. Many POS systems have App Stores or App Marketplaces with third-party integrations that make it easy to connect third-party software to the system. Some apps are free; others come with a monthly fee and a few have a setup or installation fee. Here are links to the integrations offered by several popular POS systems: Clover, Lightspeed, Square, TouchBistro and Vend.
- If you're currently using a POS system, export your data to CSV or Excel spreadsheets before your account expires so you can import it into your new system rather than creating it all from scratch.
Setting up POS hardware
Tablet POS systems are usually cloud-based and require reliable internet access. Others are hybrid systems that use a local server but save your data to the cloud, allowing you to access back office features like reporting online from any device with a browser. [Interested in POS Systems? Check out our best picks.]
Cloud-based systems are the easiest to set up. After your internet is set up and your tablet is connected to it, setting up a simple tablet POS system might look something like this:
- Download the app from App Store or Google Play
- Open the app, enter your account credentials or create an account
- Plug in the card reader to the headphone jack or lightning port, or connect via Bluetooth
- Connect the receipt printer either to the router using a cable or to the tablet via Bluetooth
- Connect the printer to the cash drawer
- Connect the barcode scanner to the tablet via Bluetooth
Some systems may require you to use a specific router; for example, with POS systems that are iPad specific, you need to use an AirPort Express or AirPort Extreme router. If the system is a hybrid that uses the cloud for data storage and back office tasks but runs on a local server, you'll also need to connect a computer to the system.
Setting up POS software
In addition to setting up hardware, you need to set up the software. After logging into your account, you can go to the Settings menu and configure the account settings to your liking. For example, you can:
- Customize receipts with your business name, logo, address and other information, such as your return policy
- Set up sales tax rates
- Decide whether you want to require or skip signatures for transactions
- Set up tipping options, if appropriate for your business
- Add employees and assign roles or manage permissions
- Connect to third-party integrations
You can then add or import information about the items you sell into your POS systems. If you have a retail store, you'll need to create a product catalog and add your inventory. Or, if you have a restaurant, you'll need to create menus and a floorplan and add your inventory. You may also want to add contact information for your customers and suppliers.
If you're switching systems and want to migrate your data, or if you have many items to add to the system, look for a downloadable spreadsheet template that you can copy and paste your product data into and upload to your new system.