POS systems do more than facilitate payments between businesses and their consumers. They track inventory, communicate food orders to restaurant kitchens, read coupons, track buyer habits and more. POS systems are crucial for all businesses that sell products, and they can easily be integrated with other systems.
Although setup requirements vary by system, many new POS systems are tablet-based and easier to install than their legacy counterparts. Setup instructions are usually available on vendor websites, so you can determine whether you can set up the system yourself or will 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 shipping it, so it’s plug-and-play once you receive it. Alternatively, the company 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. Related Content: Learn the Benefits on Why POS Systems Are Still the Best Choice for Many Businesses.
Whether you choose a simple POS system you can set up yourself or a more advanced one that the company installs for you, give yourself ample time to set up the system before you plan to use 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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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:
Before you invest in a POS system, you first need to determine compatibility with any existing equipment you own and might want to use.
Depending on the type of company you run, such as a hospitality business or a restaurant, you might have a different type of POS system or different features to set up.
“The primary use … of a point of sale is to accept payments,” said Cristopher Carillo, co-founder of Allied Payments. “The differences in systems lie in the ways the business utilizes the other features of the POS. One of the most common functions is sales management. Knowing what is being sold and when can help businesses continue offering customers what they want.”
Another common use for department stores, bars and liquor stores is inventory management, Carillo added. Merchants can enter the number of items in stock and track the products sold. That way, they’ll be aware if stock of products or ingredients drops low.
Other features to consider, Carillo said, are those that accept or account for coupons (typically used at grocery stores) and track customer purchasing habits for loyalty programs and promotions.
“For grocery implementations, you will see the addition of a scale that usually also includes … two scanners – one horizontal and one vertical,” added Jeff Hall, senior consultant at Wesbey Associates LLC. “Restaurant implementations lose the scanner and usually the keyboard, with the display functioning as the keyboard through a touchscreen. In hospitality, the register also loses the scanner but adds a mouse. For traditional brick-and-mortar retail, you get the register, scanner, cash drawer and payment card terminal.”
Zachary Weiner, owner and CEO of Restaurant Accounting, recommends restaurants use POS systems with counter-to-kitchen order systems for better accuracy.
“When a custom replaces an order at the counter, it automatically transmits the request to the kitchen for staff to prepare,” he explained. “This improved system is more accurate and less prone to human error, which helps improve customer satisfaction and boost employee morale.”
With these various uses and features, it’s crucial to protect both the hardware and software involved with POS systems so as not to risk consumer data.
“Because of the multiuse of the POS device in the retail, restaurant and hospitality industries, we need to be concerned about the security of that device, since it can have internet access as well as access to corporate networks, websites and applications,” said Hall. “These POS solutions are at risk of becoming infected with viruses and malware if they are not properly secured and protected.”
Hall added that business owners should be careful in how they protect payment card terminals from skimming devices. He recommends inspecting terminals regularly to ensure no skimmers have been installed.
POS systems are used in many different ways. Aside from accepting payments, they can manage sales and inventory as well as track customer buying habits for loyalty [Interested in seeing our findings? See what we think the best POS system is for your business.]
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 seeing our findings? See what we think the best POS system is for your business.]
Cloud-based systems are the easiest to set up. Once your tablet is connected to your internet, setting up a simple tablet POS system goes something like this:
Some systems may require you to use a specific router. For example, with iPad-specific POS systems, 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. [Take a look at Clover, our best pick for POS hardware].
In addition to hardware, you need to set up the software. After logging in to your account, you can go to the Settings menu and configure the account settings to your liking. These are some things you can do:
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. If you have a restaurant, you’ll need to create menus and a floor plan 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.
Sammi Caramela contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.