POS systems use industry specific software programs to record, processes and report business transactions. The type of software you choose can have a big impact on how your system functions. The most basic POS software works like a cash register. Employees can process transactions and payments and print receipts. Business owners or managers can print reports of total sales, or sales by category or employee. More sophisticated software offers more options, and is usually more expensive.
The most common upgrades to basic software programs are those that allow credit card and debit transactions to be processed using the POS terminal, rather than a separate credit card station. POS software can be linked to your merchant services account for credit card processing, allowing faster transactions and earlier receipt of funds. Another popular option is to link POS software to accounting programs like QuickBooks, so inventory and order information is available to the employee who purchases products or materials.
Here are some important questions to ask when considering software programs:
- Is this program commonly used within my industry? Most software programs are created for specific businesses, like restaurants or bars. For example, pour-tracking caps that fit onto alcohol bottles allow a bar owner to record the timing and amount contained in each “pour,” for tracking consumption and monitoring inventory. Using software designed for your industry is a good idea, because the features take the nature of your work into account. Industry specific software might also have tracking or reporting functions that can be especially helpful.
- What hardware will I need to operate the program? Hardware can be expensive. If you already have scanners, a credit card reader, or other hardware, you’ll need to make sure the software is compatible. Purchasing new hardware can add to the total cost of the system.
- How easy is it to program or to add items or discounts? It’s important to determine how much work the system will require. If you need to call a technician every time you change prices on items, the software might not be a good purchase. Make sure program is easy to understand and use.
- Will the software package contain upgrades? Can they be downloaded, or will they need to be physically installed? Make sure that upgrades won’t stall your system or otherwise impair it’s functioning. If upgrades are required, find out how often and how they are performed.
- Can the software link to my merchant account for credit card processing? The most user friendly programs allow a transaction to be processed from start to finish on one terminal. Usually it’s a computer screen connected to a keyboard and a credit card reader. If credit card receipts are printed, is the transaction information also stored electronically?
The first decision in buying a POS system is the type of software you are going to use. Once you have selected the software program, you can make decisions about hardware and equipment. POS software is a long term investment that can be updated to grow with your business and adapt to new technologies. Make sure you make an informed choice.