So…you’re on the hunt for a new point of sale system for your retail business to improve your store operations. But what is the cost of a retail POS system today?
Maybe you’re unhappy with your current POS software and looking to upgrade to newer technology. Or, perhaps you’re still using pen and paper to manage your retail operations.
Whatever the case maybe, we’ve got you covered!
In this post, we’ll explain how much a typical POS system costs and the different factors that make up that cost. We’ll cover everything from software, hardware, and payment processing fees. But before we dive into how you can find the best and most cost-effective solution for your store, let’s get started with the two main types of POS software for retail on the market today.
Legacy vs. Cloud Software
The price of your POS system will depend heavily on the type of software you choose. Traditional, on-premise systems usually require an upfront investment of $4,000-$7,000. While you own continued access to use purchased licenses with this upfront payment, remember that you usually only have access to the version that you purchased. This means that you will need to pay some type of fee to get access to software upgrades or support services. While upgrades are not as important in the beginning, they will eventually be required to match the security upgrades of the operating system (e.g. Windows, etc.) or integrated tools.
In comparison, modern cloud-based (SaaS) software requires little upfront investment – instead you pay a monthly subscription fee. While this fee is ongoing, it’s important to remember that the monthly cost of cloud software is often less than on-premise software once you include the reduced cost of technical support (e.g. technicians on-site, support plans, upgrade fees) and you don’t need to worry about lost data as your information is always backed up to the cloud. The monthly cost of cloud POS software varies but to really figure out how much you can expect to pay, you’ll need to consider several factors such as the number of users, stores, features, the size of your business, etc. On average, it ranges from $80-$200 per station per month.
To learn more about on-premise vs cloud POS software, click here.
Next, you’ll need to consider your hardware costs. Remember – POS software and hardware are not universally compatible. So once you’ve decided on a software, you’ll need to have the right hardware in place to support your POS system.
With that being said, the amount you spend on your POS equipment depends on your industry needs and how you operate. Are you planning on ringing in sales with tablet devices? Are you issuing digital or printed receipts? Does your inventory volume require you to scan items at a fast pace?
A small store owner may only require one or two tablets to operate while a mid-sized retailer may need several monitors, receipt printers, and barcode scanners.
Payment Processing Fees
Arguably the most overlooked cost to a merchant are payment processing fees which can end up costing a lot in the long run as they are also an ongoing cost of business. This is why you should take your time to research your options.
For those who are not familiar with payment processing, every time a customer uses a credit or debit card, you will need to pay a fee to process that transaction. Payment processors such as Bambora or Global are the third-party service providers who process credit card transactions in exchange for a fee.
Some POS vendors act as their own card processors (Square, etc.) while others offer integrated payments. Depending on the size of your business, you can expect to pay at least 2.6% + a small transaction fee per transaction. Similar to your hardware, it’s best to go with a payment provider that integrates well with your POS system. Many POS companies offer special pricing if you opt to go for one of their preferred payment processors.
What to Consider Before Purchasing a POS System
Finding the right POS system for your retail business depends on your unique business needs. A POS software that works extremely well for one retail business (e.g a clothing store) may not work well for another (e.g. a high-traffic grocery store).
So, we’ve put together a checklist to help you find the right POS for your store. Here are some additional cost factors to consider when hunting for a new POS system:
1. Size of your retail operations: Most POS vendors will charge per location or store. Meaning the larger you get, the larger the cost to your business. Which is why it’s important to think about scalability when you make a decision about your POS.
Merchants that wish to scale their retail operations should opt for a POS system that is built for multi-location and high growth stores. This can help you save a significant amount of time and money down the road. Look out for the following features:
Unlimited stores, selling zones, and stock allocations
Multi-currency and multi-language features
The ability to handle high transaction and inventory volume
2. The quality and complexity of features: It makes sense that a more complete and useful system would cost a store owner more. While smaller retailers may not need to pay for robust features, mid-sized and larger merchants may have to.
Most POS systems come with tiered pricing plans. If you are looking for basic features (salesscreen, basic inventory etc.) then you can go for a lower-tiered plan. But if you require more advanced features (pricebooks, accounting integration, advanced inventory etc.) then you’ll have to go with a higher-tiered plan.
3. Open API access: If you are a growing business or already use other tools that you need to integrate with your POS, you will want to make sure that the POS system you’re looking at has an open API. Essentially, this is what allows merchants (with their own developers or marketing agency) to access backend data to integrate to or even enhance other applications they are already using. This is particularly important for a merchant looking to create or add innovative tools that improve their ability to compete. Examples of this include retailers looking to integrate their own custom e-commerce site, existing ERP system or even integrate to RFID devices to manage shrinkage.
4. Device Compatibility: As noted above, you need to consider compatibility with your existing devices when purchasing a POS. You don’t want to invest even more money and time in new hardware devices. This is more than simply whether your POS can run on certain devices, it includes whether the system you’re looking at can work with your existing credit card terminals, barcode scanners, etc.
5. Training and onboarding costs: Another important yet overlooked cost is the price of onboarding new POS technology. A POS solution that is inexpensive but difficult to use can cause your business a lot in the long run – this is especially true for high-traffic retailers that deal with long line-ups and peak periods. It is also important to consider if you are a retailer with a high turnover rate or seasonal peaks. If you are constantly training new staff members, it would be best to select a POS system with built-in training tools.
Remember – the proper POS software will not only help speed-up store operations, it will help you increase sales and can result in happier, more productive staff members.
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Going from a single retail store to a multi-location operation comes with different business challenges and growing pains. But, at the same time, it also comes with greater opportunities to reach more shoppers and grow your sales.
In fact, with the right technology and processes in place, managing several retail stores is a great way to start leveraging the benefits of scale. There are many ways to manage multi-store retail operations effectively to make sure that your transition happen smoothly.
Tips for managing multi-store operations
1) Run your retail operations in the cloud
Managing multiple retail stores at the same time requires more efficiency and flexibility in running your business. In particular, it requires a retail POS system designed for multi-store management. This is where new cloud POS technology comes in.
Because cloud software isn’t tied to a specific device, as long as you have an internet connection, you can access your POS and the data you need to run your business from anywhere. Whether you’re in store, on the go, at home, or even on vacation, checking in on your stores is as easy as logging in to your POS system from an internet browser.
Cloud retail POS technology also gives you access to centralized, real-time data across all of your retail locations. So important information such as stock levels, sales history, and customer information are always up-to-date. After all, in today’s competitive retail environment, shoppers expect stores to be able to access real-time stock levels across all locations.
Accurate data leads to less stock-outs and lost sales and ultimately, happier employees and customers.
2) Minimize staff turnover risks and simplify employee training with technology
You obviously can’t manage multiple store locations by yourself. So, it’s important to hire competent staff members that you can trust to take charge of different store operations while you are away.
But even if you hire the right people, the fact is, how you manage staff is just as important as who you hire. This is especially true once you have multiple locations.
It’s important for you to be able to trust your managers (and a great manager can make all the difference in a store’s performance), but unless your staff are tied to your business, there is always a chance that an employee will quit. And you need to be prepared for that day.
There are so many examples of companies that have over-relied on one or a few individuals that there is even a term for this: “Key-Person Dependency Risk“. This is a particularly big issue for small-to-medium businesses that often don’t have the resources for back-up personnel or even cross-training of staff.
This is where technology has been able to add real value in terms of minimizing the risk of over-reliance while, at the same time, freeing up staff from doing boring, routine tasks.
A well-managed company is never dependent upon the performance of one or a few individuals. As well, no employee should be allowed to hoard knowledge, relationships, or resources to achieve job security.
This is why it is crucial to consider the built-in security controls and training tools already in place when choosing a retail POS system. Almost everything in a modern retail business flows through a retail point-of-sale system. As such, your ability to manage the knowledge (e.g. reports, costing, margins, etc.) in your business greatly depends on:
Your ability to track the actions and performance of your staff with your retail POS.
Your ability to easily train new staff in different roles whenever there is turnover.
If you’ve worked in retail long enough to expand to multiple locations, you know the importance of POS and how costly it can be to manage and train staff to use a new point-of-sale system.
For retailers who deal with peak periods, long lineups, or high employee turnover rates, it is essential for merchants to consider the real cost of both onboarding and training over time. Because unless you never expect to lose any staff, you will always be re-training some employees.
While you may be tempted to choose the cheapest POS software option or the one with the simplest design, we always ask our customers to take a good look at the type of security and access controls they will have right from the beginning. It is very difficult to control the data of a retail business outside of the POS system and too costly (assuming it is even possible) to get custom features added to a standard system used by many other merchants.
It’s why we put so much time into the design of the access rights and training tools within our own POS. After all, while we design our software for user-friendliness, clean design cannot be simple to the point where it lacks real functionality. And in modern cloud-based POS, it’s possible for even feature-rich systems to be easy-to-use with properly designed UX and practical tools such as built-in product tutorials.
3) Implement standard operating procedures across all of your retail locations
Standard operating procedures (SOPs) ensure that business operations are consistent and predictable across all of your retail locations. Put simply, SOPs make managing a multi-store business easier – and they give your customers a consistent shopping experience.
Standard procedures that should be established at each store include product returns and discounts, order policies, store, and security. Similar to access rights, the easiest and most common place to manage SOPs is through your POS system. So make sure to check if the POS system you’re considering has options to manage returns, discounts, cashouts, sales policies, etc.
4) Choose a retail POS that can scale with you
Many retailers make the mistake of investing in a new POS without thinking about business growth. There are many retail POS providers that restrict the number of users, inventory items or stores that can be added. Meaning that once your retail operations grow beyond a certain level, you must invest a considerable amount of money to upgrade your POS plan or switch to a new POS altogether.
Nowadays, retail store owners need the flexibility to work anywhere, anytime. In fact, you should be able to easily turn any web-enabled device into a POS station. With the introduction of multi-platform point-of-sale software, retailers now have the ability to do just that.
Keep reading to learn what a multi-platform retail point-of-sale system is and how you can sell anywhere, on any device.
What is a Multi-Platform POS Software?
Multi-platform point-of-sale is a type of software that works on any web-enabled device, regardless of the operating system. This means a software that works on your desktop, tablet or mobile phone, even if they are a mix of Windows, iOS, Mac OS or Android devices.
Benefits of Multi-Platform POS Software
Cost savings, re-use existing hardware: If you are looking for a retail point-of-sale system with a low upfront cost, investing in a multi-platform point-of-sale system is the way to go. Because it can work on any web-enabled device, you don’t have to spend time or money replacing your existing hardware.
Sell more with mobile POS: With the ability to sell on mobile, tablet or desktop devices, virtually any place inside of your store can be turned into a checkout point. And because multi-platform POS systems can be used on existing devices, it’s faster and cheaper to set-up temporary checkout points during high traffic and rush hours to prevent long line-ups.
Continue selling even when your internet goes down: Nowadays, credit and debit payments are the most popular payment methods. While some POS systems offer offline capability, because modern PINpads cannot work without an internet connection, even if you can use your POS, you will still lose sales as few shoppers carry cash today. The future of retail POS is multi-platform as merchants now need to have the ability to switch devices seamlessly. With the TAKU platform, it’s as easy as signing in to your POS on a mobile device with data to continue ringing in sales.
Improve customer experience: Employees can serve customers and process transactions from anywhere in the store resulting in shorter lines and better customer service.
Scale cost-effectively, faster: Multi-platform POS systems allow you to scale easily. As any web-enabled device can be turned into a station, growing your retail business is easy and inexpensive.
Sell wherever your customer is: Multi-platform POS is ideal for merchants who operate on different sales channels. Easily sell in-store, on-the-go or online. Don’t miss any sales opportunities.
A point of sale system is demonstrably the most important tool you can have when running a retail business.
In fact, retail stores that invest in a strong POS system are quick to see a huge return on investment.
A retail POS can help you save time and money by streamlining repetitive tasks, maintaining business records, and reducing human error. Even better, it can even help grow your retail business with useful data and marketing integrations.
Keep reading to find out more about how your retail business can benefit from a POS system.
What is a Retail POS?
Traditionally POS stands for “point of sale” – which refers to the place where a customer transaction occurs. Or in simpler terms, the point at which a customer hands over money in exchange for a product that they’ve purchased.
For many retailers, this usually means the area surrounding the checkout line. For retailers who adopt cloud POS or mobile POS solutions, their whole store essentially becomes a point of sale.
What is a Retail POS System?
To better manage in-store checkout, retail POS systems were created. The original POS systems were a combination of hardware and software that retailers used to manage their sales operations. Because POS systems are the only source of all detailed store sales, they eventually expanded to include everything from tracking customer history and taxes reports to advanced marketing and inventory management.
Retail POS Software
Today, there are 2 main types of retail POS systems in the market: on-premise software and cloud-based subscriptions.
On-premise POS software: This type of software is installed on specific devices and usually does not rely on the Internet because the data is stored on the same devices. Because the database is stored “locally” in a specific server computer in your store, you can only access the data when you are in the store.
Cloud-based POS software: Cloud software stores data in an off-site cloud server (often hosted by a major cloud hosting service such as Google Cloud or Microsoft Azure) and is accessed via the Internet. You can compare it to writing a report on Google Docs. As long as you have an Internet connection, you can access your report from anywhere. While there may be some limitations without Internet access with cloud systems, there are major gains in remote accessibility, cost-savings and real-time data accuracy. Click here for more information on the benefits of cloud-based retail POS software
There is also a 3rd type of “hybrid” retail POS system which combines a hardwired local connection with access to data in the cloud. While this type of solution reduces the reliance on Internet, it is often a more complex system to maintain and more commonly used by larger operations. At the same time, because it is designed to allow for longer offline use, there is greater potential for issues with data quality during “synchronization” of online and offline data.
Expert Tip! It’s also important to note that offline usage and “data integrity” actually work against each other. While it is key for operations to have usable salesscreen functions (or alternative ways of processing sales) when the internet or network is down, the quality of the pooled data is lower and less accurate the more often the stations in a POS are “offline.” So if getting accurate, accessible business data from anywhere is a major priority, it’s important to consider a system which prioritizes real-time data accuracy with fast and reliable data sharing and considers offline usage for emergency scenarios only. Systems that prioritize offline capabilities over the data sharing functionality will be designed for infrequent synchronization. While this may not be a concern for certain types of businesses, the reality is that omnichannel retailers that need real-time stock quantity and even restaurants that take online orders need accurate POS data to make better operational decisions. After all, customers now expect real-time information when they intend to shop or order something. It’s another reason why smart POS is now able to automatically help merchants update correct store information or product stock levels in real-time.
Retail POS Hardware
POS hardware includes all of the physical components of your POS system. It is usually comprised of the following items:
1. POS terminal: This is the hardware or device (computer, laptop, desktop etc.) that the POS software runs on.
Traditional, on-premise systems have limitations when it comes to hardware. This is because most on-premise solutions can only operate on certain devices and operating systems (such as Windows or Mac).
To use on-premise POS software, a license must be installed on each device that a merchant wishes to operate on. At the same time, licenses are often tied to the hardware they are installed on and can be difficult or costly to transfer to other devices.
For newer, cloud-based POS software, merchants can use any device with Internet connectivity to access their data – laptops, tablets, desktops and even mobile phones. Cloud POS software does not require merchants to pay per device, rather merchants often pay per active station (or users logged in at the same time). Transferable access offers multi-channel merchants a lot more flexibility when managing store operations.
2. Cash Drawer: A cash drawer is an important yet simple part of a retail POS system. This piece of hardware provides both security and organization to retailers. It is where cash, coins, checks and credit card receipts are stored.
The receipt printer will send signals to the cash drawer, prompting it to open when necessary.
3. Barcode Scanner: Barcode scanners are an important part of most retail stores. Compared to restaurants, retailers carry a lot more inventory and need to use barcode scanners to make checkout an easier and faster process for both store employees and shoppers. Scanners use lasers to read barcode numbers unique to each SKU and enter these numbers immediately in the POS software.
While most retail POS systems should be designed specifically for barcode scanners, it is important for there to be other search methods should barcode tags get damaged or lost. Without scanners, cashiers should be able to quickly search by product codes or keyword for each item in the store.
Expert Tip! Unless a retail store has a very low number of inventory items (e.g. coffee shop), the default salesscreen mode should be designed for barcode scanners. The picture gallery touchscreen mode commonly found in tablet-based POS was traditionally designed for restaurants where the number of inventory items is very low and is generally not efficient in retail stores with more than 500 unique SKUs. While some POS providers will serve both restaurants and retailers, if the default salesscreen is designed for touchscreen picture gallery, most likely the company that developed the original software started with a restaurant POS and later retrofit it for retail.
4. Receipt Printer: Once a customer pays for the items that they have purchased, cashiers will usually hand them a receipt to confirm payment. While email receipts are increasingly popular, the majority of receipts are still printed based on the data received from the POS software.
There are three ways that credit card terminals can accept credit or debit payments:
1) Using chip & PIN cards: Where shoppers insert chip & PIN cards to make a purchase. This type of payment is EMV-compliant and the most secure of the 3 types.
2) Swiping card magstripes: Where shoppers swipe their cards in order to make a payment. This type of payment is not EMV compliant and opens the merchant up to chargebacks on all payments processed.
3) Near-field-communication (NFC): Where shoppers use their devices (Apple or Google Pay) or simply tap their cards to pay. This type of payment is the fastest of the 3. While tap is not as risky as magstripes (it is generally only allowed for individual payments of up to $100), in a busy store, this can be costly as the merchant is still fully liable for any chargebacks.
3 Reasons Why Your Retail Store Needs a POS System
Adopting a POS software that is designed for checkout speed will help speed up store operations and improve shopper satisfaction. This is especially important for busy multi-lane stores as they often deal with long line-ups.
Faster checkout is also key to increasing revenue during high season or rush periods. The longer your customers wait in line, the slower your turnover and lower your sales.
Here are some checkout features to look out for when choosing a retail POS software designed for fast checkout:
Easy navigation: Look for a software that is designed for checkout speed and minimum clicks. You shouldn’t have to leave your salescreen in order to complete a transaction.
Fast scanning speed: Retail POS software should be designed for quick barcode scanning with easy recall of your last search. Make sure that the system you’re looking at is able to handle multiple barcodes per SKU as every retail product commonly has an internal code, a shortcode, a vendor code, a manufacturer code and possibly several carton codes.
Advanced inventory search: Besides barcode scanning speed, a retail POS software designed to handle high volume inventory or a large number of transactions quickly needs to be able to have smart search functions including keyword search by description, barcode or tag should labels not be scannable, etc.
If you want more information about adopting a line busting retail POS software that is designed for checkout speed, click here.
2) Increased Mobility
Retail POS systems – cloud POS software in particular, provide retailers with more flexibility and mobility. As data is stored in the cloud, store owners can access their business information around the clock from anywhere – even if they are not physically in the store. They can view inventory levels, tax reports and sales data right from the comfort of home or even on vacation. Well-designed cloud POS software can also function on any device – from tablets, laptops to smartphones.
3) The Ability to Use the POS Data for Retail Marketing
POS data is critical to the success of any business. This is because data provides retailers with the tools to effectively manage inventory, sales, and finances.
Besides standard sales and inventory reports, modern cloud-based retail POS systems help store owners sell more using their own POS data. Because cloud POS are particularly good at integrating with other cloud solutions, real-time store data can be shared other solutions such as e-commerce platforms, shipping services or listings such as Google My Business, which help improve SEO and drive more local foot traffic to stores.
We will be posting more POS tips in the upcoming weeks.
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