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5 Best POS Software Systems for Small Business in 2020 (Plus a Few Extras)

With hundreds to choose from, figuring out which retail point of sale (POS) software system to use can feel overwhelming. As a small business owner, you certainly don’t want to waste your money or your time by picking the wrong POS software.

As daunting as it may seem, we’re actually quite lucky that there are so many POS software options to choose from. There used to only be a handful of ways to accept payment from your customers, but now there are seemingly unlimited options that even cater to whatever industry you’re in, and software that caters to your niche.

Whether you have a retail store, own a restaurant, need some serious inventory management, or need to rely on your mobile device, there is a POS software system that’s perfect for you and your business.

We know that your time is valuable, so to save you from having to sift through the piles of available options yourself, we’ve done the work for you. We have our top five picks for the best POS software systems for small businesses.

What Is POS Software?

Before we dive into the different software programs, let’s get to know what POS software is and how it can help your business.

POS stands for Point Of Sale and is a combination of software and/or hardware that is used to process transactions. Traditionally, a POS system was the cash register that accepted cash, check, or credit card payments. Now, with mobile and computer-based POS systems that are capable of using iPads or even smartphones, the POS system is much more than just where payment happens.

Depending on what industry you’re in, the POS software may be able to provide benefits such as keeping track of inventory and sales, seating charts for restaurants, ingredient tracking, as well as help you manage employees, and daily or quarterly tasks and reports and analytics.

Why Do You Need A POS System?

Think of POS software as the hub of your business. It streamlines your processes and helps your business run smoothly and more efficiently by centralizing business operations.

The best POS software systems allow you and your employees to move fluidly from task to task. It provides notifications and alerts for reordering supplies, restocking, and scheduling employees, among many other things.

Having a functional POS software system will also make your clients and customers perceive you as more professional, and they will have a higher opinion of you because of that. Imagine how well a sleek interface and speedy transaction process will go over with your customers instead of a slow and clunky process and a hand-written receipt (unless, we suppose, you’re trying to create a nostalgic vibe). Which brings us to another point…

If you are managing your inventory, sales, marketing, scheduling, or supplies by hand, then it is high-time you upgrade to a computer-based POS software system. It will save you heaps of time, boost your efficiency, and increase productivity, therefore saving you money and increasing revenue. That’s something every business owner wants.

Key Features of POS Software

The type of POS software system you choose largely depends on what industry you’re in. Here are some common features of POS software systems to help you decide which features are most important to you and the functionality of your business.

  • Payment processing: This is the software and the hardware needed to process transactions. The hardware used for payment processing may include computers, tablets, credit card readers, cash drawers, and barcode scanners. The software may include your chosen POS software system and e-commerce platforms.
  • Inventory management: POS software for retail businesses often come with an inventory management system. This helps you keep track of your inventory by automatically updating your inventory after each sale. It may send you alerts telling you which items you need to restock.
  • Employee scheduling and management: Some POS programs will contain features that help you schedule your employees and track their performance, as well as allow your employees to clock in and out and process transactions, among other things.
  • Reporting and analytics: One of the most important features of POS software is that it gives you the ability to create reports that will help you analyze important information such as sales, inventory, revenue, and comparative reports. These insights will aid you in streamlining your business and help you understand all aspects.
  • Accounting and payroll: The best POS software systems will give you the tools you need to keep track of your accounting and payroll, or they may integrate with third-party resources or apps. 
  • Customer relationship management (CRM): Keep track of loyalty programs, enter customer information, create specials, manage gift cards, and bring old customers back with CRM, a key tool in creating lifelong customers.

Based on this list, you can decide which of these key POS software features are the most important for you and your business. Once you decide which features are most important, you can use that information to help you decide which POS software is best suited for you.

Things to Keep in Mind When Choosing a POS Software System

Here are some questions to ask yourself when you’re considering a POS software system:

  1. What type of industry are you in? Retail? Service? If you operate a bar or restaurant, you may need an interface that allows for quick service and fast-paced operation. If you own a retail business, you may desire more features for tracking inventory and sales.
  2. Which of the above key features are most important for your business? Again, this largely depends on the type of industry you’re in. For example, an independent contractor or designer may need more features for invoicing rather than inventory.
  3. How will most of your customers be paying? Do you need to take payments on the go, or will you have a brick-and-mortar building where most of your transactions will take place? If you have a physical storefront, a stationary and more traditional retail POS system will suffice. But if you’re taking payments while traveling, or even while moving about the store’s floor, you may want to consider a mobile POS system. Another thing to consider is the method of payment that your customers will be using. In some cases a cash-only approach might work, or perhaps you need to be able to accept credit cards or ePayments. 
  4. How important is analytics and reporting? If your business has been established for some time, you may benefit from historical comparisons and deeper insights from analytics. If you’re a newer business, some of these deeper insights may not be of benefit to you right away.
  5. How large is your inventory? Do you have a large quantity of products or ingredients to keep track of? If you own a restaurant or a retail business, then you may want to consider investing in a retail POS system that will help you keep a closer eye on inventory and ordering.

The 5 Best POS Software Systems

Shopify

Image via Shopify

Best for: Retail businesses that operate e-commerce stores or those that are considering opening an e-commerce store.

The Perks: Shopify POS can be used in both brick-and-mortar stores and as an e-commerce  platform. Easily customize your POS software through Shopify’s app store, and use their integrated tools for inventory management, CRM, and analytics to help your business grow. Shopify POS works for those who need to take payment on the go or if you need a stationary, more traditional POS terminal. You can also have your own branded, customizable, and SEO-optimized online store with numerous options for add-ons and apps that you can use to further customize your store. Try it for free for two weeks, and enjoy 24/7 access to customer support.

The Cost: Starting at only $29 a month, Shopify is an affordable option. You can choose from different plans based on your needs, size of your operation, and whether or not you are scaling your business. You can pay as little as $9/month with Shopify Lite, an app made for mobile businesses that you can easily use on your smartphone.

The Takeaway: With the low cost, scalability, customization, and the access to 24/7 support, Shopify is our top pick for retail businesses. 

ShopKeep

Image via ShopKeep

Best for: Great for restaurants and quick-service type businesses like coffee shops and bars, but also works for retail stores.

The Perks: Simple and easy to use, ShopKeep is a POS software system that will help you keep track of your inventory and ordering right down to ingredient-level tracking. Like Shopify, they offer 24/7 customer assistance. The ShopKeep POS software is extremely customizable and gives you the ability to manage employees, create reports, and CRM. There are also restaurant-specific features like modifiable tip options, ability to send orders from the table directly to the kitchen, and a menu customizer.

The Cost: This is where things get a little hazy. ShopKeep is not very forthcoming with its pricing. The best thing you can do is go to the ShopKeep website and answer a few simple questions for a free quote. They provide custom quotes for their software system, and the cost just depends on what you need, how big your business is, how many registers you need, how many locations you have, etc.

The Takeaway: We can probably assume that the pricing of ShopKeep POS software is going to be fairly competitive. If you are in need of a system that is capable of keeping track of a large inventory or ingredients, then this might be the right POS software for you.

Revel

Image via Revel

Best for: Take a longer look at this software if managing your customer base and creating loyal customers is at the top of your list.

The Perks: Revel is a cloud POS system that is all about customer service, for both you and your customers. You’ll be able to create and edit customer profiles on the fly and capture customer information like email addresses so that you can easily market to your audience. With Revel, you’ll be able to set yourself up to take online orders, schedule appointments, and create and manage custom loyalty programs. As with most of these POS systems, there are also tools for analytics, accounting, and reporting.

The Cost: Starting at $99/month per terminal, the Revel POS software is certainly not the least expensive option. Keep in mind that a three-month contract is required, and there is a one-time on-boarding/set-up fee of $649.

The Takeaway: This is a great cloud-based POS software system that will help you with your CRM if you can justify the price. 

QuickBooks POS

Image via QuickBooks

Best for: Businesses that place a significant value on accounting or are already using QuickBooks as accounting software.

The Perks: We all know QuickBooks as accounting software, but now it has POS software that integrates seamlessly with its accounting programs. This seamless integration means that every payment you take is immediately reconciled in QuickBooks. With QuickBooks POS software, you are capable of taking all forms of payment using any kind of device, including tablets and terminals.

The Cost: Unlike the other POS software systems, QuickBooks requires you to purchase the software outright, which starts at $1,200 for the basic plan. If you want features like loyalty programs, layaway, gift cards, and employee management, you’ll need to purchase the Pro version at $1,700. One step up from that is the Multi-Store version that has advanced reporting and inter-store reporting and inventory tools, among other tools. You can request a generous 30-day free trial.

The Takeaway: Some small businesses or new businesses won’t be able to justify the upfront cost, but if accounting and analytics are of the utmost importance to the operation of your store, then you may want to look into this POS software. This software is designed for retail businesses specifically rather than restaurants.

Lightspeed

Image via Lightspeed

Best for: Small- to medium-sized retail stores and restaurants that manage a large inventory or that need to keep a very close eye on inventory.

The Perks: The Lightspeed POS software for retail allows you to manage up to 10,000 unique inventory items. Easily manage color and style variations, as well as special alerts for low-stock or “dusty” items. The Lightspeed customer team will help you transfer your inventory over from your old system, and they also offer 24/7 support. With this software, you’ll be able to process special orders and layaways easily, and take advantage of the CRM tools. On the restaurant side, you’ll be able to take advantage of the customizable seating charts and the ability to manage tabs, checks, tips, and orders easily. You can also install self-order kiosks or table-top order terminals.

The Cost: Retail stores and restaurants have separate pricing. Retail pricing starts at $69/month and goes up to $229/month, depending on what features you choose. Restaurant pricing also starts at $69/month, increasing to $103/month for additional registers. Choose from additional add-on packages for your restaurant between $12-$39/month.

The Takeaway: This is a great all-around POS software with reasonable prices and excellent inventory tracking ability. Restaurant pricing is a bit confusing and perhaps a bit pricey once you choose your add-ons. 

A Few Extras

Square: Great for mobile businesses, like food trucks and pop-up boutiques because it is able to be a fully functional POS system even in a mobile setting. The app itself is free, and there are no monthly fees, just 2.6 percent + $0.10 per transaction.

Vend: A great all-around retail POS software system. Starts at $99/month billed annually, or $119/month billed monthly. You can try it for free with no obligation or credit card. 

Clover: Already have a website and want to add an option to take online orders? Clover makes it easy to do and is very customizable. It’s not very forthcoming with the cost and requires a consultation for a custom-built system.

Erply: This is one of the only POS software systems that has special options just for franchises. The Erply software has functions that make you capable of monitoring and managing multiple locations and location managers. The POS software starts at $39/month, but doesn’t include inventory management at that price.

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