Any company that handles customers face to face will need a good point-of-sale (POS) system. A POS system is designed to process each transaction securely in the store. A good system should be easy to use, process transactions smoothly, keep information secure, and doesn’t crash every other day.

A secure, efficient POS system can be an expensive investment, but it’s likely to be worth it in the long run. You don’t want to put your money in the wrong place, though. Make sure to apply suitable criteria when you select your POS system.

Outline Your Business Needs

A POS system that works for a one-woman cosmetologist won’t necessarily suit a large salon that has dozens of hairdressers working within the same program. A business that’s growing rapidly might also require a system that can grow with it so the firm doesn’t have to change its transaction process midstream.

For many small companies, an iPad or tablet-based POS system is sufficient. It operates in the cloud, so it has more security features than you might assume, and it’s portable and easy to use.

Mid-to-large-sized businesses, however, will have a hard time managing their transactions on a smaller-scaled system like this. Research the best POS systems with an eye to what will work for your size of business. Read reviews, get quotes, and talk to other business owners to see what works for them.

Stick to Your Budget

A POS system will vary in cost, depending on its size, software licenses, complexity, support, brands, and additional features. Cloud-based POS systems are typically the most affordable; they start between $50 and $200 a month. If you’re looking for desktop-based software, a single-user license could run between $1,200 and $2,500.

But be aware of the billing cycle. Some providers will expect you to pay a one-time licensing fee, while others (usually cloud-based SaaS models) will have a recurring fee. The recurring fee is usually smaller up front, but you might pay more in the long run.

When you gather quotes, ask for an itemized list of the costs. Inquire about hidden fees or set-up costs that you might not have anticipated. Since your budget is likely to play a key role in determining the kind of software you’re able to buy, it’s vital to perform due diligence here.

Address Security

One of the most critical factors to examine in choosing your POS system is potential security threats. “Cybercrime gangs organize sophisticated operations to steal vast amounts of card data before selling it in underground marketplaces,” according to a report from Symantec.
“Malware, which is purposely built to steal data from POS systems, is widely available in the underground marketplace.” If you presume that, as a small business, you’re exempt from the threat of cybercrime, you’re mistaken.

About 60 percent of all data breaches target small firms. If you expect to protect your customers, a robust POS system will be crucial.

Choose User Simplicity

A POS system might look great on paper, with all the features you need, but if it’s not user-friendly, you’ll be sorry. “As important as your retail POS is, you have plenty of other things to manually fix, tinker with, and adjust,” says Kali Hawlk of Shopify.

“Your POS should be simple enough to use that you don’t need to consult a manual every other day just to keep it up and running.” POS salespersons won’t typically mention whether their software is easy to use, so for this, you should read reviews and ask around.

Use your own judgment to determine whether the software will be simple enough for you and your staff.

Get the Right Hardware

POS systems often include just the software that runs on the cloud or that can be downloaded onto an operating system. You’ll need appropriate hardware to run the software.

It might be as simple as a card reader that plugs into your phone or tablet, or as complex as a system of terminals, receipt printers, and traditional card readers. Study the hardware you have already and look for a system that will work with it.

If you need to purchase more hardware to operate your system, make sure to factor that into your budget.

Keep Customer Satisfaction in Sight

The ultimate goal with a POS system is to provide the most efficient and highest quality of customer service transaction you can. If it weren’t a smooth and efficient process, everyone would insist on accepting only cash.

For that reason, you have to make certain you know and understand how your POS system will improve or expand your customer relationships. “Your brand is the emotional connection that your customers have with your business. Make sure you are giving them something that makes them feel good about you,” says Jaci Russo, CEO and co-founder of Razor Branding.

When they are all in play, the features above constitute the must-haves for a great POS operating system. Study your options with care so you can feel great about your eventual choice.