You would be hard-pressed to find a retail establishment this side of Timbuktu that doesn’t use a point of sale hardware bundle or system to process its transactions. While the variety of POS options available to retailers grows every day, the two basic approaches to POS solutions are those that combine hardware and software in an integrated system, and those that provide the POS software that runs on hardware that the retailers supply themselves.
Choosing between a point of sale hardware bundle and software-only POS depends on the specific features your business requires, and your POS budget. Many retailers find that software-only POS offerings lack some useful features, and supplying their own hardware comes with hidden costs. Conversely, some POS hardware bundles limit companies to a narrow range of equipment options.
Taking a Closer Look at Software-only POS Systems
The “critical factors” to consider when evaluating POS offerings:
- Integrations: The POS system must work well with the business’s current management software and with third-party apps available today and in the future.
- Ease of use: Novice users should find it easy to install and use the system without having to learn any special technical skills.
- Payment processing: The system should support a range of payment processors, payment methods (such as contactless payments), and other payment options.
- Inventory management: Make sure the POS system supports your business’s product types and offers inventory tracking in real time.
- Customer relationship management: The system should allow retailers to target promotions and discounts at specific customers, including support for customer profiles and email marketing.
- Employee management: Ensure that the system supports multiple users, and that it includes the ability to manage employee schedules and track their performance.
- Ecommerce: The system should allow stores to integrate their on-premises sales with their online sales to support “parallel selling.”
- Customer support: This can be in the form of “responsive agents” that assist customers before and after the sale by answering questions submitted via various methods.
The primary consideration for many retailers is the cost of the POS system, but comparing the overall costs of different POS options can be difficult. For example, the initial acquisition expenses and the ongoing costs of running a software-only POS system vary widely from offering to offering. In addition to subscription charges, stores must calculate the impact of payment processing fees and the cost of the added hardware the system will require, including tablets and other handheld devices, printers, and POS terminals.
Cost Comparison: Software-only POS vs. POS Hardware Bundles
Perhaps the greatest challenge for retailers looking to buy a point of sale hardware bundle is calculating an accurate estimate of each POS option’s up-front and ongoing costs. The POS checklist below is intended to help businesses determine the overall expense of different POS approaches.
- How many registers or locations do you need to support? Most POS software plans charge based on the number of locations the store uses, while many POS hardware bundles will offer equipment at a steep discount in exchange for a long-term commitment.
- What POS features does your business require? While more features generally translate into higher prices, few retailers will be satisfied with basic sales and inventory tracking. Most businesses need the ability to track employees, offer customers loyalty programs and other rewards, and generate reports that provide insight into their operations. In addition, some industries require special features, such as kitchen prep and menu creation for restaurants.
- Will your POS system support future expansion and other plans? A business whose five-year plan includes opening new outlets or expanding existing ones will need to consider whether their POS vendor will be able to support their growth plans without breaking their budget.
The monthly cost of a software-only POS system will be between $50 and $100 per month for small retailers requiring only one register, and between $100 and $300 per month per location for businesses with multiple locations and that require more extensive reporting on sales and other aspects of their operation.
Here’s a rundown on the cost ranges of various POS hardware (note that some POS vendors provide certain equipment as part of their service contracts):
- Tablets that run POS software are used by employees to record orders, sales, and other information. They cost between $170 and $300, although most retailers prefer iPads, which tend to be slightly more expensive.
- Monitors with touchscreens are the preferred input method for registers. POS monitors cost from $160 for a 12-inch model to $190 for a 15-inch model.
- Card readers cost from $25 to several hundred dollars each. They come in portable models or standalone stationary types, which tend to be slightly more expensive. Swipe-only readers cost less than contactless readers. Note that many of the cheapest card readers can be used with only a single POS service.
- Receipt printers are special-purpose thermal printers that usually cost between $100 and $300 apiece, although some are priced at well over $1000. In addition to the cost of the printer itself, retailers must plan for the cost of paper and toner for the devices, which over the life of the printer is usually many times more than the price of the printer itself. Some businesses that use software-only POS systems rely on emailing receipts to their customers, although this option isn’t practical for all retailers.
- Barcode scanners generally cost from $50 to $200. Small vendors can avoid the cost by entering the product codes manually, but for most retailers, the speed, convenience, and accuracy of scanners make them a worthwhile investment.
- Self-service kiosks combine a monitor, receipt printer, and standalone card reader, typically in a single unit resting on a stand. They cost from $300 to $1500, plus the cost of consumables. Their primary benefit to retailers is their ability to free staff to help customers and perform other duties other than checkout.
Keeping Your Point of Sale Hardware Bundle Options Open
Trends roll quickly through the retail and restaurant industries, so retailers know how important it is to keep up with their customers. There are several POS trends for 2020, including the growing popularity among restaurant patrons for tablet-based systems with mobile card readers that accept customer payments at the table. This feature addresses two top areas that patrons rate as important: security and speed.
Once a retail business has identified the POS features it needs, the search begins for the POS system that provides those features in an economical package. However, retailers must also consider the features and new technologies that customers will demand in the future. Whichever option a business chooses for its POS needs to be flexible enough to adapt quickly as conditions change and new opportunities arise.
Learn more about how the talech POS system helps small and midsize retailers prepare for the future while meeting today’s needs with features that optimize their business processes. We work with you to determine the best ways to meet the needs of your customers and employees so your business can thrive. We take the time to learn your business so we can balance your specific needs with your budget and comfort level in a custom POS system implementation. The result is a valued investment that will pay for itself in short order. Reach out to us today to sign up for a free demo and learn more about how talech can be your valued partner in the POS world.