Retail POS systems – What you need to know

Retail POS systems – What you need to know

Tues July 24 2018

If you’re looking to find out more about what retail POS systems are, what they can do and how they could help your retail business, read on. On this page, we answer the following questions:

  • -          What are retail POS systems?
  • -          Why might you need a retail POS system?
  • -          What can the right retail POS system do for your business?
  • -          How do you pick the best retail POS system for your business?
  • -          When might you need more than just a basic retail POS system?

What are retail POS systems?

In short, a retail POS system is a group of hardware and/or software that allows retail businesses to sell to customers in store and online, accepting cash, card and digital wallet payments.

Common hardware elements of an in-store retail POS system may include:

  • -          Cash drawer
  • -          Chip and PIN and contactless-enabled card readers
  • -          A digital display, for example a tablet
  • -          Barcode scanner
  • -          Weighing scales

Bricks and mortar-only retailers will just need these in-store elements, but retailers with both online and physical stores can connect their in-store POS system to an online payment gateway to create an omnichannel shopping experience.

Finding the right retail POS system (i.e. group of hardware and/or software) for your business could help you give shoppers a consistent, quick and convenient buying experience across multiple channels.

Why might you need a retail POS system?

Finding the best retail POS system for your business could help you run things more efficiently, improve customer satisfaction and give you access to the data you need for accurate reporting. It’s one key way to join up all elements of your retail business, from in-store, eCommerce and event sales and payment acceptance, to accounting and marketing reporting and strategy.


The benefits of having the right POS system

Increased efficiency – see what’s selling and what’s not

Instead of relying on outdated or non-digitised inventory systems, in-store retail POS systems can allow you to check stock levels quickly and easily at your till point. This frees up time so staff can focus on ordering more stock, serving customers or working out ways to give shoppers the best experience in your store.  

Online retailers can benefit from the same efficiencies. But rather than being at a physical till point, you can check stock using the point of sale solution (i.e. eCommerce payment gateway) that you use to take payments.

Improved customer satisfaction and bottom line

As well as being more efficient in the way you run your business, the right retail POS system could help you give customers an efficient, enjoyable shopping experience. For example, if they’re browsing a particular product online, you can let them know well ahead of the checkout if you’re out of or low on stock.

In store, you can let customers know that you’re out of stock of a product, but more importantly you can re-order the item there and then, letting the shopper know exactly when they’ll be able to buy it.

And for both online and offline purchasing, the right retail POS system lets customers pay quickly, using their preferred payment method. That means happy customers, even if they’re time-poor.

Not only that, but by amassing customer payment data alongside stock data, all using a retail POS system, you can work out what products people want and when. This could mean you don’t miss out on sales, you can offer deals and discounts you know people will want (based on data), and you can drive loyalty by giving customers great experiences.

Accurate reporting

Rely on automated point of sale systems to keep track of daily takings and returns/refunds, stock levels, what’s selling and what’s not, and much more, all in one place. A retail POS system can link up to your accounting, marketing and eCommerce software and systems, too, so everything’s nicely in one place.


Know how to choose the best POS system 

Can it grow with your business?

It’s important to remember that the best retail POS systems are designed to be flexible around your business needs, both as they are now and what you expect them to look like in the future. So, while it might be tempting to go with the cheapest or the simplest, it’s worth looking into whether or not the point of sale solution you pick can grow with your business.

Does it work for your customer needs?

In other words, do the retail POS systems and card readers (portable card readers, for example) you’re considering allow you to have an mPOS (mobile point of sale) so you can take the checkout to your shopper, wherever they are in the store? If this is something you think would help improve the in-store customer experience then it’s something to consider in the research phase.

Cloud-based retail POS systems or not?

You have to work out what’s best for your business, but lots of businesses are now choosing cloud-based retail POS systems because:

  1. They’re more mobile than non-cloud-based systems. In other words, the whole system can be run wirelessly from a tablet or smartphone. That means you can take payments from customers wherever they are in your store, bar, event space or restaurant. It also means you can take your business overseas.
  2. Potentially more uptime. Non-cloud-based systems can be prone to crashing or viruses, meaning downtime for your business and possibly missed sales. 
  3. 24/7 security. Storing everything on the cloud should mean that you benefit from off-site servers that have security in place 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 
  4. Integrate systems easily. It can be really useful integrating your retail POS system with accounting, eCommerce and marketing software to give you a rounded picture of how your business is performing. While this is possible with non-cloud-based systems, some find integration easier via a cloud-based system.

Can it join up eCommerce and in-store businesses?

Yes. The right retail POS system is capable of making your business truly omnichannel. In turn, this should mean a consistent and easy shopping journey for customers browsing and buying using any mix of channels and devices.


Upgrading your POS system

A basic in-store retail POS system, which might just consist of a card reader and cash till might be absolutely fine for your business. However, you may want to consider a slightly more advanced system if you’ve got two or more stores, you sell online and in store, or you’re looking to make time-saving changes and other efficiencies in your business.

For example, a retail POS system that’s integrated with your accounting software should allow you to take a credit or debit card payment and email a customer a receipt on the spot. That payment will then automatically be added to your daily takings, allowing you to keep track of sales and returns easily and all in one place.


With the ins and outs of retail POS systems under your belt, you’re hopefully ready to look into the solutions on offer. Here’s one last thing to think about:

Does the retail POS provider you’re considering understand your industry, business ambitions and customers? It’s important to be able to talk to retail payments experts, like those at Barclaycard Business, so you can make an informed choice when it comes to a retail POS system.  

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