If you've got something to sell, you need a Point of Sale (POS) system – and the good news is there are plenty of excellent options out there, leveraging the latest hardware and cloud technology to give businesses of any size something suitable to work with.
Which POS system is right for you depends partially on the type of business you're running – from restaurant to record store – but here we've pulled together five of the very best POS systems that are versatile enough to cover most types of operations.
In the majority of these cases, you'll find free trials available to new users, so you can test out the software and associated hardware for yourself before parting with any cash. Read on to get the lowdown.
Vend has a lot going for it, and is one of the most popular POS systems out there, combining an accessible and straightforward interface with all the tools you'll need as a small or medium business. Whether you have one store or twenty to manage, Vend can scale with you.
Everything runs from the cloud, letting you manage sales, check stock and inventory, see historical purchasing and sales records, and track customers through a database. Extras like customer loyalty schemes, and detailed intelligent sales reports can be added as needed, as you go.
Vend even includes an ecommerce option, while also letting you opt to plug Shopify in instead (see below for more on Shopify). In fact, integrations with the likes of Xero, PayPal, and Square really add to the usefulness of Vend – you can mix and match to suit, though this does make it less comprehensive than some other POS systems.
It's really at the actual Point of Sale where Vend excels though, making the whole experience straightforward for customer and merchant alike, particular if you can use an iPad in your store. Pricing starts at £49/$ 69 a month, though can go up quickly from there (premium phone support is extra, for example).
ShopKeep gets consistently high ratings from its existing customers, so it must be doing something right – the service scores well on its intuitiveness, the variety of reports you can generate through it, and the quality of customer support, all important considerations when you're weighing up which POS system to go with.
The ShopKeep register app itself runs on iPads or Android devices, and is an eminently versatile POS solution, offering a combination of hardware options and apps to cover small businesses, whether retail outlets, restaurants, bars, or something else entirely.
It covers a lot of bases but keeps everything simple: inventory reordering, customer loyalty schemes, cash flow through the business, and more – even down to employee management and ordering raw materials. All these back-end screens can be accessed on the web from whatever device you like, and once the system is set up, navigating the register app is very straightforward.
We're also fans of the flexible, pay-as-you-go pricing, which starts at $ 49 per month (about £37) for each register – though ShopKeep encourages you to contact it directly for a custom quote. There's no termination fee if you decide to cancel, so you can see if it suits without committing to anything longer term.
Square takes some alternative approaches to the more traditional POS systems here, like offering its software for free and taking a cut of credit card transactions instead. This means that whether or not it's good value for you depends on the size of your business and how much trade you're doing.
Having started out as a way to accept card payments anywhere, from food markets to pop-up gift shops, Square is now expanding rapidly into the POS space. It has simple but effective tools for managing payments, stock, orders, employees and customers, and it works across multiple locations too.
Square makes several of its own hardware products, including the Square Card Reader, and the Square Stand that you plug an iPad into, ready to start taking orders. It doesn't have all the features you might need, but usually makes it easy to integrate them – if you need an ecommerce site, for example, you can pick from a third-party partner to get the job done, and get your store online.
It's particularly suitable for small and growing businesses who need something simple and easy to set up, with fixed costs they can plan for. Speaking of costs, it takes from 1.75% and up on payments (depending on the type). Hardware, like the Square Reader (£39 + VAT or $ 49) and the Square Stand (£129 + VAT or $ 169) costs extra, and can be ordered as you need it.
Few POS systems offer the breadth and flexibility of Shopify, which is equally capable of managing an online merch shop as it is a high street bakery. You mix and match the features you need, including hardware like a barcode scanner and printer, depending on what form your store takes.
Everything is managed smoothly and intuitively through the apps for Android, iOS, and the web – you can track stock levels, current orders, and sales over time, and deal with customer service requests, all within one unified interface. Even for teams with little in the way of technical know-how, everything is simple to set up and manage.
For creating online stores, Shopify comes with a range of professional-looking templates which can be customized as much or as little as needed. There's a drag-and-drop interface so you can put together a site as easily as creating a document in Word.
What it doesn't have is some of the more detailed retail analytics that larger businesses are going to need – but they aren't the people Shopify is aiming at anyway. Prices start at $ 29 (about £22) a month, and go up from there, depending on the features and number of staff accounts you need.
Like many starter POS systems, Nobly is built around the iPad, and from there can be adapted to suit everything from a hairdressing salon to a food truck. As well as being suitable for starter businesses, it also scales well to bigger outfits, with a variety of hardware and software bundles available.
For example, it can handle table seating plans and kitchen orders for a restaurant, and intelligent sales reports for a boutique shop – its reports are some of the most detailed and useful at this sort of price level. You can track inventory, set up customer loyalty programs, or just focus on taking payments at the actual Point of Sale.
It's particularly good for the hospitality and service industries, though it does stretch to retail as well, and with that in mind it doesn't have an ecommerce option – if you need an online store you'll have to set that up separately and get it integrated with your local operation. Nobly does work across multiple locations if you run several outlets.
Nobly isn't trying to fit every business perfectly, and cuts some corners to particularly suit restaurants, cafes, bars and the like – so that comes with pros and cons, but if you want something that'll work quickly and work well, it's definitely worth a look. Prices start from £39 (about $ 52) a month.