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The Best Point of Sales Systems for Small Business 2021

And the ecommerce solutions they work with

When your retail business grows and needs a little more than an electronic cash register and credit card machine, it is time to consider adding a software driven Point of Sale system, or POS.

If your business also sells online, or plans to, how this POS ties into e-commerce is an important consideration. Some small businesses that already have an older POS system should consider seeing what else is out there—it may have a dramatic positive effect on business. In fact, 41% of retailers plan to upgrade or replace their POS system, according to research by Retail Consulting Partners.  If you are looking to make a change, there are POS systems that are best for certain types of businesses, so focus on those that fit what you do. 

Why use a POS system?
Point of Sale systems have made vast improvements in the past decade in ease of use. Many use a visual touch screen, making it easier for employees to learn and process sales efficiently. This improves the customer experience and builds loyalty. Connecting a register to other sales channels has also gone mainstream. Research shows 59% of retailers are prioritizing a multiple channel sales funnel—in person, phone and website as well as selling spaces like Amazon and Facebook, which can all be managed through a POS system.

On the back end, business owners can better track inventory—and I mean miles better. When all items in your store are added into an electronic system as they come in, you know exactly how many you have left without having to go physically count. Systems with good inventory controls let you set triggers to reorder when stock is low, and POS software can help you generate purchase orders. When e-commerce is integrated, inventory levels are automatically adjusted by what is sold online. 

Sales are also automatically tracked, and you can run a variety of reports instantaneously, including tracking sale performance by employee, or seeing daily, monthly or annual performance statistics. 

Important Consideration about E-Commerce Integrations
Until Shopify’s rebuilt POS system launched in 2020, there was not one major vendor that had POS and e-commerce purpose-built together and sharing one dashboard. 

However, a few have developed their system with a partner, such as Vend’s partnership with one of the largest e-commerce providers, BigCommerce. Others integrate their POS system with an add-on app from a variety of e-commerce providers. 

However, there are differences between these three structures.

  1. Having a POS and e-commerce built by the same company allows for one truly integrated dashboard and no compatibility problems. Shopify uses this system.
  2. When a POS software company shares development and coordination with an e-commerce vendor, the e-commerce features are more integrated into the POS software. Vend and BigCommerce have this relationship, as well as a few others.
  3. When a POS software is compatible with a list of e-commerce software providers, you will be linking together two pieces of software. Generally, this can work fine, but you have the greatest chance of conflicts. Also, you will manage two different dashboards—the POS one for your brick-and-mortar store and one for your e-commerce store. There may be a fee for connectivity between the two.
Point of sale system

Best for retail: Vend
Launched in 2010, Vend has earned a reputation for quality retail software. The company was first to develop a cloud-based point of sale system, and first to integrate an iPad for mobile touch screen capabilities. Customers can use their own computer systems, including Windows or Mac systems. This POS software integrates with nearly all credit card processing companies. The real-time inventory control system is robust, with built-in analytics. With a well laid out visual display, employees will learn to use the system in minutes.  

One standout feature is the ability to continue to conduct business if you should lose internet connectivity. Once the internet is restored, saved credit card transactions can be processed.

There are also no limits on the number of products or employees you can use with the system. Receipts are customizable, as are reports.

Vend offers three plans that cover one register and one location. One drawback—there is a fee for adding additional registers ($49 per month if billed annually), which can add up for larger retailers. 

With Vend, you can use any credit card processor with no additional fee.

Vend’s responsive support system includes 24/7 online or in-app live chat support, plus a full knowledge base.

Plan options include:

  • Lite: The starter version is $99 when paid annually, or $119 for monthly payments. This version contains all standard features and small business analytics but limits turnover to $20,000.
  • Pro: The most popular level is $129 per month when paid yearly, or $159 with monthly payments, for advanced reporting, e-commerce options, and gift card features.
  • Enterprise: When your business grows, you can call Vend for a custom quote for an enterprise plan that offers a dedicated account manager and onboarding program.

You have different e-commerce options with Vend, but it is recommended to go with BigCommerce since it is integrated with the platform. The midsize plan will add $80 per month for sales up to $180,000 annually.

The newcomer: Shopify
The leader in e-commerce, Shopify, added a revamped POS system in 2020. Some users might appreciate the easy-to-use iPad-based system, and the portability of using an iPhone or Android for making sales anywhere in the store. However, currently there is no implementation for desktop. You must sign up for a Shopify ecommerce plan to use POS service, but both are contained in one seamless dashboard. 

Pricing comes in a little bit less than Vend at the midrange Pro level, at $89 for the POS and $79 per month for e-commerce. However, if you use a non-Shopify payment processor, there is a 1% upcharge on top of processing fees. Also, reviews indicate that Shopify POS doesn’t do everything when it comes to the necessities to run a full retail store business, meaning you may need to add on apps to increase functionality, increasing the cost. 

At the midrange plan, the credit card rates are:

  • Online: 2.6% plus $0.30
  • In-Person: 2.5% plus $0

The Pro plan features include:

  • Order and product management
  • Customer profiles
  • Integrated credit card processing 
  • Quick response (QR) codes
  • Customizable check out options
  • Smart inventory management
  • Unlimited registers
  • Omnichannel selling features
  • In-store analytics

Open API vs a proprietary software
Both Vend and competitor Shopify POS have an open API, meaning their programming interface is publicly available to developers to create third-party applications or web services. This means that there are a ton of added features you can append to either one of these POS systems for loyalty programs, an employee timeclock, advanced marketing and more.

Additional POS options

For advanced inventory features: For more in-depth inventory management, ShopKeep is popular favorite among retailers and café’s

All plans offer many great features, including:

  • Unlimited transactions
  • Customer payments via text message
  • Unlimited inventory items
  • Real-time sales data
  • Matrix inventory
  • Employee management and rewards
  • Inventory reports like sales trends and inventory value

Restaurant + Retail POS: Clover started out as a POS system for restaurants, and has grown into a system that also fits the bill for retail. The Clover POS system runs on Android OS, which means the user experience is very similar to that of a smartphone or tablet. 

All Clover POS systems offer:

  • Registration to process payments
  • Promos to keep customers coming back
  • Feedback to hear from customers
  • Loyalty rewards
  • Customer lists
  • Clover Dining to manage restaurant floor plans
  • Employee management with Shifts
  • Restaurants and service businesses, such as salons, will like the flexibility of an employee sending an customer invoice to the main check out register, or an order directly to the kitchen.

Add on Costs
Some POS systems, like ShopKeep and Clover use proprietary equipment, meaning you will need to use only equipment designed to work with their systems instead of buying from various vendors. Even with new client equipment incentives, your hardware costs may be more expensive in the long run. If you plan on doing more than one function on the computers housing your POS, look for an option that also works on Windows and Mac. 

For example, a company may have a retail store operating on POS software, but may also have a reservation system software for activities, accommodations or events running on the same computer, rung up by the same sales staff. This is where a multiplatform system like Vend is more versatile.

Carefully scrutinize what features are included in the POS software you are considering and compare them to your wants and needs.

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