Point of sale system means different things to different people: it can be a glorified cash register, or an integrated system that joins sales, inventory, purchasing, and bookkeeping. If your business is still running on an old-fashioned cash register, odds are you could benefit from moving to a point of sale, or POS, system.
While the complexity of POS systems varies greatly, there are some essential elements shared by all systems:
- a computer and monitor
- point of sale software
- a receipt printer
- and a cash drawer
All but the most basic systems will also include barcode capability, which will generally include a barcode printer and scanner.
You may even have the makings of a POS system sitting around in your store or office. The computer does not have to be anything special — just about any Windows OS PC will do the job. Same goes for the printer — put that decommissioned inkjet to work in your POS system. You could even download a free point of sale software program to run your system; this means that all you will need to buy is a cash drawer to build a bare-bones system.
However, if you want to take full advantage of your POS system, you will need to tie it to your inventory, pricing, and bookkeeping functions, which means you will probably want to employ barcode readers. Not only will implementing a barcode system simplify the checkout process and reduce errors, but it will allow you to dynamically update your inventory numbers as the merchandise leaves your store. You can program your POS software to alert you when stock hits a certain threshold so you can order more before you run out.
An integrated POS system will quickly uncover instances of shrinkage. If your stock on the shelves does not square with the stock numbers in your POS system, you will know something is wrong. Whether it's damage or theft, a POS can tip you off sooner, or give you proof when before you only had a hunch.
You will also get a better picture of product lifecycles, customer buying patterns, seasonal trends, and much more. Most full-featured POS software programs offer reporting options based on these and other criteria.
However, before you run out and buy some random system off the rack, do some research. Every market has different needs, and there are POS systems designed for many different types of marketplace. Talk to colleagues in your industry and see if there is an industry standard POS system for your vertical market. And even if there is not a system specific to your needs, there is probably one that can be configured to solve your specific business challenges.