What is a POS System and How Does It Work?

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12.11.2021 Business tips Features, Tools and Integrations

What is a POS System and How Does It Work?

A POS system can be invaluable to certain types of merchants. 

A point-of-sale system is a critical piece of equipment for many businesses. It can help to speed up the checkout process, and assist with a number of daily tasks such as stocktake and reporting. However, the tech that powers point-of-sale systems is constantly evolving — so it’s important to reevaluate your choice every so often. 

Clunky cash registers and complicated setups that cost thousands of dollars are a thing of the past. These days, hundreds of point-of-sale systems exist. Some are generic, for all businesses. Others have been built for specific types of businesses, such as restaurants, bars or barbershops, complete with the functionality designed to make the running of those businesses more smooth. 

Just as you’d evaluate whether your EFTPOS terminal is up-to-date with the latest in payments technology, and able to accept the latest methods of payment, so too should you consider whether your point of sale has all the functionality you need it to in order to add value to your business. If not, it might be time to upgrade. 

Whether you’re considering implementing a point-of-sale-system for the first time, or wondering if your existing point-of-sale system is adding value to your business the way that it should, it’s important to understand exactly what a point of sale system can do for your business. Keep reading to discover: 

  • what a point-of-sale system is
  • how a point-of-sale system can help your business
  • the main functions of point-of-sale software
  • how to choose the right point-of-sale system for your business

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What is a POS?

POS is an abbreviation for point of sale, which is the time and place that you process your customers’ payment. This usually refers to the area around your EFTPOS terminal

However, if your business has a mobile point-of-sale system (or a cloud-based point-of-sale system, integrated with a mobile EFTPOS terminal), your entire shop becomes a point of sale. Not sure what the difference is? Keep reading to discover more about the different types of point-of-sale software. 

What is a POS system?

A point-of-sale system is used when a customer transacts with a business. It’s the hardware and software that a merchant (and their staff) uses to help run the business; from ordering and managing inventory to managing customers and staff, the point of sale system is the central hub. 

A point-of-sale system can help retailers avoid issues such as running out of stock, for example. For hospitality merchants, the real benefit of a point-of-sale system is its ability to help manage tables, bookings and menus, and integrate with third-party delivery apps.

Traditional vs mobile point-of-sale

Traditionally, point-of-sale systems needed to be kept on business premises — run via an on-site server, and wired into a specific area of your business. That’s why a business’s computer, EFTPOS machine, cash register, receipt printer, and barcode scanner all needed to be set up at the front desk, and couldn’t be moved — without difficulty. Thanks to the arrival of the cloud, that’s no longer necessary. 

The millennial ushered in a wave of new technologies, including the creation of cloud-based computing and storage. Simply put, “the cloud” is the internet. To be more specific, it refers to software and services run through the internet — rather than a physical computer — with the main benefit being mobility.   

These days, there are two types of point-of-sale system:

  1. traditional point-of-sale
  2. mobile point-of-sale

How a POS system can help your business

Many businesses choose to have their sales staff simply input the transaction amount directly into their EFTPOS terminal — saving the need to set up, install, and pay for a point-of-sale system. This no-fuss setup suits a number of businesses, particularly those that don’t require their EFTPOS machine to be linked to their stocktake technology. However, there is other point-of-sale functionality that could be of benefit to your business. 

Point-of-sale systems are designed to help you keep track of sales. Basic point-of-sale systems enable you to easily keep track of things like the number of items at your warehouse and which products are most popular. However, there are a number of more thorough systems available that can provide customer insights, send automated low stock alerts, and surface information to better allow you to analyse how your business is performing. 

Depending on the software features of the specific system selected, merchants can also track pricing accuracy, integrate ecommerce channels, and more. It all depends on which system you choose. 

The right point-of-sale system for your business can help you to:

  • manage inventory, across all business locations
  • track and report on sales metrics
  • manage your customer’s data effectively
  • improving the in-store experience
  • make important business decisions, by arming you with information.

Finding the best POS system for your business

No two businesses are the same; each is as unique as the merchant running it. However, some point-of-sale systems are better suited to specific industries. Restaurants, retail stores, barbers, and grocery stores all have their own way of operating that is distinct from the rest — and that is why they need a system that meets their specific needs. 

When it comes time to choose your point-of-sale system, you will stumble across a number of different types of software. Some of the more common types are listed below. 

How many types of POS machines are there?

Mobile point-of-sale

Also known as mPOS, a mobile point-of-sale system has no fixed point. It can easily be moved around a store, salon floor or restaurant. Sometimes, this may involve a traditional cash register system at checkout, supported by a tablet or smartphone that can be taken to a customer to process transactions more efficiently. 

Tablet point-of-sale

Some point-of-sale software can be installed on an Android tablet or iPad, and act as either your main point of sale or supplement a central system. It can be a handy alternative for those businesses with little counter space, or for businesses’ whose staff are required to collect lots of customer data at the point of purchase. 

Desktop point-of-sale

You’ll likely seen a desktop point-of-sale system at your local corner shop or newsagency; these systems are run on a desktop computer, placed at the checkout station. Although desktop point-of-sale systems are often bulky, they are typically more powerful and robust and can be supplemented by a mobile or tablet device.

Self-serve kiosks

Coles and Woolworths aren’t the only businesses that have investment in a self-service point-of-sale system. Macdonald’s has been doing it for years, and apparel giant Uniqlo has recently made the shift. Less customers requiring service means less staff needed on the floor. It’s the type of operational efficiency that helps keep more money in your business.

This type of POS can drive customers to buy 15% to 30% more

Open-source point-of-sale

“Open-source” is a term used to describe software built using accessible source code. Tech-savvy businesses can tap into that code to build custom solutions that suit their needs. However, unless you’re running your business in a highly unique way, it’s unlikely you’ll need to invest in developing a custom point-of-sale solution.

Multichannel point-of-sale

If a point-of-sale system is described as “multichannel”, that simply means it can integrate with various channels you may or may not use in your business. For example, multichannel point-of-sale systems could integrate with your website, third-party online marketplaces, other tools used in your store, social media platforms, wholesale ordering systems, and more. 

Retail point-of-sale

These systems deserve a category of their own. A retail point-of-sale system includes features that have been tailored to merchants who sell products, rather than those who provide a service such as accounting, dog grooming or cutting hair. Functionality to streamline inventory and sales forecasting are table stakes for a retail point-of-sale system, for example. 

Restaurant point-of-sale

Restaurant point-of-sale systems, cafe point-of-sale systems, and bar point-of-sale systems all mean the same thing. These tools have been designed and built with hospitality in mind, and include features such as tracking stock levels by ingredient, dish customisations and substitutions, self-serve ordering, and even menu planning and costing. 

Do you need a point-of-sale system?

Whether or not your business would benefit from a point-of-sale system depends on your particular circumstances. For some merchants, it is simply an unnecessary expense. For others, it can play a key role in retaining customers and streamlining tasks such as ordering and tracking stock.

Of course, transactions can be processed quickly and efficiently through Zeller Terminal and viewed in real-time on Zeller Dashboard. Plus, Zeller Dashboard allows you to see how business is tracking at any point in time — and track how that compares day vs day, as well as month vs month.

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