Types of POS Systems: How to Pick the Right Point of Sale Solution for Your Retail Biz

types of POS systems for retailers

A critically important investment for every retailer is an effective POS (Point Of Sale) system. It’s what allows you to be efficient in processing sales, managing cash flow, monitoring inventory, managing customer relationships and accept customer payments.

Not only that but having a good POS system also helps you be more cost-effective. On average, a POS system can help retailers cut costs by nearly 10%.

Since POS systems help retail businesses manage the heart of their operations, choosing the right one for your business becomes a vital decision. The right POS system will help you:

  • Save time by making your operations more efficient.
  • Improve the customer experience.
  • Make smarter decisions thanks to data and analytics
  • Reduce human and admin errors
  • Generate a solid ROI in the long term through improved productivity.

Yes, point of sale systems can offer tons of benefits, but it’s important to remember that not all POS solutions are created equal. You’ll want a POS system that’s suited to your specific retail business, so taking your unique needs into consideration is paramount!

Types of POS systems for retailers

So, what types of POS systems are available for retailers, and how do you choose the right one for your business?

We’ll look into answering this question in detail, so you know how to make the right decision. Here are the common types of POS systems for retailers. Read through the descriptions below and see what works best for your business.

Desktop POS system

  pos system display on a laptop

Desktop POS systems run on your computer or laptop, either on your browser, a desktop app, or an on-premises system. You can connect attachments such as barcode scanners, credit card readers, and cash drawers, so it can function just like a typical cash register.

Desktop POS systems are best used in retail stores that have cash dedicated cash wraps where cashiers ring up sales.

And while specific features may vary from one platform to the next, most modern POS systems would have the following features:

  • Inventory management: POS and inventory management systems typically go hand-in-hand. Whenever you ring up a sale, your POS solution should automatically update your stock levels so you always have a handle on how many products you have at any given time.
  • Reporting and analytics: Ideally, your system should have the ability to generate reports on your sales, inventory, customers, and more. Having such data at your fingertips will help you make more informed decisions around stock control, marketing, shopper management, and more.
  • Email receipts: Customers can receive their payment receipts via email, which leads to a paperless way of transacting with them.
  • CRM: When transacting with your retail business, customers can leave their personal data on your mobile device, helping you collect important information such as their birthday, their name, mobile number and email.
  • Loyalty programs: You system could also allow you to monitor customer loyalty programs too. It offers the benefit of emailing birthday greetings, keeping track of customer loyalty points and sending promotional offers, all of which create a better retail shopping experience, leading to higher customer retention.

Mobile POS system

pos system checkout display on a tablet device

A mobile POS system or ‘mPOS’ is when a smartphone, tablet or other mobile device acts as the electronic point of sales terminal. All you need to do is attach a credit card reader to the mobile device, turn on your POS software and start ringing up sales. (Note: This doesn’t mean you don’t the option of adding more peripherals such as barcode scanners, cash drawers, and receipt printers. Most mPOS systems support multiple hardware options.)

One of the biggest advantages of mPOS systems is that they are highly portable and they allow you to quickly ring up sales on the spot.

Since these solutions don’t take up too much space, mobile POS systems are popular in small retail stores, pop-up shops, and quick-serve establishments. And depending on your vendor, your mobile POS could also offer features like loyalty programs, reporting, inventory management, and more.

The all in one POS system

There are also solutions that offer both desktop and mobile POS systems. These “all in one” systems cover everything we talked about above, and more. Best suitable for growing and established retailers, this type of POS system typically give you the ability to implement various processes and run multiple stores.

For example, if you’re a multi-store retailer that run pop-up shops, then an all-in-one POS or retail management system would be the best choice.

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Which type of POS system is right for you?

The short answer: it depends.

When deciding which software is best suited for your retail business, you need to consider your size, processes, and future roadmap, among other things.

Consider the size of your business and catalog

Let’s start with size. Do you have a large store or are your running a seasonal pop-up? If it’s the former, then you could choose to have a desktop point of sale system, an mPOS, or even both. But it’s the latter, then a portable (i.e., mobile) system would likely be a better option.

How big is your product catalog? If you have hundreds or thousands of SKUs in your database, then a desktop or all in one system is a more suitable solution. Solutions that only provide mobile POS typically aren’t made for retailers with big catalogs and sophisticated inventory requirements.

Think about your processes and apps

You should also consider the systems and procedures you have in place. What’s your process of ordering inventory and adding products to your system? What are the steps that associates take when ringing up sales? Map out the answers to these questions and make sure your POS or retail management system can support your processes.

This is also the best time to consider the current apps or programs that you’re using. Things like your accounting software, payment processor, and ecommerce platform will function much better if they can connect with your POS, so keep those apps in mind when you’re shopping around for a POS system.

Have roadmap

There are numerous retail management solutions in the market, so finding and evaluating different systems can take up a significant amount of resources. To make this step easier, it’s best to have a business roadmap prior to conducting your search.

Your roadmap must detail where the company is and where you want it to go. List the capabilities of your existing system (i.e. what it can do currently) and the things that you would like it to do now and in the future.

Provide a copy of this document to key people in the company, especially to those involved in the search for a new system. You and your team must refer to this roadmap constantly when assessing different solutions.

Further Reading

If you need more info on how to effectively compare different point of sale solutions, download Vend’s POS Buyer’s Guide. In this resource, you will learn the 7 secrets to find a reliable POS system, and avoid the costly mistakes most retailers make when choosing a new retail platform.

In it you’ll learn:

  • How to budget for your POS system
  • How to find and vet providers
  • How to get the most out of the solution

Learn More

Wrapping it up

Pay close attention to your needs, size of operations and long-term aspirations. The smartest way is to work with your team as you grow and develop and ensure that your retail technology stack grows with you.


About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.