Best POS systems
It's no longer the case that you need expensive tills and have to manually figure out how to relate your sales to stock levels. These days there are many digital Point of Sale (PoS) systems that will not only allow you to take card payments but also directly update inventory and accounts with each transaction.
Even better, there are a number of PoS systems that simply work as an app for your tablet or smartphone, turning them into a cash register in its own right. This makes it easier than ever to set up shop anywhere, not least trade fairs, markets, or other mobile sales opportunities, without having to worries about bringing heavy equipment and wiring connections with you.
Using the latest hardware and cloud technology, you can now set up a retail store and take payments almost anywhere.
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 six 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. We made our choices for the best POS systems by factoring in features, cost, professional reviews, and user experiences. Read on to get the lowdown.
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Does the business at the sharp end
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 20 to manage, Vend can scale with you, and is notably used by the likes of NASA, the Harvard Shop, and Sennheiser.
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 e-commerce 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, particularly if you can use an iPad in your store. Pricing starts at $99 (£78) a month when paid annually for the Lite plan that supports a single register, and can go up quickly from there with the firm’s more premium offerings.
Friendly, intuitive, and affordable
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 an iPad, and is an eminently versatile POS solution, offering a combination of hardware options (like card readers, receipt printers) 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.
ShopKeep encourages you to contact it directly for a custom quote, and unfortunately there is no pricing information on the company’s site. There's no termination fee if you decide to cancel, so you can see if it suits without committing to anything longer term.
Get started for free
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 e-commerce 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 2.75% and up on payments (depending on the type). Hardware, like the Square Reader for $49 (£39), which allows the business to accept chip and contactless cards, costs extra, and can be ordered as you need it.
The solution for a small business that thinks big
Unlike some of the other purpose-built POS solutions, Lightspeed is integrated into a larger ecosystem, which comprises of a CRM, merchant services and an e-commerce platform. Therefore, it is designed to scale up as your business grows.
The company also offers plans that are specific to the type of business in question, such as retail or a restaurant. The retail plan is capable of tracking inventory in order to raise alerts when stock runs low, or track unit costs, among other features.
Lightspeed’s website suggests there are multiple plans available, although contact is required for a quote. The most popular plan goes for $99 (£78) per month, and includes one register for five employees, 24/7 support, secure cloud backup and free updates.
From online to anywhere
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. The idea is to 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 £23) a month, and go up from there, depending on the features and number of staff accounts you need.
Flexible and easy to get going
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 e-commerce 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 are not available on the website, and you must get in touch for a custom quote.
Other POS systems to consider
There are an increasing number of POS systems being released to the market, with some especially looking to niche markets such as hospitality. Here we'll briefly look at some of these to help in your purchasing decision:
TouchBistro offers a specialist iPad POS system specifically for the food service industry, such as restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and food outlets. The software has a built-in table manager to help improve service across your floorplan, even when it changes for events. The ordering system makes it easier for staff to take customer requests quickly while upselling high-value offers, and there are also self-ordering menu options as well. TouchBistro offers both software and hardware options which can be taken together or individually, with prices starting from just $69 per month for a single licence.
eposnow offers complete POS solutions, including separate software or hardware as required. Unlike other providers who only support iOS devices such as iPads, eposnow can also support Android mobile devices as part of its service. The systems provided are modular to scale with your business, and they are made to be simple and easy to use and require limited staff training. Inventory management is built in, as is reporting with a customizable dashboard. Permissions can be set to restrict functions according to user group. Different options are available according to whether your business is retail or hospitality.
Talech a cloud-based POS software service starting from as little as $49 per month. It includes features especially useful for restaurants, diners, and bars, not least table and position management, as well as order management. The ability to provide and accept coupons and discounts is provided, along with secure payments - including wireless, and all devices remain synced in real-time. There's also the opportunity to provide self-service kiosk options for customers, as well as multi-level tax inclusion and service charge inclusion. Pricing starts at £29.99 a month for a single device, rising to £49.99 a month for unlimited devices with each additional device charged at £24.99.