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|Best For Small Business|
|Best For Restaurants|
|Best For Retail|
As a retail store, restaurant, or small business owner, are you having a hard time keeping track of all your inventory, sales reports, customer and employee management and other crucial information?
Today’s Point of Sale (POS) systems can do all of this and much more. If you’re thinking about making the leap into the 21st century POS world, or you’re not happy with your current POS system, we’ve done our homework and give you our recommendations for the best POS systems on the market.
- What Is A POS System?
- Factors To Consider?
- Best POS Systems
- Other POS System Reviews
- Pair Your POS With Credit Card Processing
The most basic definition of a POS system is any setting where a customer pays a merchant. In the old days, the POS system was a simple cash register. As technology evolved, most POS systems adopted electronic cash registers, scanners, touch screens and customized hardware and software.
Today’s POS systems, however, are much more functional than just recording transactions and producing receipts — and they can save you valuable time, money, and resources, leaving you room to focus on other business priorities.
The latest POS software keeps track of your inventory in real-time, allows you to run analytics to help you with future merchandise ordering, and provides excellent customer management tools. You can even keep track of this information across multiple stores — and on the go.
There are hundreds of POS systems on the market, and each offers a wide variety of features. So, it’s a good idea to start pinpointing some of your most important considerations. Some factors you need to think about before you start searching for the best POS system for your business include:
Type of Business
Many POS systems are industry specific, particularly for retailers and restaurants. Some POS systems are versatile enough to adapt to several different types of businesses. In this comparison article, we review a variety of POS systems to give you our recommendations for whatever type of industry you’re in.
Your pricing options can vary widely depending on your business needs, how much hardware you need, the types of features you want in your software and whether you need to include credit card processing in your overall POS system pricing.
- Hardware: Your hardware costs depend on a few factors. How large is your business? How many locations do you have? Do you want POS technology that works with mobile devices, or a server-based POS system that requires more hardware (and is more costly)? Items you may need include checkout stations, cash drawers, touch screens, barcode scanners and receipt printers among other things.
- Software: Pricing for POS software typically is either a one-time licensing fee or on a monthly subscription basis.
- Integrations: As with most business software these days, you can customize your POS software with a number of different integrations and add-ons. In many cases, these will run you an added fee — and can get pretty expensive depending on the POS system you choose.
- Credit card processing: If you don’t already have a merchant account and a payment processor, you’ll need to factor those into your budget. Tip: Some POS systems accept a variety of payment processors, while others are very limited. Make sure the payment processor you choose works with your chosen POS system.
Cloud-Based Or Server-Based Software
The more traditional POS systems run on server-based software, which you have in-house, but newer cloud-based POS technology is revolutionizing the way a business can run and access their POS system. Instead of having your data stored on your own system, it’s stored online “in the cloud.” What does this mean for your POS potential? You can access your POS data anywhere via any device.
Ease Of Use
This factor should be a no-brainer, but a lot of people get caught up in choosing hardware and software features and forget to take ease-of-use into account. Once you narrow down your choices, go online. There are hundreds upon hundreds of POS system online consumer reviews, where you’ll be able to get a good idea of how the system works.
Customer support from your POS system provider is a huge consideration. What if your system hits a glitch in the middle of a busy shopping weekend? You’ll need quick, responsive tech support that can get you back up and running ASAP.
Beginning on October 1, 2015, small businesses that haven’t incorporated POS systems that accept EMV-chip credit cards will be held liable for fraud instead of the card issuer or bank. This feature is a biggie if you want to avoid credit card fraud liability.
There are hundreds of POS systems on the market. We’ve done our homework to give you our recommendations depending the type of business. We chose our winners in each category based on a number of factors: features, ease of use, tech support, cost and more.
ShopKeep is our winner for Best POS System for Small Businesses. It is an excellent iPad-based POS system for all types of small- to medium-sized companies. Its cloud-based monthly subscription fee is one of the lowest we’ve seen, and the system is simple, intuitive and easy to use. You also get excellent analytics, inventory management, and employee and customer management tools.
ShopKeep gets overall top ratings from users for everything from functionality to technical support. And you’re not required to purchase any hardware to subscribe if you already have compatible hardware in place. We highly recommend Shop Keep. They provide free demos, so you can compare ShopKeep to other POS systems for free.
- You must contact ShopKeep directly for a customized quote
- One year warranty, free shipping & 30-day money back on hardware
Revel is another popular and well-respected, cloud-based POS system for iPad. Although it’s on the expensive side compared to similar systems, you get a lot of bang for your buck. Revel offers fast transaction processing, robust reporting and excellent inventory (down to raw ingredients), customer and employee management tools, in addition to a lot of great restaurant-specific features.
In Always On Mode, for example, you can keep your POS up and running during a power outage or slow Internet speed to keep turning tables over quickly. You also have access to API developer tools and integrations with ecommerce stores, QuickBooks, and several payment processors. Any drawbacks? Revel takes a learning curve to set up and they charge you a start-up fee, which varies depending on your industry.
Revel POS doesn’t include pricing on its website, although they indicate that they do have free demos. You must contact them to get pricing quotes for hardware and monthly software fees. We did find some secondhand information online that reports that Revel is expensive compared to similar systems.
Vend is an excellent choice for retailers of any size. A cloud-based POS system that’s iPad, Mac and PC-compatible, Vend is extremely simple to use and even offers a free plan (although, you don’t get much with it). Vend lacks some of the features that full-service restaurants or those in the hospitality industry need, but that’s not their niche.
Some of their unique features include the ability to use your iPad camera as a barcode scanner and an excellent responsive design ecommerce tool that makes your website look great on any device. If you’re a retail merchant or even a quick-service, over-the-counter food business, give Vend a try. You get a 30-day free trial to see if it’s right for your business.
- 30-day free trial
- Lite: $99/month (if annual) or $119/month for 1 outlet, 1+ register and $20k in monthly turnover
- Pro: $129/month (if annual) or $119/month for 1 outlet, 1+ register and unlimited monthly turnover
- Enterprise: 6+ outlets, unlimited turnover (contact for pricing)
Vend offers a 30-day free trial and discounts if you subscribe for their annual plan. The following software pricing plans are for one register (two for Multi-Outlet). Additional registers are $39 per month for Advanced and Multi-Outlet Plans.
|Free Plan||Starter Plan||Advanced Plan||Multi-Outlet Plan|
|Price Per Month||N/A||$69||$99||$249|
|Price Per Month (Annual Sign-up)||N/A||$69||$79||$199|
|Number of Registers||1||1||1+||2+|
|Number of Active Products||10||500||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Number of Customers||1,000||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Number of Users||1||3||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Tech/Customer Support||Community||24/7 Email||$19/Month Priority Phone; 24/7 Email Included||24/7 Email & Priority Phone|
Click on a POS system you’re interested in to jump to our review.
Clover POS is an all-in-one touchscreen system that operates on its own unique hardware. One of the great things about Clover is that you can purchase their hardware bundles at several locations: Sam’s Club, Amazon, restaurant supply stores and major banks. It’s easy to set up and get your business up and running.
The downsides? Clover doesn’t handle larger-scale retail shops or restaurants well, and the basic Clover POS software doesn’t cut it compared to other POS systems. They do have a hearty App marketplace to fill in the gaps, but you’ll have to configure it yourself. If your business is a small restaurant, Clover could be a great solution. Otherwise, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.
Pricing for Clover varies, depending on where you purchase the hardware bundle, which includes a terminal, stand, printer and cash drawer. Bundles on Amazon are available for $1,200 from third-party vendors.
Software packages vary depending on where you purchase your bundle. Sam’s Club, for example, offers monthly rates starting at $19 per month.
Intuit’s QuickBooks for Desktop POS is an old-school, locally-installed software solution, and as such, it has a much higher upfront cost than today’s cloud-based alternatives. This software, however, has a robust feature set — coupled with QuickBooks finance software, you get a powerful total business management solution.
It makes the most sense to go with QuickBooks POS if you’re already using QuickBooks finance software so you can take advantage of the integrated features. If you’re not sure the investment’s worth it, you can test run QuickBooks POS with their 30-day free trial
QuickBooks POS offers a 30-day free trial.
QuickBooks doesn’t offer hardware bundles, but individual hardware items are competitively priced.
- Starting at $1,200
- Inventory tracking
- Vendor management
- Basic reporting
- Starting at $1,700
- All Basic features
- Manage employees and payroll
- Offer layaway and gift cards
- Rewards & loyalty programs
- Advanced reporting
- Starting at $1,900
- Manage multiple stores
- Track and transfer inventory
- Advanced sales and inventory reporting between stores
There are a lot of positives about cloud-based Lightspeed POS systems. First, Lightspeed is compatible with iPads, PCs and Macs. Second, Lightspeed has a fully integrated and hosted ecommerce store option. This means you can sell your products in your store and online. And third, their inventory, employee and customer management features are robust.
The drawbacks? Lightspeed’s restaurant POS system lacks features you’ll find with other services. Lightspeed is expensive, and they charge you extra fees that similar systems don’t (advanced reporting, extra employees, etc.). We also found many user complaints that the system has some major glitches.
If you’re interested in purchasing hardware bundles from Lightspeed, you must contact them for pricing. Their software pricing is below. Lightspeed does offer a 14-day free trial.
Retail POS Software: Starts at $99/month/location for 1 register and up to 5 employees. You can add advanced reporting for an additional $21/month. You must contact Lightspeed for other pricing options.
Restaurant POS Software: Starts at $69/month/location for 1 register. You must contact Lightspeed for other pricing options.
Most of us know Shopify as an online ecommerce platform, but Shopify actually has an in-store, iPad-based POS system for retailers. It’s an excellent option if you’re selling online and have a physical store, with excellent syncing, reporting, inventory management and more.
You can purchase Shopify Point of Sale alone or as an add-on to an existing retail website. The major drawback for some retailers? If you don’t use Shopify’s payment processor, you get charged a per transaction fee for using an external payment gateway.
- Hardware starter kit: $749
- 30-day money back guarantee
Shopify POS has a 14-day free trial and no contract required. All pricing plans include unlimited devices and products and 24/7 phone and email support. And you can add an optional Retail Package at $49/month that gives you hardware integrations, staff accounts, register shifts and other in-store features.
- Shopify Lite plan: $9/month
- Shopify Basic plan: $29/month
- Shopify plan: $79/month
- Shopify Advanced plan: $229/month
- Shopify Plus: contact Shopify for Enterprise level
Square POS System is extremely popular for small merchants and start-ups. Why? The Square POS app is free to download, and has no monthly fee. Square POS works on both iOS and Android devices. The company recently launched Square Retail, a more advanced POS software solution that’s geared toward large-scale retailers.
You need to be aware that you’re required to process all your payments through Square. And since Square is a third-party processor, this isn’t an ideal solution for mid- to high-risk businesses. They have a tendency to place holds on larger transactions.
Hardware Starter Kits: starting at $486 (iOS and Android devices not included)
- Square Point of Sale: free
- Square Retail: $60/month/register
Launched by a career restaurateur and purchased by Upserve in 2016, Breadcrumb’s iPad- and cloud-based POS System is exclusively for food service establishments. They offer customized solutions for quick- and full-serve restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Breadcrumb is extremely intuitive and runs smoothly. It has good table and customer management features and highly customizable menu tools.
Breadcrumb is lacking some features that other food service POS systems offer, namely ingredient management and an ecommerce integration. In the past, Breadcrumb got a lot of negative feedback for poor customer service, but since the Upserve acquisition user reviews have greatly improved.
Breadcrumb offers free demos but not a free trial. They offer three pricing tiers::
- Good for single-location restaurants with a smaller staff
- $99/month/location (single terminal license)
- $50 per additional terminal
- Suitable for multi-location restaurants with $30 average ticket orders
- $249/month/location (single terminal license)
- $50 per additional terminal
- EMV payments (Your first reader is free)
- Online ordering
- Unlimited integrations
- Built for large multi-location restaurants with 50 to 500 locations
- Call (855 )664-3887 for quote
- Centralized menu and employee management
- Integrated time-clock
How Do POS Systems Work In The Field?
Check out the video below to see how ShopKeep helps one small business owner.
The POS systems we’ve reviewed in this article can all help propel your business into the modern age. You’ll stay on top of inventory, sales reports, employees and customers like never before. To further boost your productivity (and wow your customers), consider upping your sales game even more.
Take a mobile credit card reader with you while you’re on the road. Many mobile credit card processing services have no monthly fees, integrations with POS systems reviewed here, competitive transaction rates and some even give you a card reader for free.
Which POS system do you think will help your business be more efficient and why?
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