Cloud-Based Retail POS Options: Comparing Features, Prices and More
So, you’ve decided it’s time to transition your business to a new, cloud-based POS system.
You’ve found that the advantages these systems offer — robust real-time reports, relationship management tools, scalability, and more — are essential for your business to stay competitive.
But with so many choices available, how will you find the one that’s the best fit for your business?
You want to get it right the first time. Once your staff has been trained on your new POS and your customers get used to it, starting over is a huge headache. Unnecessary transitions from one system to another waste you and your staff’s time, and the resulting confusion might even affect your customers’ experience and impression of your brand.
Below, we’ll explain the major differences in the ways POS systems are structured and what they offer so that you’ll know what to prioritize in your search.
Understanding POS Pricing and Costs
Most web-based POS systems these days are what we call “subscription-based.” That means users pay a monthly fee for their use of the software. This model, sometimes called “Software as a Service,” generally includes the costs of all web hosting fees and updates.
The more traditional software mode requires users to buy licenses, which then entitles them to ownership of a copy of the POS system.
Traditional licensed software typically costs much more upfront, but the cost of SaaS software catches up with the licensed variety over time.
However, that’s just the beginning of what to consider to figure out the total cost of your software. You’ll also need to understand how the following costs will affect your total price.
Upfront Costs and Transaction Costs
SaaS POS models typically charge per month, but that monthly fee often varies based on the number of registers and stores a business uses.
Any financial transaction made with a credit card typically also incurs a small percentage fee plus a small flat fee per transaction from the financial institutions that verify and send the money back and forth. Some software programs have partnered with financial institutions to roll all the fees into the cost of the software, and you’ll want to clarify those fees upfront.
Hardware and IT Costs
Some software programs may combine the costs for the hardware into the cost of the software and issue the equipment to you directly. In other cases, the hardware must be purchased separately, and the software may have several compatible hardware options. These web-connected POS programs also require internet connection to perform properly, which of course you’ll also have to pay for.
Support Options / Support Cost
Most of today’s online software programs offer plenty of free help materials, such as an online resource library, frequently asked questions and video walk-throughs. General phone and email support is usually included in the cost of SaaS POS systems during certain hours. However, make sure to ask about the cost of live or one-on-one training. New employees who have to learn more complicated POS systems may really benefit from such in-person training, and that isn’t always free.
If you’re switching from one POS system to another, you may opt to pay to have professionals migrate your data. Although you can likely do it on your own, it’s typically a complicated and detail-laden process. Your data is valuable, which is why this is a task often left to the pros.
Cost Savings From Included Features
It’s also worth considering that many POS systems include things like a completely integrated website and marketing tools, such as landing page builders and email marketing. If you had already planned to pay for these features, your POS system purchase might have just gotten more affordable.
For more details on retail POS pricing, including price ranges for popular systems, this guide is a good start.
Transactions and Checkout Features
As far as features, let’s start with the very basics: The ability to accept payments, and the ability to track purchases. In fact, if you don’t have a physical store or much variety in what you’re selling, the following payment features may be the only ones you need.
Payment processing for various payment types
The ability to sell and accept gift cards
The ability to issue returns and refunds and give store credit
The ability to accept a mixed payment in a transaction (for example, use a gift card for some of the total and then use a credit card for the rest)
The ability to sell items both in-store and online
The ability for customers to make mobile payments
Shortcuts and quick keys to optimize the checkout experience for employees
Options for a visual, customer-facing display
The ability to issue receipts
Reporting and Data Features
Analytics are one of web-based POS systems’ main strengths, because owners can get data across locations and in real time.
Basic reports (the ones that detail who bought what and when) are essential for any retailer, even just the hobbyist trying to sell personal creations on the side. However, retailers operating one or more physical stores will increasingly have to rely on more complicated reports to manage operations and growth.
Here are a few reports a growing business will need.
The best POS systems allow users to track what their customers have purchased, search for customers in a database, and track and search for certain customer characteristics (such as birthdays). Some programs can also translate customer purchases into rewards as part of a loyalty program.
Need to see which employees are ringing the most sales, or which employees are selling which products in which areas of your store? You can get a ton of valuable info from your POS system. Some systems can also manage commission rates and product commission reports for employees, too.
If you want a more sophisticated reporting system, the following features can be very valuable:
The ability to build your own reports
The ability to create dashboards that show your key performance indicators in real time
The ability to filter and sort data any way you like to get the insights you need
We all know the basics when it comes to inventory: Your POS system should deduct inventory as it’s purchased and send alerts when levels get low.
But once you start selling a lot of products with a lot of different attributes, you’ll need a more robust inventory system.
Don’t miss this free download: 3 Ways to Target Your Marketing Using POS Data
Sophisticated POS systems make it easy for users to keep their inventory updated with stock and auto-fill options. They enable administrators to assign different characteristics and attributes to products, assign SKUs, and apply barcodes to products for quick checkout and easy counting. They also allow managers to combine different individual products together for sale as a group (called “composites”). Managers should also be able to create sales and discounts to different products easily.
Larger retailers will need yet another level of features that enable them to track their inventory through the processes of such as shipping, warehousing, and distribution.
Leverage the Power of an Expert
Finally, if all of these features sound like a lot to sort through, don’t worry. You don’t have to search on your own. We at Cloudscape Technologies are standing by to empower you through this process.
We specialize in enabling businesses to find custom solutions that deliver more power than they ever thought possible. We minimize onboarding time and stress, and we are available to support users live and on-site or remotely with device management. Our Care Package also includes long-term learning opportunities for your entire team. We’re certified partners with many of the best cloud-based developers, and we love empowering businesses to realize the potential of moving their operations to the cloud.
To see how we could help your business, please contact us or book a free consultation.