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BEST Retail POS Systems: How to Choose a Retail POS System

Tyler MartinezAuthor

In today’s fast-paced retail world, efficiency and smooth operations are key to success. A retail point of sale (POS) system is a crucial tool that helps businesses handle sales transactions, inventory, customer data, and other essential operations all in one place. Simply put, a retail POS system combines hardware and software to manage the selling of products and services, making everything run more smoothly and enhancing the overall customer experience.

Retail POS systems are essential for modern business operations. They have evolved far beyond being just cash registers. Today’s POS systems integrate with other important business functions like inventory management, customer relationship management (CRM), and data analytics. With these systems, retailers can get real-time insights into sales, manage stock levels efficiently, and offer personalized services to customers, all of which boost customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Using advanced technology in retail isn’t just a trend—it’s a necessity to stay competitive. The retail industry in the United States has grown significantly, with sales increasing from under three trillion dollars in 2000 to over seven trillion dollars in 2022. Even though growth might slow down a bit, retail sales are still expected to reach around 7.9 trillion dollars by 2026, according to Statista. This growth represents a big opportunity for businesses ready to invest in advanced technologies like retail POS systems.

For retailers, adopting the right technology gives you the best chance to grab a piece of this expanding market. Implementing a modern POS system can boost productivity, improve decision-making for areas like staffing and marketing, and provide a competitive edge. In a market where competitors are using technologies like AI to their advantage and with consumers whose preferences are always evolving, staying ahead with technology is crucial. Integrating a strong retail POS system is a smart move that can drive growth, increase efficiency, and ensure long-term success in the ever-changing retail industry.

How to Choose and Evaluate a Retail POS System

Choosing the right retail POS system is crucial for the efficiency and success of your business. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you evaluate and select the best POS system for your needs.

1. Features

  • Inventory Management: Look for inventory management features that offer real-time tracking, automated reordering, low stock alerts, and detailed inventory reports. This ensures you maintain optimal stock levels and reduce waste.

  • Sales Reporting: Ensure the system provides detailed and customizable sales reports. These should help you track daily, weekly, and monthly sales performance, identify top-selling products, and understand sales trends.

  • Customer Management: Check for CRM capabilities that allow you to store and analyze customer data, track purchase history, and implement loyalty programs. This helps in personalizing customer interactions and building long-term relationships.

  • Employee Management: Evaluate features that allow you to manage employee schedules, track hours worked, set user permissions, and monitor performance. This ensures better staff management and accountability.

2. Ease of Use

  • User Interface: The system should have an intuitive, user-friendly interface that requires minimal training for your staff. A straightforward interface can significantly reduce errors and speed up transaction times.

  • Speed: Look for a system that processes transactions quickly and efficiently. Slow systems can lead to long queues and frustrated customers.

  • Customer Support: Choose a provider that offers excellent customer support, including 24/7 availability, live chat, and phone support. Quick and reliable support can help you resolve any issues promptly, minimizing downtime.

3. Integration Capabilities

  • Software Integrations: Ensure the POS system integrates seamlessly with other business software you use, such as accounting tools (e.g., QuickBooks), CRM systems, and eCommerce platforms (e.g., Shopify). This integration reduces manual data entry and streamlines operations.

  • Hardware Compatibility: Check that the system is compatible with existing hardware or if it requires new equipment. Ensure it supports all necessary peripherals like barcode scanners, receipt printers, and cash drawers.

4. Hardware

  • Terminals and Tablets: Decide whether you need traditional POS terminals, tablets, or a combination of both. Tablets offer mobility and flexibility, while terminals might provide more robustness for high-volume transactions.

  • Barcode Scanners: Ensure the system supports fast and accurate barcode scanning to streamline the checkout process and improve inventory management.

  • Receipt Printers: Choose reliable printers that are compatible with your POS system, ensuring smooth and hassle-free receipt printing.

  • Cash Drawers: If you handle cash, select durable and secure cash drawers that integrate seamlessly with the POS system.

  • Card Readers: Opt for secure card readers that support various payment methods, including chip cards, contactless payments, and mobile wallets.

5. Payment Processing

  • Versatility: The POS system should support multiple payment methods, including credit/debit cards, mobile payments, and contactless options. This flexibility enhances the customer experience.

  • Security: Ensure the POS system complies with PCI-DSS standards to protect customer payment information. Look for features like encryption, tokenization, and secure user authentication.

6. Operations

  • Offline Capabilities: The system should function smoothly even without an internet connection, syncing data once back online. This ensures continuous operation during internet outages.

  • Multi-Location Support: If you have multiple stores, ensure the POS can manage them all centrally. This includes unified inventory management, sales reporting, and customer data across all locations.

7. Marketing and Selling

  • Online Integration: The POS should support eCommerce integration, allowing you to manage online and offline sales from a single platform. This ensures consistent inventory management and customer experience.

Promotions and Loyalty Programs: Look for features that enable you to run promotions, offer discounts, and manage customer loyalty programs effectively. These tools can help attract and retain customers.

Practical Tips for Assessing Retail Point of Sale Options

Evaluating retail POS software requires a thoughtful and comprehensive approach. Here are some practical tips to ensure you make the best choice for your business.

Product Demos

  • Schedule Live Demos: Request live demos where a representative walks you through the system. Prepare a list of specific scenarios and tasks to see how the POS handles them in real-time.

User Reviews and Testimonials

  • Read Diverse Reviews: Look for reviews on multiple platforms, including software review sites, social media, and industry forums. Pay attention to common praises and complaints to identify consistent strengths and weaknesses.

  • Seek Peer Recommendations: Connect with other retailers in your network to get firsthand insights into their experiences with various POS systems.

Scalability

  • Assess Growth Potential: Ensure the POS system can grow with your business. Check if it supports additional features and modules you might need as you expand, such as advanced reporting, multi-location management, and more.

  • Evaluate Upgrade Costs: Understand the cost implications of scaling up. Some systems might charge significantly more as you add users or locations, so factor this into your decision.

Cost Considerations

  • Transparent Pricing: Look for POS providers that offer clear and transparent pricing. Avoid those with hidden fees or complex pricing structures.

  • Total Cost of Ownership: Calculate the total cost of ownership, including software licensing fees, hardware costs, payment processing fees, and any additional service or support charges.

  • Contract Terms: Review contract terms carefully. Opt for flexible month-to-month plans if possible, which provide more adaptability compared to long-term contracts.

Customization and Flexibility

  • Tailor to Your Needs: Choose a POS system that allows customization to fit your specific business processes and workflows. This could include custom reports, personalized receipts, and tailored user permissions.

  • Flexible Deployment: Determine if the POS system offers flexible deployment options, such as cloud-based, on-premises, or hybrid models, to best suit your operational needs.

Training and Support

  • Comprehensive Training: Ensure the provider offers thorough training resources, including tutorials, user manuals, and webinars. Effective training helps in smooth implementation and quick adoption by your team.

  • Responsive Support: Test the responsiveness of the customer support team during your trial period. Good support is crucial for resolving issues promptly and minimizing downtime.

Integration Capabilities

  • Seamless Integration: Check if the POS system integrates seamlessly with your existing software, such as accounting tools, CRM systems, and eCommerce platforms. Smooth integration reduces manual data entry and streamlines operations.

  • Future-Proofing: Consider the POS system’s ability to integrate with future technologies and platforms. This ensures that your system remains relevant and adaptable as your business and technology landscape evolve.

By meticulously evaluating each of these aspects, you can confidently select a retail POS system that aligns with your business goals and operational needs. The right choice will enhance efficiency, boost customer satisfaction, and provide a solid foundation for growth and success in the competitive retail landscape.

How to Future-Proof Your Retail POS System

To ensure your retail POS system remains valuable as technology and consumer trends evolve, consider these practical strategies and features for staying ahead:

1. Cloud-Based Solutions

  • Scalability: Easily expand your operations as your business grows without needing significant hardware upgrades.

  • Remote Access: Manage your business from anywhere, with real-time access to data and reports.

  • Automatic Updates: Enjoy continuous software updates and improvements without manual intervention.

2. Connected Customer Profiles

  • Unified Customer Data: Keep comprehensive customer profiles that track both online and offline interactions.

  • Personalized Experience: Use connected profiles to offer personalized recommendations, promotions, and customer service.

  • Efficient Service: Quickly access customer histories to provide faster and more effective service.

  • Loyalty Programs: Seamlessly integrate loyalty programs across all sales channels.

  • Targeted Marketing: Develop precise marketing campaigns based on detailed customer data.

3. The Promise of AI

  • Predictive Analytics: Analyze sales data to forecast trends, improving inventory management and strategic planning.

  • Personalized Recommendations: Implement AI to suggest products based on customer behavior, boosting sales.

  • Automated Customer Service: Use AI chatbots and virtual assistants to handle routine inquiries, freeing up staff.

  • Fraud Detection: Identify potential fraudulent activities in real-time with AI's advanced pattern recognition.

  • Operational Efficiency: Optimize operations like staff scheduling and restocking with AI-driven insights.

  • Enhanced Marketing: Use AI to analyze customer data for more targeted and effective marketing campaigns.

Trend Identification: Identify emerging trends in your data, allowing you to adjust strategies and capitalize on new opportunities.

Best Options for Retail POS Systems

When choosing a retail store POS system for your retail business, consider key factors such as built-in payment processing and processing fees. Below are some popular options:

Toast

  • Description: An all-in-one POS system designed for restaurants and food service businesses, offering credit card processing, order management, inventory tracking, and employee management.

  • Payment Processor: Built-in.

  • Processing Fees: 2.49% + $0.15 per in-person transaction; 3.5% + $0.15 per keyed-in transaction. Pay-as-you-go option available.

Square

  • Description: A popular choice for small businesses with affordable and user-friendly card readers and POS systems.

  • Payment Processor: Built-in.

  • Processing Fees: 2.6% + $0.10 per in-person transaction; 3.5% + $0.15 per keyed-in transaction.

Clover

  • Description: Offers a range of POS systems and credit card machines with features like inventory management and customer loyalty programs.

  • Payment Processor: Built-in.

  • Processing Fees: 2.6% + $0.10 per in-person transaction; 3.5% + $0.10 per keyed-in transaction.

Shopify

  • Description: An e-commerce platform that includes tools for managing an online store and mobile card readers for in-person payments.

  • Payment Processor: Built-in.

  • Processing Fees: 2.7% per in-person transaction; 2.9% + $0.30 per online transaction.

PayPal

  • Description: Offers mobile card readers and a virtual terminal for online payments.

  • Payment Processor: Built-in.

  • Processing Fees: 2.7% per in-person transaction; 3.5% + $0.15 per keyed-in transaction.

Stripe

  • Description: A payment processor with tools for online and in-person credit card payments.

  • Payment Processor: Built-in.

  • Processing Fees: 2.7% + $0.05 per in-person transaction; 2.9% + $0.30 per online transaction.

Toast Retail: A Perfect Fit for Retail Businesses

Though initially tailored for restaurants, Toast's POS system seamlessly transitions into the retail sphere. Leveraging our hospitality-oriented foundation, we prioritize efficiency, smooth transactions, and top-notch customer service—essential components for retail success.

Our product offerings stem from extensive hospitality insight, providing comprehensive inventory management, insightful sales reporting, and effective customer relationship management. In the retail realm, this translates into a POS solution engineered to optimize operations and drive outstanding performance.

Best Toast Retail Features for Retail POS Systems

Discover the exceptional features that set Toast Retail apart and empower businesses to thrive.

All-in-One Tech Platform

We provide operators with a comprehensive suite of tools to run their business seamlessly. From scanning to paying, scheduling to payroll, and back office to front of store, Toast Retail covers it all, catering to every aspect of business operations.

Modern Cloud-Based POS

Our modern cloud-based POS system offers integrated payments and robust offline capabilities, ensuring uninterrupted service even in areas with unreliable internet connectivity.

Hardware Options

Choose from a variety of hardware options, including handhelds and kiosks, to enhance operational efficiency and meet specific business needs.

Customer Experience and Loyalty

Our platform offers unmatched flexibility, allowing operators to create innovative customer experiences by blending foodservice and retail operations. Whether it's a wine bar doubling as a wine market or a convenience store with an embedded deli, Toast Retail enables unique and engaging experiences for customers.

Our payments integration enables seamless transitions between online and in-store purchases, allowing customers to add retail items to existing orders without additional payment. This flexibility, originally designed for the restaurant industry, is a game-changer for retail prospects.

Built-in loyalty rewards and personalized offers foster customer loyalty and engagement, a key differentiator in the retail world. Our integration with Shopify further enhances customer experiences by syncing online Shopify sales with in-store inventory, enabling efficient management of hybrid customers.

Modern Retail Management

We've transformed Toast into a first-class retail POS system by investing in inventory management and hardware support for scanners and scales. Our innovative, mobile-first tools, like Smart Scan, streamline inventory management, saving operators valuable time and increasing efficiency.

Perpetual inventory tracking ensures accurate stock counts at all times, empowering operators with real-time insights and control over their operations. With support for tens of thousands of items, our item library enables quick and intuitive changes, facilitating efficient inventory management for businesses of all sizes.

How much does Toast Retail cost?

Toast offers a range of pricing options tailored to meet the needs of different businesses, ensuring there's a plan for every business. With features like 24/7 support, flexible payment options, offline mode, and simple setup, Toast provides convenience and reliability. The Starter Kit, starting at $0/month, is ideal for single-location businesses needing 1-2 terminals, while the Point of Sale plan, starting at $69/month, is perfect for those looking for core functionality and flat-rate processing. For larger operations ready to optimize operations and drive revenue, the Build Your Own plan offers custom pricing, allowing businesses to choose features like online ordering, integrated payroll, automated inventory, and more. Contact sales for a personalized quote and to explore the full range of features available.

Why Is Toast the Right Fit for Retail Businesses?

Toast POS is uniquely positioned to benefit retail businesses due to several key factors. With a foundation in the foodservice and hospitality industry, Toast understands the intricacies of complex POS use cases, making it well-equipped to address the needs of retail operations. Its modern, cloud-based platform offers a seamless and efficient experience, while its track record of enabling new revenue-generating opportunities demonstrates its commitment to business growth. 

Toast excels in creating operational efficiencies for small businesses and champions the integration of on-premises and off-premises guest experiences. Additionally, its in-person salesforce acts as true partners for customers, providing high-impact support and guidance, making it an ideal choice for retail businesses seeking a reliable and innovative POS solution.

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.