The Top 10 Point of Sale (POS) Systems for Small Businesses in 2021

Selecting a POS system is a significant rite of passage into making your new business a reality. The Blueprint highlights critical components to look for and provides the 10 best POS systems for operating your retail or restaurant business.

Top Rated

Stripe Payments

Stripe Payments provides reliable, highly customizable online payment capabilities along with a myriad of other easy-to-use features.

Best for SMBs

Square for Retail

Square for Retail is a step up from the more ubiquitous Square card reader. It’s a great option for merchants launching a new store.

Easiest to Use

Epos Now

Epos Now is a reliable point-of-sale system that powers retail and hospitality businesses across the world. Learn more about its feature set and industry-specific capabilities.

Best Features

Lightspeed POS

For retailers and restaurateurs who are looking for a more advanced POS system and are willing to fork out a little more, Lightspeed’s POS system has them covered.

Best Value

Square

Square is a free point-of-sale app that’s suitable for just about every business type. It’s a winner for small businesses looking for an intuitive system without committing to monthly fees.

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You’ve put the time in creating your business plan and getting your funding in place. Or perhaps you’ve outgrown your current point-of-sale system (POS) and need a better solution. Either way, adopting the best POS for your retail or restaurant business is a critical decision.

Your POS system provides all the automated sales and marketing capabilities you need to run your business.

We’ve put together a list of the 10 best point-of-sale software systems you should consider. As you read through our list and especially as you engage with these providers, be sure you define and demand your must-have features. You hold the power as you work through your options.

Press these vendors to prove their platforms are capable of fulfilling your needs throughout your business’ unique sales process. The majority of them will be happy to walk you through various components in order to win your business. Make them earn it.

Our top picks for the best Point of Sale Systems:

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Top Rated

1. Stripe Payments

   
Best for SMBs

2. Square for Retail

   
Best Training

3. Toast POS

   
Best Features

4. Lightspeed POS

   

5. ShopKeep

   
Best Support

6. Shopify Point of Sale

   
Best Value

7. Square

   

8. Revel POS

   
Best for New Users

9. PayPal Here

   
Easiest to Use

10. Epos Now

   

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What The Blueprint looks for in a great POS system

There are three critical characteristics we look for when evaluating POS systems. What’s most important is that you take your time to build a list of must-have, nice-to-have, and must-avoid POS components.

Create a literal list and challenge the sales people you’re working with at each vendor to show you how they satisfy the needs on your list. Make sure your new system maps to the sales techniques you and your staff use.

Our three critical must-haves include:

1. Adequate feature set

You want to ensure your POS system provides the must-have features you need to optimally operate your business. More than anything, your new POS should be putting more time back in your day through increased efficiencies and reliability.

If you remove even one critical capability from your POS system’s feature set, that’s taking valuable time away from you and your staff by forcing you to compensate with manual methods or through another system.

If you’re just starting your business, an adequate feature set describes not just what you need immediately but also capabilities that you may want to graduate into as your business grows. For example, you may want to launch an online store after you get your brick and mortar business off the ground.

Keep in mind not only what you need immediately but also what features you may need down the road as you’re making your POS selection.

2. Ease of use

This is quite simple, but your POS system needs to be easy to operate. It’s fine if there’s a learning curve, but the system needs to make sense and provide easy enough tools for your entire staff to efficiently use and benefit from.

More friction added in your day-to-day processes will stress your employees and jeopardize their customer service skills.

To ensure this ease of use, take as many demos and walk-throughs as possible. Read up on the many user reviews to see what real-world peers think about the system. These two steps should help you paint an accurate picture of which systems meet your ease of use requirements and which fall short.

3. Adequate reporting

Reporting capabilities are the most important component of your POS system aside from the day-to-day operations support. Be sure your new POS at least provides integration with robust third-party reporting capabilities if not offered through built-in tools.

The insights you gain and trends you identify through adequate reporting help ensure you’re on the right path and empower you to reach sustained growth. There’s immense value in reporting, and it’s something that you need from the beginning.


How your business can benefit from using POS systems

Your POS system should provide all-around improvements to your business processes and efficiency. Here are three key benefits these improved processes and efficiencies provide.

1. Unlock new capabilities

Whether you’re currently using an inadequate POS or no POS at all, upgrading to a better solution should literally provide newfound capabilities. This could take many different forms.

One example is that most new POS systems provide at least basic if not comprehensive customer management tools to track purchases and administer loyalty programs. This is a nearly impossible manual task and is clunky at best with a third-party system tied to your payment processor.

2. Optimize decision-making

Increased reporting capabilities across sales, inventory, customers, and staff all serves to improve your decision-making. Use year-over-year or month-over-month trends to optimize purchase orders for restock inventory.

Identify your most successful staff members and ensure they’re scheduled during critical sales windows like holiday time for merchants and busy sporting events for bar and restaurant operators.

3. Give you back time

More than anything else, your new POS system should put time back in your day through increased efficiencies. This could be more time to open that second location, organize your inventory, build your online store, or spend with your family and friends.

It doesn’t matter what you do with the time, but what matters is that your investment does indeed free up time otherwise occupied dealing with some component of your previously inadequate system.


POS System Frequently Asked Questions

How are POS systems typically priced?

POS systems have multiple pricing structures. The most common systems on the market are cloud-based, SaaS systems. Pricing for these is a recurring monthly or annual payment for the software as well as one-time costs for any necessary hardware.

Some POS systems require that you purchase their hardware, while others only require you use hardware that meets their standards. Most POS systems also operate as your payment processor, meaning you’ll also be charged a per-transaction fee.

What type of hardware is required to run a POS?

Typical POS hardware includes a tablet or monitor with a tower or built-in operating system. This is what actually runs the software. Card readers are also critical for processing payments, just ensure it’s ACH payment compatible, provides PCI compliance, and offers chip-reading capabilities.

Retailers may want to add a cash drawer for collecting and organizing cash. Barcode scanners are also common for efficiently ringing up customers by scanning the tags on their items. Barcode scanners also help optimize inventory control and ordering.

Should I look for a specialized system?

You should most definitely look for a POS system that supports your initial needs and provides tools that you can grow into.

So yes, if your goal is opening a restaurant business but you’re starting out at a farmer’s market, you’re best off looking for a specialized restaurant system with a lite version you can start with and more robust features you can grow into.

The Motley Fool has a Disclosure Policy. The Author and/or The Motley Fool may have an interest in companies mentioned.