5 Must-Have Retail POS Software Features to Streamline Your Small Business

Retail store owners operate on tight margins and manage many moving parts. This becomes especially difficult to manage efficiently when using manual methods. A point-of-sale system (POS) is a great tool to manage all these moving parts while helping to ensure customer satisfaction—but finding the right POS for a small to midsize business (SMB) is no easy feat.

You’re not alone in feeling this way.

Of the thousands of small merchants we talk to each year, 50 percent of single-store retailers still don’t have a POS system in place. That’s compared to only 36 percent of retailers with two or more locations.

percentage of single store retailers that don't have a POS

“POS can help businesses in a variety of ways, including managing inventory, providing customer management data, identifying opportunities and weaknesses in the store and much, much more.”

Nicole Reyhle, founder of retail publication Retail Minded and author of “Retail 101″

To help, Software Advice identified five must-have POS features to look for in a system. These features can streamline the management of your store and lead to more positive customer experiences.

We’ll also share advice from retail store owners who are using POS software successfully and highlight some of our own data on POS systems and retailers.

Sales Reporting and Analytics: Transparency Into Data

Sales reporting and analytics functionality allows you to capture and analyze your store’s sales data. Not only does this automatically keep track of what’s selling well, it also shows how much revenue you’re making on each product. This allows you to identify and focus on driving sales to your top money-making items.

Among the single-store POS buyers who contacted Software Advice for help, 49 percent request sales reporting and analytics capabilities.

sales reporting data analytics for retailers

Steve Lankler is the senior vice president of marketing at Direct Capital, a small-business financier of POS systems and other business tools. He believes the data points that sales reporting and analytics can capture allows owners to manage their shops more effectively.

This is the case for recent POS adopter Erica Rios, owner of Texas-based boutique The Crowned Bird. She says her store is operating much more effectively since adopting a POS system with sales reporting and analytics.

“With one click of a button, I can see what our sales were for that day, what our returns were and how we’re doing on inventory. The old way, without having [a POS], I’d have to look through all the data on the books and add it up manually.”

Erica Rios, The Crowned Bird

It’s this transparency and insight into your revenue drivers—which simply counting handwritten tickets can’t offer—that makes sales reporting and analytics a must-have for retailers.

Example: Sales Reporting and Analytics in Action

Lightspeed allows you to filter sales totals, and is accessible from mobile devices so you can view your store’s performance from anywhere

Customer Management: Attract Valuable Customers

Customer management capabilities enable retailers to proactively increase the quantity of high-quality customers. These applications collect data on your customers’ purchase histories, allowing you to identify your most valuable shoppers based on their spend. This offers an additional layer of transparency that retailers without POS systems simply can’t obtain.

Identifying regular shoppers is vitally important, which is why 37 percent of POS buyers that contacted Software Advice are requesting customer management capabilities.

“There’s much greater intelligence around buyer behavior with these [POS] payment systems,” Lankler explains. “It’s allowing merchants to get more control around buyer data. You start to layer on this new opportunity to understand who your customers are and build loyalty programs around them.”

It’s the ability to put a face to this buyer data and build customer profiles that Lankler sees as beneficial. These profiles allow you to easily store and manage customer purchase histories, contact information and even loyalty points.

This is exactly how recent POS adopter Amber Hayes, owner of Louisiana-based clothing store Kennedy’s Chic Closet, is planning to utilize her new software’s customer management capabilities.

“I’m planning on starting a loyalty program where if customers spend a certain amount of money, they get rewarded with discounts,” says Hayes.

As Lankler and Hayes describe, the insights provided through customer management can help you pinpoint your most loyal customers. You can then target these valuable customers with rewards, promotions and discounts to keep them coming back.

Example: Customer Management in Action

Revel offers customer profiles, purchase history and points tracking, which offer key insights into your customer purchasing habits

Inventory Management: Eliminate Manual Inventory

Managing the quantity of on-site inventory plays a vital role in the success of your store. Inventory management capabilities give you an on-demand window into your stock. This enables you to eliminate inefficiencies, such as manually counting inventory and digging through “the back” for a specific item.

Our buyer data shows inventory management is a must-have for retailers, as 82 percent of POS buyers we consulted request it.

POS buyers request graphic

“Being able to know what my inventory is [is] huge,” says Deborah Cafiero, owner of Indiana-based boutique clothing store Judee’s. “I needed a system that separated items by size and season and color. I looked for something that was more attuned to apparel so that I could know at any given time what I had for each season, because you have to remove the things that are out of season.”

Being able to identify and track items at specific levels such as size, season and color enables you to identify trends at your store and ensure that popular, in-season products are well stocked. This makes it easy to monitor and resupply your top-selling items, as well as to mark down low-selling products to phase them out.

Example: Inventory Management in Action

Vend allows you to view detailed information for each item in stock, including price, quantity and supplier codes

Point of Sale: The Workhorse of the POS System

This last entry may seem obvious, but the software and hardware supporting the checkout process definitely warrants mentioning. Since checkout serves as the primary interaction between you and your customers, it’s critical that nothing goes wrong at this stage. A POS system reduces the potential for human error by automating such checkout tasks as item look-up and price calculation.

“With one click of a button, I can see what our sales were for that day, what our returns were and how we’re doing on inventory. The old way, without having [a POS], I’d have to look through all the data on the books and add it up manually.”

Erica Rios, The Crowned Bird

Key capabilities you’ll want at checkout include barcode scanning and receipt printing. These are the top-requested add-ons from POS buyers we advised, with 12 and 10 percent requesting them, respectively. Some systems come with the necessary hardware, while others require you to purchase it separately.

The speed with which retailers complete transactions needs to be taken into consideration.

Rios’ POS system has accelerated her checkout process and minimized mistakes by automating product identification and price calculation.

Example: Point-of-Sale Functionality in Action

Cashier Live offers functionality to simplify your transaction process, including barcode scanning, inventory look-up, credit card processing and receipt printing

e-Commerce: Online Stores Are a Must for Today’s Retailer

As part of an August 22, 2017 update, we’ve removed employee management and put in its place e-commerce.

Given the rapid growth of digital commerce, retailers need to build their online presence from day one. An easy way to start out with this is by ensuring your new POS system offers (or at least easily integrates with commerce website capabilities.)

Unfortunately, only 12 percent of retailers reaching out to Software Advice are specifically requesting e-commerce capabilities as a part of their new POS system. The good news is, according to Laith Murad, CMO at Lightspeed, that e-commerce sites and physical retail stores work best when paired with each other.

“We know from Google that 1.5 billion people every month visit a physical location that they searched for online, with three out of four visiting within 24 hours.”

We’ve put together a helpful article that highlights what brick and mortar retailers need to know for growing business with an online presence. A key point of the article is to redesign the customer experience to account for a greater online presence and point of purchase.

Purchase Process for Online Stores

Purchase process steps for online stores

e-Commerce has become a ubiquitous part of the shopping journey, meaning that having an online store is no longer a “nice-to-have” for retailers. It’s a must-have to stay competitive and achieve business success.

What’s the Next Step?

We know selecting a POS system can be an overwhelming process. That’s why our team of software advisors provide free phone consultations at (844) 687-6771 to help you build a shortlist of POS systems that are a good fit for your business. Let them help you choose a system with these five must-have tools to simplify and streamline your store operations—and help your business grow.

Other options for getting a POS system and gaining an edge include:

  • Explore user reviews for retail and e-commerce software. Your peers have left you a great resource, so take advantage of their experiences and thoughts on specific retail software.

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