In the world of retail and small businesses, staying efficient and organized is paramount to success.
A point of sale (POS) system is a crucial tool that empowers small businesses to streamline their operations, enhance customer experiences and manage transactions seamlessly. While there are plenty of options in the market, a few stand out from the pack because of their features and price-to-performance ratios.
Namely, Square POS is arguably the best in general for small businesses because of its affordability, whereas Shopify POS is better suited for omnichannel enterprises. In addition, Clover is a viable pick for mobile businesses because of its hardware. Last but not least, Toast sets itself apart with its pay-as-you-go payment method, though it’s primarily targeted at restaurants.
Best POS System for Small Business Comparison Chart
What is a POS?
A POS system refers to a software and hardware combination used by businesses to complete sales transactions and process payments at the point of purchase. It serves as the central hub where customers make payments for products or services, and businesses record and track these transactions.
Best affordable POS and best overall.
For small businesses, Square POS is most likely your best bet not only because of its relatively affordable pricing but also for its user-friendly platform and variety of tools.
First off, it’s free (i.e., no monthly fees), and the only cost you’ll have to worry about is processing fees—2.6 percent + $0.10 for in-person transactions, 2.9 percent + $0.30 for online and 3.5 percent + $0.15 for manual card entries. On top of that, the company throws in a free Square Reader for magstripe, which normally costs $10 per piece.
Also, it’s flexible in that there are multiple POS systems available: Square for Retail, Square for Restaurants and Square Appointments. Their names already give away their functionalities, but it’s worth clearing up that all of them have free subscriptions as well with the option to upgrade for additional features. Moreover, there’s a 30-day free trial for the premium plans, allowing you to take them out for a spin before committing to anything.
In the same vein, there are numerous readers in store to cater to the unique needs of a business, including the aforementioned Square Reader for magstripe, Square Register, Square Stand, Square Terminal and Square Reader for contactless and chip.
Best for omnichannel businesses.
If your business uses online and physical stores, Shopify POS has got all your needs covered. For one thing, it collates sales data from both channels into a single report. That way you get a clear picture of how your business is doing. What’s more, it has plenty of management tools for inventory, staff and customer relations, providing a detailed overview of everything.
Sure, it’s mainly known for its ecommerce platform, along with the many integrations and tools for selling via social media and such. However, it’s not lagging behind in the hardware department either, from barcode scanners to retail kits and card readers. Plus, any mobile device can be converted into a POS terminal, making its services easily accessible.
That said, it’s a bit on the pricey side. To use its POS system, you need to subscribe to one of its ecommerce plans first, the prices of which range from $19 to $299 per month when paying on an annual basis. Regardless of which you pick, you’ll get POS Lite, which is free, but to no one’s surprise, it only comes with basic features. Upgrading to POS Pro for additional capabilities will cost $89 a month or $79 a month if you commit to yearly payments.
Aside from those, there are the processing fees to take into account. Depending on the plan, it’s 2.4 percent to 2.7 percent for in-person transactions and 2.4 percent to 2.9 percent + $0.30 for online payments. It goes without saying that the best rates are available only to subscribers of the top-tier plan, which isn’t cheap.
Best for integrations and mobility.
What makes Clover distinct from the rest are its numerous integrations and mobile-friendly hardware. For starters, there’s a slew of apps available in the Clover App Market across various categories, including Accounting & Tax, Cash Management, Financial Services, Invoicing & Services, Items & Inventory, Marketing and Membership. In short, there’s an app to help you manage each and every facet involved in managing a business, all of which are designed to work seamlessly with the company’s devices.
Speaking of hardware, just about any Clover device supports LTE or Wi-Fi. That might not seem like a big deal for traditional brick-and-mortar stores, but for their mobile counterparts, on-the-go connectivity is pretty much a godsend. After all, this allows businesses that move from one location to another to keep a reliable POS system at hand anywhere they go.
As for cost, it’s not as clear-cut compared to other providers of its kind. For instance, the pricing is different for retailers and for restaurants. Then there’s the option to go for a subscription that includes both software and hardware in one package.
Best for restaurants.
As its name may suggest, Toast is geared toward restaurants. Owing to its free Quick Start Bundle, it’s perfect for small businesses in the industry. Right off the bat, this already includes a cloud-based POS, one terminal and dozens of features such as order and table management, invoicing and digital menus.
What’s more, its pay-as-you-go option for its hardware makes it super accessible for those that are just starting out. For instance, its Countertop Kit costs $875 upfront + $69 per month with a processing fee of 2.49 percent + $0.15; alternatively, it’s available for $0, and you can do away with its monthly fee with the difference being a processing fee of 2.99% + $0.15 for each in-person transaction.
Aside from the free POS plan, there are also the Core and Growth subscriptions that cost $69 and $165 a month, respectively. You can choose to get a personalized plan with a custom quote as well. The point is, Toast’s POS system is capable of growing alongside your business as it becomes bigger and bigger to cater to your needs.
What are the advantages of using a POS for small businesses?
Improved Efficiency: By automating various tasks like inventory management and sales tracking, small businesses can streamline operations and save time.
Enhanced Customer Experience: Faster and more accurate transactions lead to better customer experiences, encouraging repeat business and positive reviews.
Data-Driven Decisions: Access to comprehensive sales reports and analytics empowers small business owners to make data-driven decisions, aiding growth and profitability.
Reduced Errors: Manual data entry often leads to errors, which can be minimized through the use of a POS system, resulting in better accounting and inventory accuracy.
In summary, Square POS is probably the most cost-effective solution for most small businesses. After all, it has a free plan that’s packed with features that are enough for most users, meaning that plenty of folks probably won’t have to upgrade to a paid tier. Not to mention that its processing fees are competitive. Meanwhile, Shopify POS is the perfect system for omnichannel businesses, thanks to its robust ecommerce platform.
On the other hand, Clover’s specialized hardware makes it excellent for businesses on-the-go, as most of its devices can use LTE or Wi-Fi. Lastly, Toast offers small restaurants a flexible payment plan with little or no risk and plenty of room to grow.