POS systems have evolved to meet consumer demands and preferences for service whenever and wherever they need it. But which of the many types of POS systems should you select for your business? To answer that, familiarize yourself with the benefits of each form factor, and then look at what’s required to support your business activities and seamless experiences for your customers.
The latest form factors span a wide range. They include All-in-One (AIO) systems at a traditional store counter; the tablet POS your server uses to take your order and bill you in a restaurant; and the self-service kiosk POS you use to complete transactions without help from an associate. These types of POS systems manage transactions in many environments, from online point of sale to brick and mortar to the melding of the two. The key to avoiding chaos is a uniform operating system that runs on every type of POS.
All form factors share the basics of a terminal POS system. A POS terminal is an electronic device that combines hardware and software to accept payments in all forms—cash, credit, debit, and mobile wallet—and process them. POS terminals may also offer options for printed, digital, or no receipt.
Also consider where the system will run—whether it’s on-premises POS or cloud POS. On-premises POS tends to use customized, legacy systems with an internal network and local server. With the shift to eCommerce, however, the popularity of cloud POS systems has increased. Cloud-based POS lets you access the platform anywhere with an internet connection, adding the advantages of remote access, scalability, and easy updates. Either way, the POS software collects data that will let your business track inventory, update stock levels, send promotional communications, and run loyalty programs.
The latest POS form factors let customers complete transactions the way they want, with or without employee interaction.
Desktop POS systems typically run on a PC and connect to peripherals like barcode scanners, credit card readers, receipt printers, and cash drawers to let businesses handle every transaction task. By integrating with other apps, your POS system can also provide valuable insights on critical business activities, such as marketing and accounting.
The lifespan of a desktop POS typically runs seven to 10 years before the technology needs a refresh. An update in form factor often coincides with one in software as well. Although mobile POS is not expected to replace desktop, it remains a complementary form factor that’s particularly popular in various industries, including retail, banking, and hospitality.
In mobile POS (mPOS) systems, a mobile device, such as a tablet, acts as the POS terminal. Tablet POS systems are particularly popular due to the low upfront investment required. But it’s also possible to use a thin client with a scanner and card reader that only runs the POS software at the endpoint. The transaction itself is processed on an in-store server or desktop.
Like POS terminals at a retail counter, front desk, or other point of sale, mPOS systems connect to multiple hardware peripherals. The major advantage is obvious: they’re portable. That makes them popular in such places as retail environments, freeing sales associates to walk the floor, meet customers, advise them, and take payments anywhere. And in restaurants, servers can use mPOS systems to take orders, send them digitally to the kitchen, and quickly share an accurate bill with diners.
All-in-One (AIO) POS
All-in-One (AIO) POS systems incorporate PCs with touchscreen monitors. They provide multiple capabilities and meet high standards for function and appearance. These systems include POS terminals designed to integrate easily with peripherals like scanners, scales, card readers, and receipt printers. They allow vendors to implement various software solutions and run multiple POS locations from a single system.
Self-checkout POS and self-service capabilities have become increasingly popular, with systems seen often in grocery or warehouse stores, quick-service restaurants, banks, and hotels. As self-checkout systems proliferate, they’ll likely include technologies like cameras powered by artificial intelligence to confirm that the products being scanned match those that show up in the virtual basket. Computer vision helps ensure accuracy and reduces theft, fraud, and inventory loss.
Self-service kiosk POS systems are a subset of self-checkout and serve specific business needs. For example, a movie theater may set up a kiosk to sell tickets or a city may use kiosks to offer transit or parking passes. Department store kiosks let customers explore product inventory and pricing. These require the same hardware and software as other POS systems but must also be robust to withstand customer interaction without staff present.
Evolving POS Solutions
As POS systems mature, they will change dramatically to fit business needs and customer demands. The solution may not be physical—the POS systems in Amazon Go* stores use cameras, sensors, and artificial intelligence to offer buyers the unprecedented convenience of no physical checkout. The experience flows smoothly from downloading the Amazon Go app to entering the store, taking a product, and leaving.