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6 Types of POS Systems (& When to Use Them)

Point-of-sale (POS) systems are what business owners use to initiate and process their sales transactions. These can range from what cashiers use to check you out in a store to how you purchase things online to how you self-serve yourself at a fast food restaurant or grocery store.

When assessing what type of POS system a business needs, there are a bunch of factors to look at:

  • How many transactions do you process?
  • Where do customers buy your product?
  • How do customers buy your product?
  • Are there multiple locations and ways to do so?

If you currently have a robust POS system, you know how important the answers to these questions—and dozens more—are to making sure sales of your product run as smoothly and efficiently as possible for customers and employees. However, if you’re thinking of venturing into a new way for customers to buy your product, or if you’re trying to settle on what POS system is best for your business, you need to know the differences between various types of POS systems.

Let’s talk about six general categories for POS systems and when a business may use them.

6 Types of POS Systems

Here are six different types of POS systems along with scenarios you’d use them.

1. Traditional POS System

A traditional POS system is one you may think of at a grocery or department store. It includes hardware such as a barcode scanner, cash register, credit card reader, and receipt printer, and it has software that processes payments and manages inventory.

When a customer purchases an item, an associate scans the barcode of the product, and the item and its price appear on a screen. Sometimes the associate manually enters what the product is or how much of it is being bough. The cashier then enters the payment method, such as cash, credit card, or check, and the software calculates the total amount due, including taxes, discounts, and any other fees. The customer can then pay the amount due, and the system prints a receipt for the customer.

Traditional POS systems can also keep track of customer information like email addresses, phone numbers, and past orders.

When to use a traditional POS system: These systems are most often used in retail settings, grocery stores, and various small businesses. They’re great if you take multiple forms of payment—like credit card and cash—and maintain inventory. They are designed to process lots of orders across multiple pieces of hardware.

2. Mobile/Tablet-based POS System

Mobile- and tablet-based POS systems are like traditional POS systems. Both process payments, keep stock of inventory, and manage customer information. However, POS systems on a mobile device or tablet are far more flexible and portable than a traditional system.

POS systems on these devices also are typically more user friendly than a traditional system. They allow associates to add and remove products and change prices in real time, and the operating systems on mobile and tablet devices often integrate with other software, like customer relationship management platforms (CRMs) and accounting services.

Most importantly, these types of POS systems are great for location flexibility. They often can run on wireless internet or cell service, and they allow the business to meet the customer where they are—whether that’s in a storefront or out in the field.

When to use a mobile/tablet-based POS system: They are ideal for small businesses or retailers who need to move around frequently or want to offer a more modern and user-friendly experience to their customers. They also might be great if you have parts of your business that transact out in the field at places like customers’ homes, trade shows, farmers markets, and more.

3. Online POS System

Online POS systems take a face-to-face point of sale online. E-commerce—business that happens online—topped $1 trillion in the United States for the first time in 2022, and that number is only going to increase.

Over two billion people shop online. Good online POS systems are user-friendly and help process payments quickly and easily for customers.

On the customer end, online POS systems have steps for customers to enter their account information, delivery details, and credit card information. On the business end, online POS systems organize this information for the company to efficiently process orders. They’ll often integrate with their CRMs to send updates to the customer about delivery times and future deals.

When to use an online POS system: This sounds obvious, but online POS systems are best for online-based transactions on websites and social media. This can range from retail stores who offer all of their products online to restaurants taking to-go and delivery orders on their website.

4. Cloud-based POS System

A cloud-based POS system takes all of its sales and stores them on a cloud-based platform, allowing for more storage and security compared to a traditional system. These systems can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection because all the information—from sales to pricing to other necessary data—are stored with a cloud service. They’re offered in conjunction with online and tablet-based POS systems that offer a primary storage spot or backup to the data stored on hardware like servers or hard drives.

When to use a cloud-based POS system: Businesses that need to be able to access data from anywhere and are processing large numbers of sales could benefit from a cloud-based POS system. The more data that needs to be stored, the more hardware and space a company will need to have to hold the data. Cloud-based systems can help save on hardware costs. They can also help companies with the security of sensitive customer information.

5. Self-Serve Kiosks

Self-serve kiosks take the associate journey of a traditional POS system and place it in the hands of a customer. They must be user-friendly enough for a person who doesn’t have experience with processing a transaction to do this process themselves.

Self-checkout at a grocery store is one of the more common and comprehensive examples. The customer scans their own items (or selects what type of item they have, like fruit or vegetables), picks their type of payment, and processes the order themselves. They system tabulates all the pricing, but the customer directs their own journey. There are typically associates nearby these self-service kiosks waiting to help troubleshoot problems that may naturally come from a customer not having experience with that type of system.

Some other self-serve kiosk scenarios include:

  • Setting up your own medical appointment online
  • Buying your own movie ticket at a theater
  • Renewing your car registration
  • Printing out your luggage tags at the airport

When to use a self-serve kiosk system: These systems are useful for businesses that aim to decrease wait times in certain scenarios and have customers who prefer self-directed shopping experiences.

Hybrid POS Systems

As we alluded to earlier with online- and cloud-based platforms, sometimes POS systems are a hybrid of a physical platform to process sales and a cloud platform to store data. Others may have a traditional POS system in the store and another mobile-based system for when sales happen outside of the store. Another company may use an online POS system for e-commerce and a traditional one for in stores. All of these scenarios see a hybrid of multiple types of POS systems, all ideally brought under one roof for the company to manage.

When to use a hybrid POS system: If a company has multiple ways to process sales—and has a lot of sales to process and store—they should look into a hybrid POS system.

We Can Help Manage Your POS Systems

We know picking a type of POS system is hard. Managing and maintaining them can cause even more headaches. Our team at Evergreen is skilled at helping manage the processes around POS systems from beginning to end, starting with helping make sure your business chooses the right process for identifying and solving problems when they arise.

Click here to learn more about our capabilities!