How To Set up a POS System: A Step-by-Step Guide

how to set up a pos system

Omar Founder of OJ Digital Solutions

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

You’ll need a point-of-sale (POS) system if you plan on opening a store.

But first, you’ll need to know how to set up a POS system.

I can help you with that.

My guide covers everything you need to know about POS systems. I’ll also provide the following information:

  • How to set up a point-of-sale system
  • How a POS system works
  • How to sync your POS system with other apps
  • And more

Let’s start.

What Is a Point-of-Sale (POS) System?

A POS system allows you to accept customer payments and track sales. Digital POS systems help you check out customers and process payments in person or over the web.

Setups can vary, depending on whether you have an online business or a physical store.

POS systems can:

  • Scan barcodes
  • Issue receipts
  • Process cash, card, or check payments

POS systems have two parts: 1) the hardware (device) and 2) the software (program).

The hardware is what customers see in stores. Modern POS systems are often sleek, easy-to-use touchscreen terminals.

The software powers the hardware and provides essential features, like tallying daily sales.

As a business owner, you want a POS system that’s easy to set up and operate.

How Does a POS System Work?

Here’s a graphic of how a basic POS system works.

how to set up a pos system

When a customer arrives at the register, the first step is to scan their items with a barcode scanner. The scanner reads the barcodes on each item and sends the information to the POS software.

Then, the POS software searches for each item’s price in its database and calculates the purchase’s total cost. Once the POS system calculates the total cost of the items, the customer can pay using cash, credit, or debit.

The final step is for the receipt printer to print out a receipt for the customer.

How To Set up a POS System

Setting up POS hardware is the easy part. It’s the software installation and configuration that’s complex.

Here’s how to smoothly install a new POS system from beginning to end.

Choose a POS System That Best Suits Your Business.

Find a POS provider who can meet your requirements. To determine your needs, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you want a complete system or only the software?
  • How would you describe your business?
  • What’s your industry?
  • What features are crucial?
  • Do you need a POS terminal?
  • How much is your budget?

I have personally tested, and recommend the Shopify POS.

However, if you want a more detailed guide on why, you can check this guide about the best POS systems for small businesses.

Types of POS Systems by Industry

Different industries use POS systems in different ways.

For example, a retail store’s POS system helps handle transactions and process sales. It often has features like a customer relationship management (CRM) system and an inventory management system.

On the other hand, table mapping, tipping, and menu management are must-have features for restaurant POS systems. Online ordering is another essential feature that allows people to pay online and schedule delivery.

Bars and clubs need POS systems that can keep up with fast demand. POS systems for these industries include speedy features like quick reordering and checkout.

Hotels’ POS systems must handle bookings, events, guest feedback, and surveys. Other service professionals and providers need POS systems to manage appointments, take online bookings, and bill customers.

POS solutions for small businesses come in many types, with cloud-based, mobile, and SaaS POS systems being the most common.

Cloud-Based vs. Server-Based System

Cloud-based POS systems are more portable and less expensive than server-based systems. You don’t need to set up, secure, and manage a local server to access your data.

Small businesses without reliable internet access should consider a server-based system. These POS systems don’t store data in the cloud.

You don’t need an internet connection to run your server-based POS system. However, you’re still responsible for handling security and backups, which may increase IT and maintenance costs.

Apple vs. Android Devices

Some mobile POS systems work with iOS and Android, while others only with iOS. The main advantage of iPad-based systems is that they are easy to use, stable, and safe. The only problem is that they often cost significantly more than other POS systems.

You might pay less for Android devices, and you can customize them more to your liking. However, there are fewer POS systems for Android than for iOS.

Rent vs. Buy

Rental and purchase options each have their benefits and drawbacks.

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Renting may be your best option if you run a small business on a limited budget. Meanwhile, buying a point-of-sale system might be better if you plan to use it for a long time.

Decide Who Will Set Up Your POS System.

You must choose between installing their POS systems themselves or hiring professionals.

You can’t set up a complex POS system by yourself. These systems’ prices include installation costs. On the other hand, most iPad POS systems are easy to set up on your own.

Do It Yourself (DIY)

If you run a simple retail store, you can set up your POS system in just a few clicks. The DIY route is best for retailers or retail stores with only one location and quick and easy workflows.

Store owners often start by downloading and installing their retail POS software, then entering their business information.

You can find many video tutorials, guides, and manuals from your POS provider to make the process even easier. If your provider offers free tech support, ask them to walk you through setting up your new POS system.

The problem with doing it yourself is that it’s tricky.

Setting up the system may take longer than you anticipate. There’s also the possibility that you set it up incorrectly.

Professional Installation

Hiring a professional installer may be worth it if you have a complex POS system. A professional can perform a proper installation and train you to use your POS system.

For businesses with a wide range of products, setting up a database to track inventory data is part of the professional installation process.

Professional POS installation often requires scheduling, so you may be unable to use your POS system immediately.

Whether you choose the DIY or professional route, POS installation only requires two things:

1) Software configuration

2) Hardware setup

How to Configure the POS Software

The first step in setting up your POS system is configuring your software—you’ll need to log in and set up your account.

You’ll need to enter your business information, such as your store name, location, store websites, and more.

If you’re using POS software that you can install yourself, you’ll need to add this information to the management dashboard of the POS system.

Most POS software will have prompts or walk-throughs to help you set it up. Get the information you need, then follow the instructions.

If the installation is part of your POS system, give your vendor all the information necessary to set up the software. Most POS vendors will provide you with forms to fill out the information in their preferred format.

How To Set up the POS Hardware

Depending on your business, you may need to set up your software to work on different hardware.

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Here’s a list of hardware to help you start as you evaluate your POS setup options.

  • Cash registers – A cash register processes transactions.
  • Cash drawers – POS software connected to a cash drawer (or multiple cash drawers) helps reduce fraud by tracking cash-drawer opens.
  • Credit card readers – A credit card reader helps customers pay by credit card in-store, whether via Apple Pay or a chip card.
  • Barcode scanners – Barcode scanners read product details to ring up items.
  • Receipt printers – Receipt printers are devices that print receipts and credit card slips that show customer purchases, the date of purchase, and the total cost.
  • Routers – A router allows your POS system to connect to the internet.

Self-installable systems connect to hardware through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or USB. POS hardware components with ethernet cabling are ideal for more complex systems.

POS systems with more connections have more robust offline functionalities.

How to Connect POS Systems to the Internet

Connecting to Wi-Fi can vary depending on the POS machine you use.

However, you’ll often only need to find the Wi-Fi settings on your POS system, choose your network from a list of networks, and enter the password once the system prompts you.

How to Use a POS System

Need help with how to operate the POS system? Did you miss the tutorial your POS provider gave?

Here’s a short list of steps to help you out.

Set Up Your Inventory Management System.

Inventory management is one of the most valuable elements of a POS system, and most systems have it in some form. You’ll likely need a more complex system with a more sizable business.

Some businesses may also use third-party integrations to connect their inventory management software to the POS. Regardless, a POS system can simplify inventory tracking.

Upload and Organize Your Products.

One underrated feature of a POS system is its ability to serve as a product catalog. A catalog can be helpful for businesses with plenty of product variety.

You may need to upload an Excel file of your product list or integrate third-party software.

Creating a listing for each item is simple. You can enter basic information like name, price, quantity, supplier, etc.

Many POS systems also allow you to upload a photo of each product.

Ensure you review the products you upload or import.

Sync Your Product List with the POS App.

Most POS systems can sync to your ecommerce site to highlight your in-store and online products.

Several POS systems can also delist, edit, or delete items, which can help when a product is no longer available in-store or online. Some systems can send low-stock alerts, allowing you to replenish your supply and maximize sales.

Import Existing Customer Data.

You’ll need to import your customer data next.

If you have a customer database, import it into your POS system. Many systems can import Excel or CSV files.

Update customer profiles, including email, phone, address, age, occupation, and buy history. Adding these details will help you learn more about customer behavior. Doing so will also enable you to send coupons and promotions to specific customer groups.

Set Up Your Payments.

Most modern POS systems can take cash, all major credit cards, and new payment types, like cryptocurrency, contactless payments, and web payments.

Go to your POS interface and find the “payment methods” option (or something similar) to set up your payment methods,

You can add, remove, or change different payment methods. Check your POS software manual for more information on the payment methods your POS can accept.

Create User Accounts and Assign Permissions.

You can set up accounts for different users, such as admins, managers, and cashiers, allowing you to customize the system according to each person’s role.

You can also set user permission levels.

For example, you could give administrators complete control over the software and allow cashiers only limited access.

You can set it up so that cashiers can only access the sell screen. Doing so helps prevent mistakes and unauthorized use of the system.

Many systems also have time-tracking features you can use for payroll purposes. Such a system can be valuable for businesses with hourly employees.

Sync Your POS with Other Apps.

For any retail business, a POS system is a valuable asset that can be even better when it works with other programs. Your POS solution and your other apps can share information and seamlessly work if they can “talk” to each other.

If you use an app to track your inventory, linking it with your POS can help maintain accurate stock levels. Integrating a loyalty program into the POS can also assist in monitoring customer spending.

Determine the best apps to integrate with your system by talking to an expert on POS systems. Integration takes time and effort initially, but it’s worth it because it streamlines your business.

Depending on your POS software, you may be able to integrate it with your:

  • Ecommerce site
  • Accounting and sales software
  • Marketing tools
  • Loyalty programs
  • Employee management app
  • CRM software

The Bottom Line

Hopefully, my guide has made you realize that setting up a POS system is far from rocket science.

Once your business is ready, just follow the steps and guidelines I outlined in this article.

On the other hand, if your business isn’t ready, you may need tips on how to start a profitable business.

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