An iPad point-of-sale system, or iPad POS system, is an affordable, modern and mobile payment solution that’s growing in popularity.
Why? The point of sale is the center of your small business. Your customers remember a clunky checkout experience the same way you remember a slow website, a frustrating app, or a long wait on the phone.
Business owners embrace iPad POS systems because they’re inexpensive, simple to set up, and packed with time-saving features. Let’s see what separates an iPad POS system from the rest—and determine whether it’s right for your business.
The different types of POS systems
POS systems have advanced dramatically in the last 30 years—from large brass cash registers to smartphone payment solutions that fit in your pocket.
It’s called a POS “system” because there are two parts. There’s the POS hardware, or the equipment, and POS software, or the desktop-based and cloud-based tools you use to manage business operations. You’ll also need payment processing services to run transactions.
Below are the main types of POS systems that make it possible to accept payments. Your customers can pay with credit and debit cards, cash, checks, contactless payments and more, depending on the system.
IPad POS system
At the counter or on the go, iPad POS systems are easy for you, your employees and your customers to use. An iPad POS system is just one option if you want to enjoy the benefits of tablet POS systems. Many POS softwares work with Android tablets, too. Often, you can use some of the equipment you already have, like your credit card terminal, cash drawer, barcode scanner or receipt printer.
Terminal POS system
This is a catch-all term for any point-of-sale hardware, but it’s mainly used to refer to a traditional countertop setup that includes a cash register and standard attachments like a cash drawer and receipt printer.
Desktop POS system
Have a trusty desktop computer or laptop at your business? With desktop POS software, your computer becomes your cash register. Key in payments or attach the equipment you need.
Mobile POS system
How is a mobile POS different from an iPad POS? Here, “mobile” refers to taking payments with a smartphone, but iPad POS systems have many of the same benefits. You just need a credit card reader and a mobile app to start selling at a farmers market, pop-up restaurant, art festival or community event.
Now, we’ll cover the advantages and disadvantages of choosing an iPad point-of-sale system.
Pros & cons of an iPad POS system
IPad POS systems are especially popular with small businesses because of their low startup costs, enhanced customer experience, and user-friendliness. Wondering what else separates iPad POS systems from the pack? Here’s a snapshot:
On the hardware side, iPad POS systems save small businesses thousands of dollars, because traditional terminals—and necessary add-ons—can break the bank quickly. Also, software subscriptions for iPad POS systems are typically month-to-month, giving you the flexibility to change or grow operations on your timeline.
When it’s time to train employees, an iPad POS system really shines. One big pro is ease of use: Anyone who’s used a smartphone—and 81% of U.S. adults report owning a smartphone—can learn to use an iPad as a point-of-sale system, saving everyone time in the checkout line.
With a cloud-based system, you can manage your business anywhere you have Wi-Fi or a cellular data connection. Rest easy knowing important data is backed up online when you use an iPad POS system.
Customer data protection
The reality is that most small and medium-sized businesses aren’t equipped to protect customer payment details on their own. When you use an iPad POS system, the service provider stores customer data on their servers and handles customer data security themselves.
Helpful, data-driven tips
“Data-driven” might sound like a business buzzword, but there are big benefits. Real-time business insights give you something concrete to act on and help drive your small business’s profitability. Spot opportunities with easy-to-digest charts and graphs created automatically.
Light and portable
No more turning customers away because you can only accept cash at a food festival or holiday market. Grab your iPad POS, a credit card reader, and take your business to your customers. You also have the option to break away from the countertop in your retail store, auto shop or gym, and provide hands-on customer service.
Apple products aren’t exactly inexpensive, and iPads are no exception. Many payment processors offer discounted equipment bundles to make it easier to get started. You can always buy refurbished iPads, get older models, or try other tablet brands.
Online data breaches
With the rise of e-commerce transactions, fraud attacks and data breaches are an increasingly common reality. Choose an iPad POS vendor (and a payment processor) that guarantees a high level of encryption and requires PCI compliance. Data security for small businesses may seem intimidating, but this free guide on how to protect yourself from cyber crime should help.
Most iPad POS systems are cloud-based—that means if you have Wi-Fi or data issues, it could delay or stop checkout. Some systems do have an offline mode. Although you can’t process transactions until you’re connected again, the payment info is saved and ready for you when you’re back online.
Accidents are a cost of business, but iPads are especially vulnerable to falls and other damage. Fortunately, an iPad case and screen protector help everyone avoid cracked screens.
How to choose the right iPad POS system
First, get an idea of the features available in iPad POS systems using the list below. When you’re ready to compare options, contact your payment processor and discuss the most important factors: your small business’s needs and goals.
Check out the features
- Payment processing: Some software vendors require that you use their preferred processor (and accept their fees). Others let you choose your own. Make sure you can accept EMV chip cards and the other payment types you need.
- Inventory management: Add items, assign SKUs and UPCs, and make purchase orders. Test sales and discounts—some systems even send you low-stock alerts.
- Sales reporting and analytics: Track key performance indicators in real time, such as profit margin, top-spending customers, and sales by category, location and employee.
- Customer relationship management (CRM): Most iPad POS softwares let you save customer data. Some include valuable features like gift card options, customer loyalty programs and marketing tools.
- Customer support: Every company should offer technical support and setup guidance. Make sure you know their business hours and if there’s phone or other support.
- Integrations: Connect other business management tools—like payroll, employee scheduling and accounting software—for more mileage.
Consider your business needs
There are some very visible iPad POS companies, like Square and Vend, but there’s no such thing as “the best iPad POS system.” There’s only the one that’s the most tailored to your business. All-in-one systems sound appealing, but if it’s not what your small business needs to get the job done, focus on the following:
- Business size: Generally, the monthly fee for a point-of-sale software plan is based on the number of users, locations or “registers.”
- Industry type: Cafes and full-service restaurants, for example, need preset and customizable tipping options, while a plumbing business should consider electronic invoicing features. In fact, retail stores and quick-service restaurants use iPad POS systems so often, there are specialized retail POS and restaurant POS systems.
- Budget: Most iPad POS systems are cloud-based and charge a monthly fee. Make sure you get clear terms on payment processing fees by type of payment, any upfront charges and plan limits.
- Inventory size: For example, in a field-service business, technicians need a real-time count of parts in stock. These businesses also need an iPad POS system that makes it easy to add and update supplies in bulk.
- Hardware add-ons: Already have a receipt printer or barcode scanner? Check if they’re compatible with the POS you’re considering. If not, ask about deals when you bundle the equipment with your iPad POS software subscription.
When you talk to your payment processor about a POS solution, don’t forget to bring up your business goals. You could have a short-term goal of raising the average check size at your restaurant or a long-term goal of boosting profit margins on your beauty merchandise. These are the details that help your payment processor match you with the right iPad POS system.