You may have a touch-screen tablet at home you can use to read ebooks, check your email, play games and listen to music. Tablets have become popular devices since Apple released the original iPad in 2010. Today, around half of Americans own a tablet. You may have also seen some merchants using tablets as their POS system. While a tablet is a fun toy and a great piece of technology for personal use, when it comes to POS systems, it falls short. You’re far better off using a traditional POS system that includes a dedicated POS terminal. Note that these systems are only traditional in comparison to tablet options. Modern terminal POS systems use cutting-edge technology that far surpasses traditional cash registers, and they often have a sleek appearance similar to a tablet. We’re going to look at the pros and cons of each option so you can make an informed decision for your business.
Tablet vs Traditional POS SystemsLet’s start by explaining the basic differences between a traditional POS system and a tablet used as a POS system. A traditional terminal POS system includes the hardware and software needed to facilitate the point of sale. At the very least, this will include a POS terminal, but all-in-one systems can include everything from a barcode scanner to a credit card reader, receipt printer and more. There are two main types of terminal POS systems — on-site and cloud-based. Both kinds include terminals on-site, but the difference lies in how you access the software. On-site systems have the POS software installed on the local server, whereas cloud-based systems use the internet to access POS software stored remotely on the cloud. A cloud-based system has some significant advantages over an on-site terminal system. A tablet POS system is somewhat similar to a cloud-based terminal system since it also accesses POS software through an internet connection. The main difference comes in with the POS hardware. Whereas a traditional POS system, whether cloud-based or not, includes a dedicated POS terminal and accompanying hardware, a tablet POS system combines a general-purpose touch-screen tablet with software that allows it to function as a POS. This puts tablet POS systems in the category of online POS systems, meaning you need to find your own hardware, whether that’s a tablet, laptop or mobile device.
Pros and Cons of a Tablet POS SystemNow that we’ve covered the basic differences between terminal POS systems and tablet systems, let’s talk about the pros and cons of each option, starting with tablets. Why do some merchants choose to use tablets as part of an online POS system? Tablets do hold some appeal as an option for facilitating sales. Let’s take a look at the pros of using a tablet as your POS:
- Sleek appearance: One reason some merchants are attracted to tablet POS systems is that they have a sleek look that suggests to customers that their business is up on the latest technology. This may be especially important if you want to appeal to younger consumers. Tablets do have a modern appearance, but so do many modern terminal POS systems.
- User-friendliness: Another possible advantage of using a tablet as your POS is that many people are already familiar with the basic functions of some of the most popular tablets on the market. It’s helpful when your employees already know how to use the tablet, but they will still have to learn how to operate the app you use for facilitating sales.
- Mobility: One of the biggest possible advantages of a tablet POS system is that it is easy to move. That won’t matter much to brick-and-mortar establishments, but if you take your business on the go (I.e. Farmer’s Markets), then having a mobile POS is an important advantage. Keep in mind, however, that you may have other pieces of hardware you also need to carry around, such as a card reader.
- Low cost: Another reason some small business owners may be attracted to the tablet option is that it can be more affordable. If you already have a tablet, then you only need to pay for access to the POS software and any other elements you need, such as a card reader. If you don’t already have a tablet, keep in mind that tablets can be quite expensive, so this isn’t always the most affordable option.
- Fragility: One problem with tablets is that they’re not made to last. For one, tablet screens shatter easily if they’re dropped. You can purchase protective cases to help prevent this, but these cases tend to take away from the lightweight, sleek feel of the tablet. Even if you don’t break your tablet, its usable lifespan is typically only three or four years at best.
- Prone to theft: Another issue with tablets is that, because a tablet is a multi-purpose device, it’s far more tempting for thieves. Consider the difference in a POS tablet that is a permanent fixture on your checkout counter and a tablet sitting on your counter. It can be all too easy for a criminal to swipe the tablet when employees aren’t looking.
- Lack of customer support: When you purchase a software application to facilitate the point of sale, then you may have some customer support for the software itself. However, this support will not extend to your tablet device. So, if you have issues with the tablet itself, you’ll need to seek tech support elsewhere.
- Clumsy use: Another issue with using a tablet at your sales counter is that, since it’s a handheld device and not a freestanding terminal, it requires employees and customers to pass the tablet back and forth. The employee will need to input necessary sales information and then pass the tablet to the customer so they can swipe their card or sign. This makes for a clumsy sales interaction.
- Complicated integration: Perhaps one of the biggest disadvantages to using a tablet as your POS is that it won’t come with any of the other hardware you need to smoothly facilitate the sales process, such as a barcode scanner, scale, card reader or receipt printer. Not only do tablets require you to find these components elsewhere — you may have trouble finding hardware that is compatible with your tablet.
Pros and Cons of a Traditional POS SystemNow let’s talk about the pros and cons of opting for a traditional, terminal POS system. These pros and cons depend in part on which type of POS system you choose. We’re going to use the National Retail Solutions POS+ as our model and talk about pros and cons of a cloud-based all-in-one system as compared to a tablet system. Let’s start with the benefits you can enjoy with a traditional POS:
- Sleek appearance: We mentioned that a tablet POS has a stylish, modern appearance, but so do many modern POS systems. If you’re after that sleek, glossy screen and touch-screen functionality, you don’t have to go with a tablet to get it. Terminal POS systems can deliver that same modern look.
- User-friendliness: Another pro that some terminal POS systems share with tablets is that they can be very user-friendly. The software on the POS+ reflects the simplistic design you get with a tablet, complete with an easy-to-navigate menu screen of icons. Even employees who have never used a tablet or smartphone can quickly learn how to use a POS.
- Integrated hardware: Now let’s talk about some important advantages that traditional POS systems have that tablets lack altogether, like integrated hardware. All-in-one POS systems, in particular, streamline the process of setting up your sales counter and facilitating sales since all the hardware is made to communicate and work together seamlessly.
- Customer support: Another advantage you get when your POS company supplies you with your POS hardware and software is that you can depend on their company to offer support when you need it no matter what the issue is. If your company offers quality customer service, then you can count on their team to fix the problem so you can avoid downtime.
- Enhanced security: We mentioned how a tablet is prone to damage and theft. Both of these issues make tablets relatively insecure. POS terminals, on the other hand, are very secure. Terminals are less prone to theft, and employees must log in to use them. Customers have a screen facing them that displays information about their purchase, but they aren’t allowed any access to your touch-screen terminal.
- Upfront cost: As we mentioned earlier, if you already have a tablet, then running point of sale software on your tablet can be a low-cost option for you. However, the additional hardware you need to facilitate sales can add up and end up costing you just as much as a terminal POS system would. And if you need to buy a tablet in addition to all of the other hardware components, then your upfront cost could be even higher than if you were to purchase in an All-in-one POS Terminal.
- Lack of mobility: If your business attends street fairs, trade shows or other events where you need to facilitate sales in a temporary location, then you may need a mobile option. POS terminals are not made to be mobile. However, cloud-based systems allow you to access your software and data from any device. The ‘My NRS Store mobile app for example allows you to monitor your store from anywhere. You could also use the app to scan new products into your system.
Why It’s Better to Use a Traditional POS SystemConsidering the pros and cons of each type of system, it’s clear that a traditional POS system is the better choice for most retail store owners. A terminal POS system offers some of the same advantages as tablets plus several advantages of their own. They can also help you avoid some of the pitfalls of using a tablet. One of the most important distinctions between a tablet and a traditional POS system is in the way they integrate with other hardware. A tablet may seem like a great option for integrating modern technology without having to purchase a dedicated POS system. However, once you start setting up your sales counter, you’ll realize that you’re missing some important components. How will you scan in items? How will you accept credit card payments? How will you print receipts? The hardware needed for these other functions may need to come from other vendors. Then, you’ll have to figure out how to integrate these components with your tablet. In some cases, you won’t be able to integrate them at all. You may end up spending more money than you had planned to purchase all these components, and you’ll have an inefficient checkout process that doesn’t deliver the modern convenience you were looking for. Tablets are certainly neat tech toys, and they can be useful for a lot of things. As with many multi-purpose devices, though, they fit into the jack of all trades, master of none category. In other words, a tablet may be able to do a lot of things, but if you plan to use it to facilitate sales, it can not measure up to devices that are designed specifically for that purpose. Everything about a traditional POS system, especially an all-in-one system, is intended to make your sales process as smooth and efficient as possible and to help you manage your business effectively. The same cannot be said for a tablet since it’s made to run a variety of applications rather than just POS software. When you’re serious about sales, a modern terminal POS system is the superior choice.
Features and Benefits of POS+ from NRSIf you want your employees to be able to play their favorite games or check social media while at work, then a tablet is a great choice. If you want a device that is designed specifically for sales, then you need a traditional POS system. It’s as simple as that. Choosing a POS system can be an involved process, so we offer resources on our blog to help you find the perfect option for you. At National Retail Solutions (NRS), we’re confident that the best choice you can make for your business is to invest in the NRS POS+, a cloud-based, all-in-one POS system that integrates all the hardware and software you need to manage your sales and check out customers. Far from a toy, this piece of cutting-edge technology can revolutionize the way you do business. NRS knows what small businesses need in a POS, and POS+ offers all of these features and benefits. Here are just a few of the benefits you can enjoy with POS+:
- Integrated hardware, including the touch-screen terminal, cash drawer, barcode scanner, receipt printer and customer-facing screen
- Automatic software updates
- Ongoing customer support
- Low monthly cost
- Remote access with a mobile app
- Sales analytics reports
- Inventory tracking
- Automated customer rewards program