You need a point of sale system and you need it now.
Perhaps you're operating a new business with a limited budget, or maybe you're an established business that has decided to upgrade. Googling "free point of sale software" places you in a sea of software solutions, and while "free" seems like a great deal in the moment, "free" comes with plenty of pros and cons.
For some business owners and managers, choosing free point of sale software might be the biggest mistake they could make for their business. Of course, it might be a good short-term fix, but there are many long-term variables to consider.
POS Nation offers an all-in-one POS system to grow your business. We work with a variety of retailers ranging from independent owner-operators to multi-chain locations. If you’re curious about what POS system you need, we’ve created a handy quiz to help you along.
We’re going to cover the unique pros and cons of free point of sale software so you can know which option is best for you and your business.
Pros and Cons: Free Point of Sale Software
With so many POS systems on the market today, picking the right one for your business can be overwhelming. When you narrow that list down to just the free options, you’re still stuck with multiple choices to choose from.
Point of sale (POS) systems allow a business to complete a transaction with a customer in real-time. At the point of sale, the company will calculate the amount owed and prepare a receipt or invoice indicating the total amount owed.
There are some critical trade-offs with free POS systems. Sometimes you get the software for free and have to pay for the equipment. Sometimes you get the equipment for free and have to pay to use the brand's software. Then there are some companies where you do get both for free.
The best free point of sale software companies will let you manage inventory, process payments, run sales reports, and plenty more without a monthly fee.
Pro: Doesn't Cost Any Money
One of the biggest pros with free POS software is that it’s free — which is especially important for retail organizations and other businesses that are just getting off the ground. Launching a new business can be costly. If you don't have a ton of money, it can make sense to invest in solutions that don't cost anything.
Pro: Easy to Set Up and Manage
Another pro to using free point of sale software is that it doesn't require a ton of know-how. Free POS generally runs on devices like computers, tablets, and cellphones — something you already know how to use. This familiarity makes the software and apps simple and easy to set up and manage.
Pro: Gets the Job Done
Free POS software gets the job done with basic features and functions. In most cases, these features are enough to get you started, but they will typically require updates or add-ons over time. If you’re a relatively new or smaller business, limited free software might meet your needs without the paid add-ons — so this could be a good option.
Con: Zero Customer Service
You may think getting a POS software system set up and running all on your own will be an easy task.
For some, it might be. For others, you’ll need assistance getting set up and the occasional assistance that comes after the setup process. Free POS plans don’t usually come with customer support, so you won’t be making any phone calls if you need help. Some companies don’t even allow customers to send an email or help ticket. Basically, with free POS software, you’ll be on your own. If you have a problem and can't find an answer to it, you won't have the ability to solve it.
And how horrible would it be to have your POS system shut down in the middle of a new product launch? Or worse, during a rush within prime shopping hours — resulting in lost sales, unhappy customers, and repair costs — forcing you to upgrade your POS software package. Think about these questions before deciding if free POS is the way to go for you:
- Are you comfortable doing your own tech work?
- Are you good at troubleshooting equipment?
- Can your business handle downtime in the event there is a problem with the POS?
- Does the fact that a POS is free and saving me money outweigh the risk I’m taking regarding my customer service?
If you answer yes, then maybe giving the free option a try is worth it for you. If you answered no, a free POS isn’t going to be a viable option.
Con: Limited Features
Most POS systems have restrictions on accounts in terms of the number of monthly sales they allow, the amount of inventory they will enable you to carry, the number of users, and so on.
Most, but not all, free POS systems offer entry-level plans, and you’ll be required to upgrade to a paid plan to unlock more features and remove restrictions. Another restriction is that you could be limited to the POS provider's in-house payment processing, which could cost you more than you realize with mandatory fees and long-term contracts.
These days, third-party integrations are essential to everyday business. For example, third-party solutions for inventory management, accounting, eCommerce, shipping, CRM, and email marketing are all used frequently by small business owners.
Unfortunately, for many businesses, the free POS model isn’t sustainable long-term. Ask yourself these questions before deciding to put your eggs into the free POS system basket.
- Can I get away with only using one register?
- Do I make less than $5,000 a month?
- Do I hold less than 50 items in inventory?
- Do I have less than 1,000 transactions a month?
- Do I have a limited menu or fewer than 1,000 products?
- Am I going to be the only person running the business?
- Do I need to integrate with third-party software like Quickbooks, Woocommerce, MailChimp, or Shopify?
If you answered no to any of those questions, a free POS system might not benefit you.
Our POS software is custom-tailored to meet your specific needs in the same way. We designed our POS software system to help retailers run their business better with easy-to-use software, full of features — not fluff.
Con: High Transaction Fees
Free software and free hardware sounds like a great POS system. But what about those transaction fees? Sure, there are no upfront investments, but most free POS providers will charge high transaction fees to make their money back.
Although a free POS software system may look like an excellent option for your business, it’s essential to understand precisely what you’re getting for the price – or lack thereof. Companies have to make their money somehow, and when giving out free POS systems, they’re likely making their money in the transaction fees.
Choosing the Right POS System for You
Finding the right POS hardware and software system for your business is an essential step in running your business.
Now that you know some pros and cons of a free POS software system and probably understand that a free POS isn’t going to be the best fit for your business, it’s time to take the next step. We’ve created a free, simple-to-read, downloadable Retail POS System Buyer’s Guide to help you with the next steps of deciding which hardware and software are best suited for your business’s needs.
At POS Nation, we believe in complete pricing transparency. A solution for your business that is free from hidden fees and long-term contracts. It’s really that easy! We offer 24/7 US-based customer support, so we’re always just a phone call away when you need help. We work directly with you to help your business develop custom solutions to meet your specific goals and needs.
We’re here to listen and communicate because we know and understand the importance of making the right decision when choosing POS retail software systems.