September 27, 2018
Free POS software? In this economy?
Getting anything for free sounds suspicious already, and given just how essential a POS, or “Point of Sale” system is for any size of business in the retail or food industry, it’s hard to believe you can get a dependable service for free.
If you’re new to the world of POS software, this guide can explain how free POS software works, whether you should opt for one, and which free POS systems are the best options available today.
In This Guide
Is Free POS Software Really Free?
Most affordable POS systems on the market today are cloud-based. This means they are run by a company that hosts their software and licenses it out to businesses who then use it while connected to the internet. (If the internet goes out, most POS systems can operate offline temporarily, and synch back up once they’re online again).
Since these systems tend to make their money on a subscription basis, some offer a free tier: It allows them to gain brand recognition, and it creates a broad customer base that might eventually move up to a paid subscription plan. It’s a “freemium” plan: Free, but with a premium option for those willing to reach for their wallets.
Another type of “free” POS system is the type that takes a few percentage points of the revenue from each sale. While there’s no up-front cost, your monthly revenue will drop by around 2-3 percent. It’s not really free, but the price might be more acceptable for a small business that can’t depend on consistently meeting a budget.
Other free POS systems include those offered by companies as a no-strings-attached loss leader to boost their brand name and encourage sales of POS hardware or add-ons, as well as open-source POS software, which is created and maintained by online volunteers but is often clunkier and may be outdated.
Pros and Cons of Free POS Software
Pro: Cost. Getting a small business off the ground is a harrowing process, and even the best operations can easily spend years in the red. Saving 50 to 100 dollars a month on a POS system can make a huge difference for a tiny business.
Con: Hardware. While POS software can be free, no one’s giving away the hardware you’ll need. A tablet or smartphone may be the only essential hardware for a small operation, but card readers, iPad docks, or stand-alone touchscreen displays are all common POS hardware options, and will cost you.
Con: Interfaces. Paid POS software always looks slick and feels intuitive. The interfaces on a free POS, however, can vary wildly. Some look like a text-based version of the old Oregon Trail game and others look like an early 2000s pop-up ad. Whichever you pick, you’ll have to stare at it day in and day out.
Con: Limited Functionality. Free POS systems will track sales and inventory, but may not have any options for managing employees or offering loyalty programs. This isn’t necessarily a con, however, as many small businesses wouldn’t benefit enough from these extra features to make them truly cost-effective.
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Square is one of the biggest names in POS, and the free version of their service comes with plenty of features. It tracks sales and inventory, logs customer purchase history and emails receipts. An analytics features lets users see their monthly or annual growth. The catch? They charge fees: 2.75% per card-based sale and 3.5% + 15¢ for manually keyed-in card payments.
- Runs on mobile
- Robust analytics
- Offers multiple locations
- Phone and email support
- Charges a percentage
Vend, another big-name POS vendor, offers a higher quality POS than most free options. It supports third-party integrations, which is rare for a free POS: Shopify, Square and PayPal can all be connected. Sales management, inventory tracking, and personalized customer profiles are supported. However, the scope of your business must be very limited to use Vend for free: The free version offers just one register, allows just one user, only supports 10 active products, and allows 1,000 customers in total.
- Runs on iPad, Mac & PC
- Third-party integrations
- Community support
- Only one register
- Only one user
- Only 10 products
Loyverse’s features are more wide-ranging than other free options: Sales, inventory and analytics are supported, and so are customer-retaining loyalty programs, discounts, and an offline mode.
While the software plan doesn’t include a paid tier, it does allow add-on integrations that offer a broader functionality for the POS. For $5/month/employee, billed annually, you can add employee management options, and for $25/month/store, also billed annually, you can get advanced inventory options to better manage stock.
- Supports multiple locations
- Works offline
- Sales analytics
- No employee management
- Limited inventory management
The installation and learning curve are easy for Imonggo, a free software that offers the basics (inventory and sales management) and a few useful extra features (loyalty options, offline mode). Customer support is also included for free. However, only one user at one location can use the free service, limiting its usefulness for businesses with multiple employees.
- Inventory tracking
- Intuitive interface
- Customer service
- Only one user
- Only one location
- Capped at 1,000 products
eHopper offers a range of basic features for free: Order tracking, inventory and customer management, bill splitting, tax management (assigning taxes to products, and allowing them to be included or excluded in the total price), reporting, and receipt emailing or printing. However, the interface isn’t great, you can only use one register, and without paying you’ll miss out on a few useful features such as QuickBooks integration, a way for employees to clock in, ingredient management, and alerts when stock is running low.
- Strong sales management
- Runs on iPad, Android & PCs
- Data reports
- No training or support
- Only one register
- Clunky interface
Is a free POS system right for your business? It largely depends on the current size of your business and what you have planned for the future.
If you run a farmer’s market stall or a roadside kiosk and have no plans to expand, a free open source POS is likely best for you. If you run a single location and hope to continue growing the business, you should consider a freemium option that you can eventually upgrade.
Finally, if you need access to an expanded set of features and dependable tech support or training programs, you may want to consider a paid POS after all. If that’s the route you’re on, the next step is collecting quotes from the best POS vendors available today. TechCo’s simple form is a great way to get custom quotes with the least effort.
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