Should You Use a Free Cloud POS for Your Retail Store?
“Buy cheap, buy twice.”
You’ve likely heard the saying. But does it apply to point of sale (POS) systems?
Not everything you get for a bargain is “bad.” But do those products last? Do they stand the test of time?
The right retail POS system can manage most of your operations, from inventor management to customer loyalty — but free POS systems are limited in functionality and might come with hidden costs.
However, as a retail store owner, you might want to consider a free cloud POS to save on costs.
We get it — it’s hard to decide. This article highlights the benefits and limitations of free cloud POS software and offers an alternative. We’ll help you make the best choice for your store.
Is “Free” Really Free? Understanding Cloud POS Systems
A free cloud POS system provides basic point of sale functions to run your business, without recurring subscription fees. There are various providers of free POS software, such as Square POS and PayPal Zettle, and most offer standard features such as:
- Taking payments and processing transactions
- Tracking inventory quantities
- Recording customer purchase history
- Generating basic sales reports
Related Read: Top 4 POS Systems for Retail in 2023
But can you rely on standard features in the long term? You might be taking a risk — with limited features comes less capability, reliability, and support. There might also be costs you’re not aware of, or expecting.
The Benefits of Using Free Cloud POS Systems
The most obvious benefit of a free cloud POS system is in the name — there are no upfront software costs.
Many providers offer freemium models, where basic features are free, but more advanced capabilities come at a price. Other providers offer free trials. If you want to get your business off the ground without a major POS investment, you can.
Where cloud-based POS software shines is accessibility and mobility. You can access your POS system wherever you are, whether in-store on a tablet or remotely via a smartphone — as long as you have an internet connection. You can view sales data and inventory in real time, and make data-driven decisions on the go.
Last, cloud-based software is often simple to set up and start using. Even if you have no technical expertise, onboarding is robust and straightforward. The learning curve isn't steep because you’re only getting basic features.
The Limitations of Free Cloud POS Systems
We touched on it in the previous section, but a significant drawback of free cloud POS systems is the lack of advanced features and customization.
Sure, you have core functionality, but what about detailed reporting, loyalty programs, and omnichannel capability? Without advanced features, you’ll struggle to understand your customers and make data-driven decisions.
Related Read: 3 Reasons To Choose a POS With a Built-In Loyalty CRM
Free systems are also limited in their scalability. Basic free tools can't keep up as your retail business expands, with more locations, inventory, transactions, and customers. For example, you could max out on data storage limits, number of products, or transactions per month.
How do free POS providers make their money back? By charging high transaction fees! While you’ll have little upfront investment, look out for those high fees. And what about hardware? You’ll need to purchase POS hardware separately, driving costs up further.
Last, if you need assistance setting up your POS system, you’ll struggle to find it with a free plan. Free plans rarely come with customer support. If your system shuts down during your busiest day, how will you get it back up and running?
While a free cloud POS system sounds good initially, high transaction fees, lack of advanced features, and little support are drawbacks you can’t overlook.
What Are the Alternatives to Free Cloud POS Systems?
The best POS systems for retail stores provide relevant features and make running your store easy. Unlike limited free systems, advanced POS solutions are tailored to your specific business needs. Important features include:
- Robust inventory, purchasing, and fulfillment functionalities
- In-depth sales analytics and reporting
- Customer relationship management (CRM) tools
- Customizable interfaces and configurations
- Omnichannel retail capabilities across in-store, online, and mobile
Related Read: 4 Retail Benefits of an Omnichannel Point of Sale
While free POS software seems attractive upfront, complete solutions give you greater capabilities that drive growth over the long term. And modular systems allow you to add the features your business needs as it expands.
The upfront investment in a POS system pays dividends over time through:
- Increased sales from inventory and order optimization
- Efficient employee management
- Higher customer retention with CRM insights and loyalty programs
- Faster growth using data analytics
How Can You Decide What’s Best for Your Retail Store?
When deciding between a paid or free cloud POS solution, start by evaluating your current and future needs across areas like:
- Inventory management
- In-store customer experiences
- Staff management and workflows
- Sales reporting and analytics
- Omnichannel retail capabilities
Consider your must-have versus nice-to-have features, and take into account your plans to scale. Can a free POS system sustain your needs and grow with you?
Many POS providers offer demos of their systems. Rather than relying on specs and feature lists, get hands-on! Retail experts should be able to guide you through their system capabilities and workflows.
It’s worth asking yourself the following questions before implementing a free POS system:
- Do I need employee management features?
- Do I want my POS system to integrate with accounting and e-commerce apps?
- Do I need more than one POS license?
- Will I stock less than 100 products?
- Will I process more than 300 transactions per month?
If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, you’ll likely need to invest in a complete POS system, not a free one.
ANSWERED: Should You Use a Free Cloud POS for Your Retail Store?
“Free” always sounds appealing. But when it comes to POS systems, basic inventory management, limited sales reports, and lack of support restrict your ability to manage your store and enable growth.
As your business grows, you want a POS system that grows with you. Comcash has a presence in over 3,000 retail locations. We focus on helping retail stores manage their business and drive growth. Our features include:
- Cloud-based POS software
- An intelligent POS customer display
- A webstore application that integrates with your POS system
- Mobile inventory management
- Customer management and marketing
- Retail ERP
But don’t take our word for it. As we said earlier, scheduling demos with various vendors is the best way to make the right decision for your unique store. Request a demo of our point of sale solution today!