EPOS (electronic point of sale) technology has advanced rapidly in recent years, with a confusing multitude of brands and systems hitting the market for retailers to choose from. A shop’s till used to just add up transactions and tally the day’s takings, but these days even the most basic options offer many additional functions, and the most advanced can manage stock, run websites, monitor staff performance and talk to customers across an entire chain.
The choice out there can be overwhelming for retailers planning to invest in an EPOS system, and with little impartial advice available there’s a high risk of shelling out for something that isn’t suitable for your business.
So we’ve put together the 9 key questions to base your EPOS research and purchase on, giving you the best chance of finding the right system for you.
Where do I need to make sales?
Your first consideration should be where you make sales. Do you have one store with a fixed cash desk, a large store with several pay points or several stores that need to be linked electronically for stock control and reporting? Do staff need to move away from the cash desk to make transactions? Do you have off-site locations you need to take payments at, such as concessions, franchises or stalls?
If your location requires a cash desk and no more, your requirements are likely to be straightforward; for example a basic retail computer terminal with a cash drawer may be sufficient. But if you need mobile point of sale devices for the shop floor or a system that can be used on smartphones or tablets, then you’ll need a more complex option.
How much should I spend on an EPOS system?
You might be tempted to go for the cheapest system that meets your needs, but to make a good investment you need an EPOS system that grows with your business and isn’t defunct within a couple of years. Consider how flexible a system is – can you add technology or features at a later date?
Look at what impact the right EPOS system could have on your bottom line. For example, stock control features could save you money in the long run, ensuring you are able to manage cash flow effectively. These potential savings should be balanced against your initial investment.
How easy is it to use?
An EPOS system is a crucial point of contact between staff and customers. A bad system results in frustrated customers and stressed staff. A good system makes interactions quicker, smoother and more effective.
Is the system you’re considering intuitive, or will staff need extensive training? If a sales assistant needs to consult a manual every time something unusual comes up, customer experience will suffer. Make a list of out-of-the-ordinary transactions you need to handle such as gift cards, promotional schemes, discounts or loyalty schemes and ask a sales rep to take you through how the system handles these.
Also look at the physical side of the system; how quick and easy is it to change a till roll, for example? Can staff do it in a few seconds without a queue of impatient customers forming at the desk?
What extra data can it give me?
Modern EPOS systems can gather useful data that could improve your business, so it’s worth investigating what kind of feedback is available. Make a list of information or additional functionality you want, and ask a sales rep to demonstrate how a particular system meets your requirements. Many EPOS systems can even offer suggestions at point of sale, such as prompting staff to upsell based on the products that are being scanned.
How can it help with my stock control?
Many EPOS systems have in-depth stock control functionality that goes far beyond just keeping a tally of items sold. You may decide you want a system that offers hand-held scanners for warehouse management, shelf stacking or stocktaking. Some systems can prompt you to order new stock or warn you if stock levels are too high on particular product lines.
Does it work with my website?
If you operate a retail website as well as a physical store, it’s a good idea to go for an EPOS system that can integrate with your website, keeping product pages updated with stock levels based on what you have in store. If you already have a website, look at whether an EPOS system can integrate with it, although a more efficient option is likely to be creating a website based on your EPOS system.
How can people pay?
Along with good old cash and chip and pin, contactless cards are becoming increasingly popular, with a 249.9% rise in use between March 2015 and March 2016. And other methods are also emerging; 13% of UK adults have used a smartphone to pay in-store. You’ll need to balance ease of payment and choice of method with any costs involved in including the technology.
Can I use it to capture customer information?
Keeping in contact with customers allows you to build a long-lasting relationship and encourage follow-up sales, and many EPOS systems can handle this, managing email lists and linking customer details to purchasing patterns and other information.
Will I get the right support?
Any EPOS system is likely to throw up issues at some point that require tech support, so the last question on our list is one of the most important – what support is on offer? Will it be easily available at the times you need it?
An EPOS system could be one of your largest investments as a business, so you want it to work for you in the long term. Your supplier should keep you informed about new services and products and changes in technology that could improve your efficiency in future.
“EPOS Feature Image”: Sarah Joy, http://tinyurl.com/zhpa7mx