If you’ve bought something from a shop in the last 20 years, anything at all, anywhere, then chances are you’ve come into contact with an EPOS system. They’re now commonplace in businesses all over the world, from Tipperary to Timbuktu, having replaced traditional till systems as a means of processing transactions and securing cash.
With even a basic system costing in the region of £1,000, small business owners may question the need for one at all; and large businesses may fail to see the value in investing in an advanced system. The temptation to cost-cut is real. But don’t.
All things considered, the advantages of an EPOS system far outweigh the negatives. And in the long run, they’re proven to save you both time and money. Here’s how...
Advantages of an EPOS system
As a business owner, an EPOS system allows you to:
1. Reduce human error
If you’re reading this you’re probably human and have at some point in your life made a mistake. We’ve all been guilty of them, but as a business owner, mistakes can cost you money. In the past, something as simple as a miscommunication regarding pricing could gift one happy customer the deal of the century and leave you out of pocket. No longer so.
An EPOS system minimises the risk of human error. Products are logged and easily navigated to via category folders. Specific product discounts and bundle promotions are applied centrally using back office software, ensuring pricing is applied consistently by staff - and across multiple payment terminals.
2. Get more from your workforce
EPOS systems allow for multiple user logins, at no extra cost. You’ve probably seen bar staff pull a little magnet from their waistband on a retractable cord and tag it onto the till as they serve you. That’s telling the EPOS system who to attribute the transaction to. At the end of the day (or even the hour, if you want to get granular about it) the system will then be able to produce a report showing all the transactions carried out by that staff member.
Why has Daniel only served four people when Penny was able to serve 10 in the same amount of time? What was Adam doing between 10:15 and 10:40? Because he certainly wasn’t serving customers.
Ultimately, an EPOS system helps you to get the most out of your workforce - but not just by highlighting under-performance.
Companies such as Costco have seen an upturn in productivity by ranking employees on a leaderboard and rewarding top-performers. While this may seem a bit excessive to some, the principle of creating a competitive environment where employees propel each other on to bigger and better things is one that can be applied to businesses of all sizes.
3. Improve customer experience
In the age of internet shopping, customers are becoming increasingly disloyal. They don’t like arriving in-store to find the item they were viewing online is out of stock. They don’t like to be ignored by busy staff, run off their feet. And they certainly don’t like to be made to wait in line. An EPOS system helps to relieve these common pain points for businesses.
The right system can be fully integrated with your ecommerce platform to provide a consistent omnichannel shopping experience. So when an item is sold in-store, the stock level immediately updates online.
Clever automated functions save staff valuable time - time that could be better spent attending to customers. Consider how long it takes a waiter to walk a written order to the kitchen. 30 seconds? A minute? It might not seem like a lot, but multiply that up over days/weeks/years and the time wasted becomes huge. An EPOS system allows you to relay orders direct from the customer’s table to the restaurant or bar.
With a tablet EPOS system, staff aren’t tied to the counter - freeing them to provide a more engaging shopping experience for the customer. In a retail environment, for example, staff can roam the shop floor, taking payment on a wireless device. Not only can this help to reduce queue time at checkouts during busy periods, it gives your talented sales staff the opportunity to convert browsing customers into hard sales.
4. Spot trends and manage resource accordingly
This is smart trading for the modern business. An EPOS system will help you to maximise profit and efficiency by providing easy-to-digest reports on everything from sales, to footfall, to inventory and stock levels.
Effective inventory management is the foundation of good business. Back office functions allow you to automate the system to immediately order more of a certain product once stock levels drop below a certain threshold.
Detailed analytics allow you to identify which products are selling well, and when - perhaps you need to order more ice cream during the months of June-August. You can also look at metrics such as footfall to better allocate resources. So rather than have a full complement of staff on shift all day Saturday, perhaps it’s more cost-effective to only bring in a couple of extra pairs of hands from 6pm until close.
Gone are the days where business-critical decisions were taken by aging men sat around a boardroom table, stroking their beards and listening to their guts. Reporting empowers a new generation of business owners to make informed decisions grounded in data.
5. Market your business more effectively
An EPOS system allows you to capture customer details at the point of sale and build a valuable database of email addresses and phone numbers. This information can then be fed into your marketing platform and used to provide notification of upcoming offers and events, or reward returning customers through built-in loyalty schemes.
But I don’t like getting bombarded with emails about products I’m not interested in, I hear you cry. Not a problem. By cross-referencing sales reports with customer data you can tailor your marketing strategy to only target customers with information relevant to what they’ve purchased.
Disadvantages of an EPOS system
In truth, the only drawback to an EPOS system over a traditional till system is the cost - and in particular the the up-front cost, which can be especially off-putting for smaller businesses.
Prices for a basic system start at around £1,000. An industry-specific system, with extensive back office features, comes in closer to £1,500. For an advanced system, with multiple terminals, it’s not uncommon to pay in excess of £3,000.
This is a lot of money for any business to pay out, but there are ways around it. Most suppliers have an option to rent an EPOS system, or pay it offer over a number of months. Prices start from as little as £24.99 a month. Bargain.
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Making the most of your EPOS system
In order to fully appreciate the benefits of an EPOS system, you should consider the following before buying...
What is the right EPOS system for my business?
It’s easy to view EPOS as some kind of magic wand that, once installed, will transform the fortunes of your business overnight. But whilst the benefits are real, it’s important not to get carried away and invest in an unnecessarily advanced system.
Take a moment to consider your requirements. The size and nature of your business, as well as the number of terminals you require to effectively process transactions will all have a bearing on what is the right system for your business.
If you’re unsure, read our simple guide: Choosing the right EPOS system for your business.
Understand how EPOS works
It goes without saying that in order to get the most out of your system you need to know exactly how EPOS works. Watch the video here: How do EPOS systems work?
The cost of an EPOS system
Basic systems start at around £1,000. These include a cash drawer, receipt printer, a card machine and a user interface. More complete, industry-specific models come at the £1,500 mark. And you can expect to pay £3,000+ for an advanced system with multiple terminals.
A complete breakdown of the costs involved can be found here: How much does an EPOS system cost?
Cheap EPOS systems
If minimising cost is your main concern then it’s worth considering investing in a second hand system. Beware though, this kind of saving can prove a false economy, where the limitation of a basic or dated system far outweighs the benefits of money saved. Make sure you know exactly what functionality you require and you buy from a reputable second-hand supplier.
Find free EPOS software
Software starts at around £300 to buy outright, or £20 per month as a subscription. If you only require the most basic functionality, then it is possible to find free EPOS software that will get you up and running allow you to make transactions.
Read more: Top 7 free EPOS software solutions
Talk to the experts
If you’re interested in buying an EPOS system, simply fill in this form and receive quotes up to four suppliers. It’s completely free, there are no hidden charges, and there’s no obligation to buy.
We only work with reputable suppliers. Their product experts will be able walk you through the advantages of their various systems and help you choose the one that your business will benefit from most.