What is EPOS and how does it work?

To be found in shops, eateries, hotels, salons, and any other business in which customers pay face-to-face for products or services, EPOS systems come with a great many benefits – from more efficient customer service to more effective marketing.

But what is EPOS, and how does it work? Let’s find out.

What’s on this page?

What is EPOS?

EPOS stands for Electronic Point of Sale, and the first purpose of an EPOS system is to take payments from customers. As well as this, EPOS systems also have a range of capabilities that help businesses to streamline and supercharge their operations (but we’ll cover that in more detail later!).

You’ll find EPOS systems in shops, restaurants, pubs, beauty salons, and any other brick-and-mortar establishment in which customers pay for goods or services.

When you go up to the till in a shop, for example, and the assistant scans in your items, has you stick your debit card in a reader – or pops your cash in a register – and then prints a receipt for you, that’s an EPOS system in action.

EPOS systems require both the correct hardware and EPOS software to work. How your EPOS runs (and the functions it can perform) will depend on the hardware and software that you go for.

Depending on your chosen EPOS supplier and what it offers, you might be able to buy both hardware and software together in a bundle, or you might need to mix and match them separately. A bundle might prove more affordable and convenient, but mixing and matching does allow for greater customisation.

Let’s take a look at these two components to see what makes an excellent EPOS system.

Learn more: The five best EPOS suppliers in the UK

EPOS hardware

In order to run smoothly and accept transactions from customers, your business will need to be kitted out with all the necessary bits of EPOS hardware. These might include:

  • Card readers
  • Barcode scanners
  • Receipt printers
  • Till systems and cash drawers
  • Scales (if you sell products by weight, like fruit or chocolate)
  • Handheld stock management devices
  • Handheld tableside ordering devices
  • EPOS terminals (the ‘computers’ from which the system is run – this could be a touchscreen desktop monitor or an iPad)

The hardware you opt for will depend on the type of business you run, and how you want to be able to accept payments.

For example, if you work in a food truck, you might opt to use a portable or mobile card machine to take payments, and select an easily maneuverable iPad for your EPOS terminal. Contrarily, if you run a hair salon with a fixed payment desk, you might prefer a full till system with a countertop card machine.

Be wary of how your customer base tends to pay for products or services like yours. If they like to pay using their phones or even smart watches, ensure your devices can accept mobile wallet payments. If they prefer to hand over cash, be sure to install a cash drawer.

Learn more: What EPOS hardware do I need for my business?

EPOS software

Of course, the hardware is nothing without EPOS software – the proverbial backbone, which will be run from your EPOS terminal and turn all your hardware into one integrated system.

As with hardware, there are lots of different software options out there – all designed for different types of businesses. EPOS software that’s been built for hospitality ventures, for example, will differ greatly from that which is run in shops, et cetera.

This is because EPOS software not only enables the acceptance of payments, but also works to streamline your business’ operations on a wider scale using a range of tailored features in one place.

For example, EPOS software for restaurants might enable you to set out table plans, accept reservations, easily rotate between menus, split bills, and send digital food orders to the kitchen. Meanwhile, retail EPOS software might enable you to set up customer loyalty schemes, manage special deals, monitor bestsellers, integrate ecommerce, and create shelf-edge labels.

Of course, there are some common features – generally speaking, all EPOS software will track and analyse your sales and record pricing and tax information, while many will also track inventory, raise stock orders and report on staff performance.

So, not only is a stellar EPOS system vital for accepting payments, it can also prove invaluable when it comes to monitoring progress and strategising for growth.

Learn more: The best free EPOS software solutions

How does EPOS work?

Usually, your EPOS system will need to connect to wifi in order to process payments, carry out its functions and analytics, and link up with any wireless EPOS hardware you’ve got in action. So, it’s important that you’ve got a reliable internet connection in your establishment.

It’s also worth ensuring that the EPOS software you pick has a robust offline mode – as many do – so you can continue to operate if, for whatever reason, your wifi connection drops.

Importantly, many EPOS systems are now cloud-based, and come with apps that you can download and use on your personal devices. What this means is that you can access your system’s reporting and analytics while on the go – whether you want to check your staff’s shifts from your phone on your way in, or take a look at stock levels on your home tablet during your day off.

Learn more: How much does an EPOS system cost?

Next steps

EPOS systems bring plenty of benefits with them, from helping you to accept all manner of payments to helping you smooth out your operational processes and analyse your business’ performance.

Of course, with so many options available in terms of both the bits of hardware you’ll choose and the type of software you opt to install, finding the right system for you can seem daunting.

If you’d like help with choosing the best EPOS system for your business, we’d advise you to fill in the quick quote-finder form at the top of this page. Answer a few questions about your business, and you’ll receive bespoke quotes from the EPOS suppliers that can provide what you need.

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