An electronic point of sale (EPOS) system connects back-office and shop-floor operations to create a streamlined retail management system. This powerful marriage of hardware and software works on the premise that all of a retail business’ operations are interlinked — from processing customer transactions to marketing initiatives.
Over the years, EPOS technology has improved dramatically. These powerful systems used to be focused on sales, inventory and cash management, but the latest versions do so much more. And because they deliver efficiencies in several areas of a retail business, they are ideal for small businesses that need to account for every penny.
Whether you’re looking to introduce an EPOS system into your business for the first time or you’re in need of an upgrade, knowing the benefits on offer should persuade you to bite the bullet.
1. Accept Cards
The most important thing an EPOS system can do is to accept your customer’s money. This happens via a payment integration with a contract or pay-as-you-go provider.
We break down the differences in our payments guide: chapter 1. Understanding Your Fees.
2. Improved Customer Experience
The latest EPOS technology is fast, efficient and designed to improve the customer’s experience. In retail environments, for example, customers demand speedy service and the most accurate information possible. The latest scanning equipment can make sales at cash registers faster than ever before. And simple, touch-screen registers make life very easy for employees.
In restaurants, speed of service is also a very important issue. A server can now enter an order into a handheld device, meaning chefs can be cooking starters while the orders for main courses are still being taken. Orders appear in the kitchen as printed tickets or on large kitchen display screens.
Customising food orders is also very easy. Servers can add or remove certain ingredients according to the wishes of the customer. There is also the ability to add notes to an order for the chefs — which is vitally important if you’re dealing with potentially serious allergies or food intolerances.
Whether you’re running a retail business or a restaurant, you need to be able to give your customers accurate information about product quality and availability. EPOS systems hold real-time inventories, so you can perform a quick stock search while you’re standing with the customer on the shop floor. You can also order items directly from your supplier, and then tell the customer when their purchase will be available for collection.
3. Inventory Management
EPOS systems link shop-floor sales with inventories in real time. Every time a customer purchases a product, the inventory records on the system are updated immediately. Whether a sale is scanned or inputted manually, the system’s database updates stockholding records accordingly.
The process of inventory management for restaurant businesses is a little more complex. When a customer orders a meal, the process isn’t a simple matter of reducing the stockholding by one. A meal typically includes several ingredients, all of which have a cash value within the business. EPOS systems are pre-programmed with precise ingredients to ensure accurate inventories are available at all times.
Inventories can be verified with regular stock checks to ensure theft, mismanagement or poor portion control aren’t costing your business money. Some systems are linked directly to suppliers, and orders are generated and sent based on par stock levels.
A good EPOS system provides an accurate picture of your stock levels at any given time. This helps you to minimise sell-outs and ensure you’re not holding more stock than you need. Based on current and historic sales data, EPOS makes ordering suggestions to ensure you’re not losing money through unnecessarily bloated inventories or stock shortages.
Read more about EPOS for inventory management.
4. Detailed Sales Analysis Reports
In order to manage your business, you need real-time data that puts your financial performance into context. EPOS systems record every transaction in great detail. You can use this information to identify shopping or dining trends, allowing you to tailor your business accordingly. It’s also possible to make predictions about future revenues, allowing you to plan scheduling, orders and so much more.
The range of reports you can extract from a modern EPOS system is comprehensive. End-of-day reports, for example, provide you with sales analysis by the hour, category, employee or product. This might allow you to identify your business periods, or it could be used to track staff performance. Or you can use the reports to track the performance of new or promoted products.
Retail and catering businesses need to react very quickly to changing demand and consumer patterns. An EPOS system provides real-time sales reports at any point during the day. This information can help you to make staffing decisions on an hour-by-hour basis. The data can also be used to identify poor sales performance while there’s still time in the day to do something about it.
Businesses need accurate sales data to plan for the future. Whether you’re planning recruitment drives or changes to your product offering, sales reports from EPOS systems deliver data in a number of ways. Assess sales performance on individual lines, product categories, departments and the business as a whole using various charts and graphs. You can then make strategic decisions in the knowledge that you’re doing so on the basis of accurate sales data.
Read more about reporting.
5. Efficient Labour Management
Using accurate and detailed sales reports based on hour-by-hour data, you can plan your labour requirements in detail. But the latest EPOS systems go much further than that. For instance, you can set up a system to manage and monitor schedules and rotas.
A staff member can sign in for work using a code, a card or a fob, and the hours worked can be fed into a payroll system for automated payments. At the end of the working week, you can check your payroll reports before approving them for payments. This type of system ensures everyone is paid for the hours they work, and it also identifies any absence or punctuality issues — helping you to performance manage your employees when necessary.
EPOS systems store a huge amount of data on payroll and staffing issues, which can be viewed using a number of reports, graphs and charts. This data is essential for financial planning, recruitment and scheduling.
Read more about staff and multisite.
6. Accounting Integration
Accounting issues take up a huge amount of any business’ time. And when you’re working in a customer-facing environment, this is time that is much better spent on the shop floor. Fortunately, the latest EPOS systems are linked to accountancy software — automating many of the essential processes that must be carried out.
EPOS systems can manage invoices, bill payments, payroll, expenses and everything else that accounting entails. All of the essential financial information is automatically fed into balance sheets and profit and loss statements — giving you real-time performance information and YTD data.
When it’s time to file financial records and pay taxes, EPOS systems really come into their own. Provided you’ve been updating your accounting records regularly and accurately, you should be able to give your accountant a complete financial statement — helping you to file statements and pay tax bills on time.
Read more about integrations.
6. Accurate Cash Management
Cash management is a crucial task in any small or medium-sized business. Relatively small errors or instances of theft have the potential to put small operations out of business, so every penny must be accounted for at all times. An EPOS system can provide a cash report at any time of the day — letting you know exactly how much cash should be in each register’s drawer. You can use this information to perform random cash checks, which is essential if you suspect theft or poor staff performance.
EPOS systems provide access to certain functions based on permissions you can set up. This allows key individuals to perform essential cash management functions on the shop floor. For instance, if a customer is unhappy with a product, you or one of your team can process an instant refund — while keeping the cash drawer reconciled. Other restricted cash functions available on EPOS systems include voids, the reprinting of receipts and the ability to open the cash drawer in the absence of a sale.
At the end of the day, the cash is counted and reconciled against the EPOS sales reports. This process highlights any shortages or overages and attributes them to individual drawers and registers. You can also print variance reports to help you identify where money is going missing as quickly as possible. The cash reports available could be vital if you’re forced to manage an employee out of your business for theft or chronic poor performance.
If you work in a particularly busy environment, or one which experiences very busy periods, cash can build up quickly on the shop floor. Having large amounts of cash in such a public place is always a risk, which is why EPOS systems offer cash-lift functionality. You simply remove the excess cash, count it and enter the amount on the cash register’s screen. The cash can then be stored away in a safe. When it’s time to reconcile the register at the end of the day, the lift will be accounted for in an end-of-day report.
7. Digital Receipts
Saving paper is important for the environment, but it’s also a good way to cut your business’ sundry costs. Not everyone wants a paper receipt these days, which is why the latest EPOS technology can send a digital receipt to an email address. This function not only gives the customer proof of purchase that won’t be lost but also provides you with potentially lucrative contact details.
It’s not just receipts that can be printed digitally, however. You have the freedom to convert almost anything you’d normally print to a digital format. For example, if you want a transaction report during a trading period, you can have one sent to an authorised mobile device. You can also send your customers digital vouchers and leaflets, slashing your printing costs in the process.
8. Marketing Opportunities
The marketing opportunities are endless when you have a powerful EPOS system in your business. The vast array of reports available allows you to identify trends and consumer preferences that can be used to drive effective marketing campaigns. For example, if a sales report is telling you that a particular line isn’t selling very well, you can create digital discount vouchers to help things along a little.
A lot of retail and catering businesses are now collecting email addresses directly from customers. EPOS systems allow you to enter email addresses, postal addresses and telephone numbers on cash registers, computer terminals and mobile devices. This creates a valuable marketing database you can use to promote new products and special offers.
The average EPOS system is capable of storing huge amounts of data on the shopping habits of customers. You can use this information to create targeted advertising strategies you know will reach the right people. For example, you can offer the right incentive to a customer, based on their previous buying habits. And you’ll know exactly who might be receptive to your latest products and special offers.
A growing number of businesses are linking their EPOS systems to their CRM software. Analysing sales data and consumer habits is an important part of developing marketing strategies, so it makes sense to bind them together in this way. This approach is crucial for relatively small businesses that find in-house marketing a challenge, as it slashes the costs of printing, postage and labour. In effect, your EPOS can be the driving force behind all of your marketing efforts.
Modern EPOS technology can now display in-store advertising at the point of purchase. HD screens carry HD videos and photos of products and offers — perfect for inspiring impulse purchases at cash registers. There’s also the option of generating an additional revenue stream through third-party advertising for local businesses in different sectors to your own.
Reap the Rewards an Advanced EPOS System Can Deliver
EPOS systems are rarely bought off the peg. They are tailored to the specific needs of the business in question. Whether they utilise traditional registers, mobile devices or a combination of the two, they can be adapted to any type of customer-facing business.