Setting up a vape store?
We’re going to give you the low-down on what EPOS system you need in order to keep your clients happy and your business ticking over. In this article we’ll cover what an EPOS is, what features you should consider, and at the bottom, our five top picks for vape & CBD shops.
Basics: what is an EPOS system?
An EPOS system is designed to help you run and manage your vape shop. An EPOS system is fundamentally a till – but it’s also the software that comes with that till, including your login as a manager.
You understand how your shop is doing, where your inventory is, and how many vapes and which e-liquids or CBD varieties you’re selling – all through your EPOS. You can even manage your staff and set hours – it all depends on which software you choose. Crucially, you can also accept card payment with an EPOS system.
You can read more about what an EPOS system is for beginners here.
For vape and CBD shops, what should you choose for EPOS software?
First, decide what software you need for your vape store. This is the most complex decision because software does lots of different things. There’s how complex you want the EPOS system to be; what part of your store experience you want hard-wired into the tills your staff use; and what kind of price range is appropriate for you. Then we can get to some recommendations.
How simple do you want your software?
If you’re looking for very simple EPOS software that solely does a log of what you’ve sold, what you’ve bought, and is inexpensive, we’d recommend a “freepos” system such as iZettle or Sum Up.
“Freepos” software is made by payment processors. The software here is “free” because you’re locked into their payment processing – for which they charge. Their payment processing starts at around 1.75% depending on your size. You’d have to buy payment processing anyway, and the good thing about their processing is that it’s pay-as-you-go. If you’re just starting out, you aren’t bound to a long term contract like a traditional processor.
Overall, freepos is likely to be your cheapest option. The software is basic, but if you’re totally at sea about what you need from an EPOS system, you might be more comfortable starting with something basic and upgrading when you have a better idea of what functions you want.
What functions do you want out of your EPOS software?
If you’re prepared to spend money on the software, you should start thinking about what features you need. These softwares bill monthly and you’re generally not tied in; the price ranges from around £15 per month up to hundreds per month if you have multiple sites and tills with complex software.
All EPOS systems come with functions that come in one of six categories: front-of-house, payment processing, inventory management, staff management, and marketing. We don’t expect vape & CBD stores to use that much staff management; compared to a pub, which employs lots of people with random hours, it’s a little less complex. Rather, we’d look at systems which are designed for inventory and marketing.
We’ve listed our favourites for vape shops below – but check out the generic retail page for a full list of all the softwares you might want to consider.
The Big EPOS functions for vape & CBD stores
1. Payment Processing
Remember, payment processing is something you need to choose after you’ve chosen your software. But you’re choosing between pay-as-you-go, and contract software.
Buying processing by contract is often a bit cheaper. It depends on your size, though – when you’re just starting out, pay-as-you-go is often cheaper because the banks which offer contracts, such as Worldpay, put their prices very high to underwrite the higher risk. Pay-as-you-go could be a good choice at low volumes.
You can use our quick calculator to find the best rates for pay-as-you-go. For contract, we’d advise you go through a bidding process. But we can explain where to start.
There’s a whole bunch of things which could go into that decision, and we explore them at greater length in our payments page. For now, don’t worry too much about it – just remember that you probably want integrated payments, which would mean that when a customer is paying for an item at the cash till, the transaction amount due is sent directly to the card terminal – the cashier doesn’t need to re-enter the amount.
2. Front-of-House for Vape & CBD stores
The first duty of any EPOS system is to facilitate rapid and simple buying/selling. All EPOS systems, including Freepos, have buying and selling buttons. But sometimes, you want an EPOS to do the simple stuff well. Ask us over the phone which we think are the simplest here; all sales reps from all companies will say it’s theirs. (Tip: sometimes, less is more.)
Discounts and returns. It might be that someone has bought a faulty vape, or that they’re otherwise unhappy with their service. Look for features which enable discounts and returns if you feel they’re important to your business. Sometimes, a good system will show you if one product is being returned more often than others in reports.
Combination pricing. Perhaps you have a deal that when you buy a vape, you get a number of e-liquids for free. This is the sort of thing which combination pricing features are for, permitting you or staff to ring through several items to display the discounted price. If you have a deal on, it’s annoying when it doesn’t do this.
Scheduled pricing. If you have a sale on on a certain day or week; or even time of day, schedule pricing will allow you to make sure your items cost the right amount at the right time.
ID prompts. If you’re concerned about children attempting to buy your products, you may want your system to prompt your staff to ask for ID when someone attempts to buy a product reserved for over-18s.
Input/Output differences. Perhaps you sell your vape liquid and CBD pills in discrete units such as cans and capsules – in the same way they’re given to you. It’s possible, however, that you sell your liquids by the millilitre, when you buy it by the bottle. This is a limitation in a lot of common systems; so if you do this sort of thing, watch out!
3. Reporting for Vape & CBD stores
Reporting helps you understand your business. A freepos system will come with basic reporting, such as a simple log of sales; and will show you in a basic way which products are doing the best.
Reporting can be really interesting – it depends how nerdy you want to get! It might be that you want to cross-analyse a few products – maybe to view how an entire brand is doing across a few different verticals.
You might want to know how sales you’re putting on are affecting your sale numbers. You might want to understand how marketing campaigns you’re putting on are affecting your sale numbers.
You might want to analyse by throughput and to understand how quickly different products are moving through your store. Top-of-the-range products also allow you to analyse by store geography – and how the locations of where you put a certain product can affect their overall rates of sales.
Or, you can also review by attachment rates. We know that people who buy vapes will want to buy coils and e-liquids, just as smokers may buy a lighter with their cigs. You can examine the interrelation between different products and see what gets bought together.
4. Inventory Management for vape & CBD shops
The most basic inventory function in an EPOS is to tell you how much of something you have left. Even the freepos will do this, although they have very basic inventory management compared to bigger systems. But as you get bigger, you need to consider inventory mapping. A good EPOS system can tell you which items are where, from which store they’re in, right down to the correct shelf. If you have a really complex inventory, this will be a lifesaver – don’t put yourself in a position where you have no idea where any of your stock is.
You can also manage your throughput of stock with inventory management. This is creating purchase orders, reviewing your supplier costs, and even automatically reordering to par stock levels and managing the schedule of deliveries via the software interface. Pretty cool!
Batching. Most e-liquids have shelf lives of 1-2 years. Your throughput should be high enough that no product will sit on your shelf for a year, but if you stock rare e-liquids which will sit there for a while, look at whether an EPOS has batching.
Learn more about inventory management.
5. Permissions & Multisite
If you have lots of staff working part-time hours, or if you have multiple sites, multi-site could become a big deal.
Permissions might allow you to look at some things prohibited from the rest of your staff – including things like financial data where you’re integrated with accounting, or staff permissions. It also makes staff training a lot easier – your front-of-house staff have reduced access which gives them only the features they need.
Multi-site allows you to view everything across your sites. It can extend to the other features – for example, your reporting could be really interesting across different sites. Is there a range which does well in site 1 but not site 2? Or, inventory management is useful when it has a whole view. If there’s a rare vape which is in store 1 but not 2, you can redirect their order, or put in a transfer request.
6. E-Commerce & Marketing for Vape & CBD products
If you vape, you’re going to need to buy e-liquid once every few months.
E-liquid is a repeat good, something that you’re going to need to go back and buy again. E-liquid is also a luxury good, which has plenty of differentiated styles and flavours – people get excited about choosing their e-liquid. It’s therefore a great example of the kind of product which could benefit from remarketing. When someone has bought a vape with you, you want to make sure you’re inviting them to come back and check out the liquids they missed first time round.
It’s now possible to identity-stitch; that is, to understand which customers are accessing you online and in-store. The most sophisticated stuff around here will be associated with marketing software and e-commerce software, not EPOS, but we’d recommend finding stuff which can integrate with your EPOS system.
Marketing software might include an email management platform like Vero or MailChimp. An e-commerce platform would include your platform and buying features like Shopify, but also your website building software like WordPress or Wix.
From an EPOS perspective, consider getting email and SMS receipts, and look at loyalty card programs which come with EPOS systems. These are mostly stamp-cards; but you should be able to programme your EPOS to give any discount you like when presented with a fully stamped card.
Our Top 5 Picks for Software for Vape & CBD
1. Vend – The Established Vape Shop
Vend and Lightspeed Retail are the two top picks for EPOS system which do everything you could want. But in this instance, we’ve gone for Vend – that’s because most vape stores aren’t VAST like some other types of shop. Lightspeed Retail is even more complex than Vend, and perhaps you want the information library and support you get with software that’s still usable even as you get larger – that’s what Vend provides you with.
Even if you’re a first-timer, Vend is easy to pick up considering its huge suite of features. It probably has the best help of all of the software listed here, and really has the level of inventory management demanded of vape and CBD shops.
2. Shopify – The (Mostly) Online Shop
If you’re an e-commerce led store, consider Shopify. Shopify is a relentlessly popular online platform, but they do produce an EPOS software product which they include in the software. That makes them very popular. With Shopify, we’d say, watch out for expensive payment processing! Unlike most of the software on our site, Shopify encourage you to use their preferred payment partners, and you’ll find you pay a payments premium!
That said, for the usability of their online store, Shopify could be a great choice.
3. iZettle – The Starter Outer
iZettle is the ultimate one night stand; it comes with no strings attached. You’ll need to buy their card reader which is £9 when you sign-up through us, but at £0 for software, they’re even cheaper than Airpos. And best of all, no processing contract. As you get bigger, you’ll start to find that iZettle doesn’t quite have the inventory features you’ll need for the complex world of e-liquids… but at that point, you can upgrade to bigger software at no extra cost. iZettle is our favourite “freepos” software, and a great place to start.
4. AccentPOS – The all-rounder
In the complex world, generalists thrive – consider the success of the fox as we’ve turned urban, versus specialists like – er – the giraffe. If you’re a generalist, and you want software that does everything well, consider AccentPOS. It’s medium priced, and it will do everything that you need, just as well as you need it.
5. AirPOS – The Value for Money
Do you like a deal? So do we, and Airpos could be the software for you. It’s £19 per month, so not as cheap as iZettle – but it includes e-commerce. That makes airpos a fantastic budget choice because you can simultaneously run a store and a website for a little under 66p a day. That’s cheaper than your bus to the store!
Airpos is a smaller company, and isn’t as widely integrated as some other companies – but is still a great choice for vape and CBD stores.
If you’re not sure what software you want, we’d recommend you book a call with one of our experts. We earn a similar amount whomever we refer you to, and we’re partnered with hundreds of different EPOS providers – so we can talk you through the different options in an unbiased way.
Otherwise, try our comparison tool for free!
If you’re ready to crack on, email firstname.lastname@example.org and request to be introduced to your software for a demo. Or click here to sign up to iZettle right now.
If you want to build your hardware, try our kit builder to see what hardware you might need.