Bookshops were once rumoured to be dying – but more recently the industry has been returning to health. The number of independent bookshops is growing again after decades of decline. StoreKit is pleased to partner with independent bookshops across the UK. To hold your weight against the convenience of Amazon, there are EPOS for bookshops that will help you compete with the convenience of online.
An EPOS system refers to the combination of software and hardware which allows you to take payments and sell things. But it can do a lot more than that – there’s a cashier screen, but there’s also a back office usually accessible via web login which enables you to understand how your shop is doing, track your inventory, and a lot more.
Ask yourself: why would somebody come into a book shop rather than buy online? Perhaps they want a greater depth of experience with the products before they choose; they want to browse in person, see staff recommendations, touch the books and strike up discussion with a member of staff. Perhaps they’d like a member of staff to fill them in about the latest releases.
Your EPOS can help you customise your orders and be smarter with stock suggestions; advanced systems automatically order in more stock for your bestsellers. This has been a key business strategy driving Waterstone’s return to profit. From customer loyalty and email marketing to accounting and payment processing, let your bookstore EPOS carry some of the workload for you.
This page will list a series of example set-ups and important EPOS features – but there’s no replacement for a call.
What are the important features for Bookshops EPOS?
Some EPOS features required by book shops are common to all retail EPOS systems. The first duty of any EPOS systems is the ability to sell things. The cashier touches buttons on the tablet screen, and the price of the item cues on the card reader, ready for the customer to pay.
Nearly all EPOS software can apply automatic discounts to selected products you can program through the back office, but you might need to watch out if you require to ring through a discount in a specific format, like, “buy-one-get-one-free”, or a discount by “attachment” (with product X you get a discount on product Y) – or any specific format.
If you want specific custom discounts like student discounts or National Book tokens; some EPOS will let you restrict this. (It would still be possible to manually enter the discounted amount if all else fails). Make sure your EPOS is flexible enough to handle a variety of tenders, as well as manage compound discounts.
You may wish to sell to educational organisations, retail, trade and other custom groups with product specific pricing and/or discounts.
Read about front-of-house EPOS features for retail.
For bookshops: click and collect options
One feature which is managed by some systems and not others is “click and collect” – this is the kind of thing that mid-range systems and above might have, but which won’t be supported by smaller systems.
Crucially, that requires an integration with your e-commerce platform choice.
With click and collect, retailers have the perfect way to differentiate themselves from Amazon and deliver both convenience and experience. Complex EPOS systems, such as Lightspeed Retail, will let you order stock directly from your EPOS, create special orders and reserve stock for customers in the system. Higher-end EPOS systems can support personalised marketing funnels for individualised bonuses and points.
EPOS for Bookshops: Inventory Management
EPOS systems are designed to track inventory. This could mean anything from what’s available in simple systems – the ability to look up whether an item is in stock – through to complex systems which can manage delivery timetables of new books, and map out where your inventory is.
Read more about inventory management.
For book shops: ISBN number tracking.
A big thing here is your EPOS system’s ability to tag products with an ISBN number, which you can scan to sell books, as well as have the ability to scan miscellaneous bookstore items like stationery.
Your EPOS will need to integrate with the hardware that allows you to do this. The mobile barcode scanner Socket S700 can scan ISBN numbers if this function is enabled on your device. Booksellers need robust inventory management to track and restock a massive catalogue of books, and cloud-based EPOS software can store vast amounts of inventory data in the cloud (What is the cloud?).
You’ll want to easily scan through your vast collections of stock and ideally, create orders in your EPOS.
It’s more important than ever to track your sales – keep up with what your customers are reading and customise your stock based on this data.
Reporting is important for any retailer, no matter the size or sector. For example, retail analytics will tell you which of your products are selling the best, your busiest hours and who are your VIP customers (who are spending the most).
Cloud-based systems are the best choice in general, so that your data is updated in real-time and can be accessed no matter where you are. Even with Freepos like iZettle, you can log into the app and find a list of the products you have sold, how many of each product you have sold and more.
Advanced EPOS can even alert you when you’re running low on the latest James Patterson or Margaret Atwood, or that classic Woolf you sell X-many copies of every year.
CRM, marketing and loyalty programmes
Your EPOS might have in-built loyalty features including customer accounts – so that your loyalty system is a little better than a stamp card. This can integrate with your e-commerce platform so that your loyalty programme works both online and in-store. Usually, staff can enter the customer’s ID number or scan a loyalty card so points from a purchase are instantly added to the customers’ account.
Gift cards are a form of store credit which can be bought and sold as cards. They give the buyer the purchase value in store credit. They’re available with some EPOS systems, and are great if you sell the kind of thing people would buy as a gift!
You can leverage the data you collect from your customers, or through what’s called ‘customer relationship management’ (CRM). This is a big database or software application containing all your customer details and your previous email exchanges and correspondence. Anything which stores customer data tends to get called a “CRM” and can remember customer details and form the basis of an account.
Some EPOS systems already include basic CRM features, where you can record customer contact information such as their email, date of birth and phone number. There are ways to incentivise customers to sign up to your accounts system when they’re in-store – for example, with discounts, or email receipts. on your EPOS, you could access the customer tab and you can “add” new customers directly at the point of sale.
When choosing your EPOS, watch out for whether the system is set up to hold any customer data at all. EPOS systems are mainly designed to handle products, not customers; and even at the top-end, CRMs which are available as modules in EPOS systems are limited. This is why it’ll sometimes be necessary to integrate your CRM with your EPOS, where your EPOS contributes valuable data to the CRM.
An E-commerce platform is the part of your online site which is designed to sell products. It’s a vague term, and sometimes, “hosted” e-commerce platforms (like Shopify) include things which are sometimes thought of as distinct from an e-commerce platform, like a content management system, data hosting, online payment processing and an online payment gateway. An e-commerce platform can include these; or it might refer to just the part of the website designed to sell products. It often comes with parallel functions to an EPOS – like inventory management, for example.
Some EPOS, like airpos, are built with an e-commerce platform. Others, like vend, require that you integrate with external e-commerce platform providers. Conversely, some hosted e-commerce providers, like Shopify, have added an EPOS module to their e-commerce software. This might be the way round you prefer to do it.
How does an e-commerce integration work? For starters, there’s bread-and-butter stuff. For example, an integration with your e-commerce platform would ensure that your inventory across both your online and physical platforms pulls from the same figures in real time. This means it will be possible for your bookshop to offer click and collect and a real-time multi-location inventory to show which branches have it in stock (and enable inter-branch stock transfers).
Integrating will also mean that your business data can be viewed and managed from one central dashboard, and they will account for all of your selling channels. Online purchases are tracked in much the same way as sales from your physical shops, and generate all the same sales data.
What set up would we recommend for a book shop?
This section should help you understand how complex we’d expect you to go depending on the size of your store.
The Market Stand: FreePOS
If you’re a market vendor selling books, FreePOS could be a great solution for you. It combines no-contract payment processing with a simple interface where you can log how many books you’ve sold, and do experiments by category.
Head on over to our iZettle, Square and Sum Up profile pages.
They charge payments at 1.75% – and that’s on everything, no matter whether it’s business, credit, or foreign. iZettle will let you send email receipts – which may be the beginnings of a beautiful marketing relationship between your bookshop and your customer. The free pos are limiting in some areas though – they won’t be able to do complex inventory management, though you might not need great depth of product categorization (paperback or hardback?), given that a book’s colour, size and shape are generally fixed. So long as you choose a well-integrated FreePOS provider, you can continue to use them for payments when you upgrade software.
The mid-sized store: Vend + Integrations
Here’s an example of the set-up we might recommend to a medium-sized merchant.
Because transaction sizes are around the £10 in book shops, you might choose to continue to use the payment processing provided by FreePOS – (read about the FreePOS brands as payment processors – known as “payment facilitators” in industry lingo).
iZettle now has webshop templates that you can add on for a fee; subscribing to iZettle Go Plus with e-commerce costs £29 + VAT a month. That being said, as your bookshop expands, your needs from an EPOS will scale up, maybe beyond basic EPOS.
This is why you may want a more advanced EPOS set-up. What do we mean by this?
Vend is designed for middle-of-the-range shops, and boasts features like low stock notifications, complex item categorisation, and loyalty points. Shopify, a popular hosted e-commerce, might be a very handy integration for you. We find Shopify a little pricey on payments, but the tradeoff is that their platform is very easy and best of all, you don’t need to hire a developer – you can set up a Shopify store yourself.
Xero is accounting software; essential for any merchant dealing with lots of numbers! Accounting software becomes especially important as you take on staff – it can be connected to your payroll, so that you pay staff the right amount on-time.
The chain book shop: Lightspeed + Integrations
On a level with Daunt Books, for example. At this level we’d recommend Lightspeed Retail over Vend, which lets you do more in terms of marketing and loyalty, for example. You can automate custom marketing campaigns, via SMS and email. Lightspeed loyalty offers a targeted rewards programme with a branded customer-facing web-app to track shopper points.
Lightspeed and Vend compete for similar parts of the market, but on balance, Lightspeed is designed for shops that are a little bigger and a little more complex than Vend. Vend is quick and simple to learn; you’ll find you have to spend a little longer getting to grips with Lightspeed, but it has a few extra features in exchange. In addition, it’s designed that you integrate more with it – one thing not listed here is discrete inventory management software such as Market Man or Brightpearl, which you could choose to integrate with your EPOS.
However, there are additional costs which can rack up.
We’ve also traded out Shopify for WooCommerce here. The big difference between Shopify and WooCommerce is that WooCommerce is open source whereas Shopify is hosted.
This means that Shopify is pricier for a greater level of help – anybody could set up a Shopify store. In contrast, WooCommerce affords greater level of flexibility and is cheaper, but the tradeoff is that you’d need a developer in order to figure it out.
(Read more about e-commerce options).
Our Top 5 EPOS choices for book shops:
iZettle is a FreePOS brand – that means it comes with its own payment processing at a fixed rate. This is ideal if you’re just getting set up, because unlike contract-based processors, there’s no contract!
iZettle also has simple EPOS which enables you to view simple reports of what you’re selling, to accept discounts and return, and to keep track of your stock.
AccentPOS is a popular all-round EPOS which is works great for bookshops.
AccentPOS is primarily a hospitality POS but can be reapplied to retail
Shopify is an e-commerce platform with a POS module. The reason that Shopify have been so successful is that they’ve made e-commerce easy. We find their payment processing a little pricey, and when you work out how much it costs, make sure you do a holistic calculation which includes payment processing – Shopify has preferred partners which they like to put merchants on. We also find that their POS functions are a little lighter than those of a company which is “POS-first” – Shopify are e-commerce first, with a POS module available. That said, they’re really popular! Shopify is insanely usable e-commerce software and it takes that ethos to its POS product.
It’s also possible to use Shopify as an e-commerce platform only and integrate with another POS – one example would be the next software, Vend.
Vend is one of the biggest EPOS brands on the market and for a system of its size, there’s a real emphasis on support – there’s a huge library of help with Vend and 24/7 surfaces available.
Vend has sophisticated inventory management and reporting and it’s a great place to look as you begin to get bigger. A range of payment processors are available through Vend.
Lightspeed is one of the biggest EPOS brands on the market – it probably has the greatest level of sophistication and complexity until you get into enterprise systems which typically have bespoke modules. Lightspeed is a great choice – it may take slightly longer to learn than Vend.
This might appear a lot to take in at first, and given that an EPOS system equips you with the ability to do a whole host of things, the right choice here will make a huge difference to your store. We can help you get you up and running smoothly. Simply drop us a line below and we can go through your options over a free phone call.