Read our EPOS for retail page for a whole EPOS overview.
It’s too easy to overestimate the powers of your memory. When you’re busy handling customer queries and tidying the shop floor, the least of your concerns should be tracking stock quantities across your online and in-store platforms. Or trying to remember when a customer has reserved a dress to pick up later.
Which is why front-of-house for a good EPOS system for retailers should make your staff’s lives easier. It should gently cue them to treat customers in exactly the way you’d hope; to simply and quickly execute the business of selling; and empower them to take action when things go wrong.
This page will break down some of the special features that a EPOS can offer from a front-of-house perspective. (Also see front-of-house for hospitality)
What should an EPOS do in front-of house?
There are a few things to consider here.
1) Front-of-House Basics: selling, returns, discounts, stock checks
– It should have a quick and simple interface for selling goods – at a simple level, an EPOS should provide your staff a screen whereby they can cue the price of goods on a card reader for a customer to buy; either by scanning an item, or by selecting it from a list in front of them. There are tools to augment the speed of this second option; e.g. with easy image selection tools and “quick keys” for your favourite goods.
– It should be simple to discount items. You may wish to set-up your discounts such that they ring through automatically; either by combination items; by fixed percentage; or manually; and you may wish to set staff permissions such that some employees can discount things but not others. Additionally, you may want to issue sales, including discounts which are timebound and end after a certain period.
– It should be simple to return items. In most systems, it’s possible to re-scan your receipt to identify the original purchase. It should be possible to ring through a full or partial refund, and perhaps to categorise the reason for the refund (e.g. faulty item / didn’t fit) so that you can review why your customers are returning things; and decide whether to resale. In some systems, you can get store credit instead of a full refund, or you can make receipts time-bound such that they expire and the system will not accept a return after a certain time. This should plug seamlessly through to your inventory management, too.
– Parked Orders are a feature that can be helpful in some circumstances. If a customer needs to step away from the till before paying, this gives you the ability to place a customer’s order on hold so that you can serve the next customer.
– Stock checks and transfers. Some inventory management functions – such as mapping your inventory clearly so that you can find a product, or being able to quickly check whether a product is in-stock, are vital to your front-of-house, if you have a basement. With multiple stores, it’s also good to know whether a requested product is available in your other location, and if necessary, request a transfer.
– Custom tax rates – this is very useful for retailers who sell at more than one rate of VAT (standard rate, lower rate, and/or zero rate). In any case, your POS needs to be able to categorise your stock into taxable and non-taxable goods (e.g baby clothes). You may want to be able to add gift aid via your EPOS.
– Multiple tenders – with a good EPOS system, you should be able to split tender (usually a combination of cash and card). A payment integration will cue the exact required price on the card machine so you’d need to override the integration and manually control the amount shown when required. (Introduction to payment processing)
– an EPOS should be fast and easy-to-learn. One of the key metrics we think of around EPOS systems is how fast a cashier can get through a long line of customers with one. Sometimes, you just want an EPOS to do the simple things well; and that’s a good principle to consider when buying an EPOS.
2) Product Libraries
Your EPOS should be able to manage complex item attributes and categorisations.
Most EPOS systems arrange products in a folder system. There tends to be two kinds of categorisation – first, what generally gets called “categories”, which means any qualities or groupings that occur above the product level, such as the main product group (“electronics”); any sub-groups (“printers”); the brand name; the series name; and so forth. Then, there’s attributes, also sometimes called “modifiers” or “variants” which are groupings which occur below the level of the product – for example the colour, size, or more granular qualities right down to the SKU.
Some EPOS systems have a greater level of depth than others. It’s usually possible to find workarounds – e.g. by making black printers and blue printers different “products” as categorised by the system, if you have something very simple.
But systems which have a great depth of item categorisation are better. It will make your reporting better – you can compare flexibly compare by any attribute or by product – and it will make your front-of-house better, as a customer who has requested a printer in white, can be offered a printer in black when we learn the white is out of stock. If you have a complex inventory and the two printer types are different products, it would be possible to miss this.
It’s also better to maintain complex libraries for their own sake – in the instance of the printer example, it’s important that the customer and staff member know whether it’s an iOS or Android printer; whether it connects via USB or bluetooth; and so forth. It’s much messier to store every variant of printer as a distinct product – it can turn a large inventory into an unmanageable one.
Learn more about product libraries in our inventory management section.
3) Front-of-House Marketing
– Loyalty cards – Your EPOS can be set up so you can offer and accept loyalty and gift cards for your business. Loyalty cards can increase the chance of return business and even referrals as people feel more compelled to shop with you to gain points or take advantage of certain promotions.
– Receipt offers – you may want to leave custom offers on the back of your receipts! Some EPOS systems allow you to customise these.
– Email receipts – most EPOS offer email receipts. This is great for customers who want to use the receipts, great for the environment, and great for collecting a CRM so that you can start to think about email marketing.
– Identity-stitching across your online and in-store platforms (omnichannel). We’d always recommend integrating your POS with your online store. ‘Omnichannel’ supports the sale of products everywhere your customers are: in-store, mobile, online and social media. Identity-stitching helps you market better i.e you can see that person A who has come in to buy a sweater they viewed online is the same person who viewed it online, usually by payment details, sometimes by e.g. a unique code generated through their online account which they’ll quote in store for a discount.
– CRM which leads to insights – common features under this umbrella include store credit and gift cards. With a good EPOS system, you should be able to associate a customer with a transaction. More than that, as a retailer, you can leverage the customer sales data you collect from your POS. This is useful for a bunch of reasons:
- You can anticipate what specific customers will like, based on what they’ve bought before. This means you can make informed recommendations for future purchases. For example, by tying their contact details to their sales history, you can send targeted promotions and marketing materials.
- You can learn which products are doing well and which ones are always getting returned. You can even identify which customers are serial returners!
It’s important to think about your POS integrations here. You want to be able to sync the information collected, with existing accounting or scheduling software to lighten the load of your paperwork.
If you are opening a small shop for the first time, you might not initially need all the additional features available (and might opt for a free epos system). However, as your business grows, it’s wise to pick an EPOS system that can expand with it. This can be the difference between easily upgrading your POS system to fit your new needs and having to move your data to a completely new platform.
Read our chapter on marketing and e-commerce in EPOS systems for more depth.
Ready to choose? Check out our recommendation tool or read our top EPOS for retail.
How much should an EPOS cost? Read our blog post here to learn more. Unsure of where to start? Wondering which EPOS software would work with your current set-up? Speak to one of StoreKit’s experts today and we can talk you through your options.