Trailblazing Technology - Point of sale (POS) best practice for SMEs

Nowadays, any entrepreneur who is considering taking their point of sale (POS) transaction management system digital is faced with a plethora of options.

This wasn’t always the case, but a multitude of factors including technological advancements and dramatic reductions in price have lowered the barriers to entry for SMEs looking to implement an EPOS system.

However, with so many options available, it can be difficult for small businesses owners to decide which platform is the best fit for their company. In addition, once they’ve purchased a system, deriving the maximum business benefits from the implementation is no easy task.

The aim of this guide is to provide some insight into the most important things to consider when selecting and implementing an EPOS system, in order to ensure a significant return on investment.

Optimise transaction management

Whether your business is a bar, bookshop, restaurant or retail outlet, the core requirement for your POS system will be the same - the ability to ring up a sale. Whilst this may seem obvious and basic, the way a system handles transactions is often a clear indicator of how well designed the rest of the product is.

The point of sale environment is one of the most significant steps in the customer journey. It’s your last chance to turn a one-time transaction into regular custom, and potentially gain an advocate for your brand, so the last thing you want is to be stuck struggling with an unintuitive interface at this prime opportunity to engage with your customers.

A good-quality POS system should have a simple layout that allows you to group items by colour and by page, so that you can find what you’re looking for quickly and easily. The speed at which a system can process transactions is also a factor to consider. Busy hospitality and retail businesses can expect to perform up to 100 transactions per minute, so a good POS system must be able to cope with this easily.

It’s also important to consider that 60 per cent of retail customers now pay with a debit or credit card. This is something your business should encourage, as customers tend to spend more money when they make a purchase with this type of tender. This means a POS system that integrates with a credit card processor and is compatible with all major card types is a prerequisite.

Finally, the system should also enable you to accept and track payments made by cash, cheques and PayPal, along with modern payment technologies such as contactless (NFC) and Apple Pay.

Hardware without the hardship

Traditionally, one of the main barriers facing SME owners aiming to implement a POS system was the prohibitive cost of hardware. Despite a drop in price over the last few years, Windows-based touch screens are a seriously expensive option, especially once the additional costs of printers, cash drawers and other accessories have been factored in.

The good news is that the advancement of cloud technology has led to a change in the business model of POS service providers. Rather than adopting the ‘hit and run’ approach of landing small businesses with huge upfront hardware costs and then disappearing, providers have moved towards a subscription-based model, where a monthly fee is charged to access POS software, following a smaller initial outlay. This change has opened up the world of point of sale to a whole new raft of aspiring small business owners, and could prove to be instrumental to success.

However, there’s still a lot to consider when choosing POS hardware, despite it becoming more affordable. The hub of your system will of course be a touch-screen register, but most businesses will also require certain core accessories such as card swipers, printers, wireless routers and security systems. It’s important to ensure that these components work together properly. For a system that integrates seamlessly, it’s a good idea to choose your POS provider first and then purchase the officially recommended hardware.

Remember that the right hardware should last you for years, so it really is an investment. When you’re counting the cost, be on the alert for hidden charges such as customer support fees, supply costs and licensing fees.

Taking the credit (card)

The ability to accept credit and debit card payments is really important for ensuring that your business stays competitive. Studies have shown that consumers spend more money if they’re using a ‘non-currency’ like credit cards or vouchers.

There’s also the convenience factor to consider, especially with contactless payments. The two or three seconds that a contactless transaction can shave off the payment process could be the difference between a happy customer and someone who has waited in line for too long. Finally, the costs involved with frequently sending employees to deposit cash in the bank may end up exceeding a credit card processing fee.

So what does a small business owner need to look for in a credit card processor? The two main points to consider are that it’s important to check that any hardware is compatible with your primary POS system. Secondly, be sure to read the small print about processing rates, as certain providers will offer attractive rates filled with caveats as to when they don’t apply.

When selecting new technology for your business, some good old-fashioned research into what constitutes an essential purchase as opposed to a luxury will leave small business owners best placed to implement the right system first time, and reap the rewards over the long term.

Jason Richelson, CEO and Founder of ShopKeep