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How does an EPOS system work?


Table of Contents

This guide will help you better understand how an EPOS system works and it’s the benefits, so you can decide whether it’s a suitable addition to your retail business.

Bear in mind that your system supplier can also make a big difference. Their experience, availability and willingness to help can really pay dividends when first planning your implementation, in rolling out your system and in enhancing its usage over the years to come.

Step 1: You create/ import products

To be able to assess stock levels and sales performance, you need to create products in your EPOS system (sometimes, importing products from a spreadsheet may be an option).

In essence, this means giving the new product a name, description, selling price and cost price, plus usually some categories for reporting purposes (for example, it’s a jacket). When this has been done, the system will let you enter the on-order and/or stock position.

As you assess your preferred system, take a critical look at this process. If you have lots of variants, and each has to be entered as a separate product, then it’s going to be very time consuming, plus expensive in staff time… not to mention relatively error prone – the very last thing you need to muddy the stock management waters.

Step 2: The EPOS system starts to play its part

The system will then send the product info to each till and a good system will then auto-produce all the barcode/pricing labels that you need (or let you use the manufacturers labels). This automatic label production is a very important feature for you to evaluate, because if it can only be done manually or semi-manually, producing barcode labels for lots of different variants is a very, very time consuming and error prone task.

In addition, to save still more work, some modern EPOS software will then also help you create the products on multiple websites; your own website and even eBay and Amazon as well! The element to assess here is the extent of automation – watch out, because in some systems this may be a complicated ten or twenty step process.

Good EPOS software will further reduce your workload by actually completely creating the product for you, completely automatically, on every website. Really good, fully integrated, EPOS software will do all of this in one step – rather than via a different company’s third-party software, which adds lots and lots of extra tedious steps.

Step 3: Sell products

By simply scanning the barcode at the till, you can quickly process a transaction. Comprehensive EPOS systems let you see a matrix grid display of stock availability in all locations, as well as have an integrated web link, so that every shop sale auto-adjusts the stock position on all your websites.

If a sale is made on your website, eBay or Amazon, then your EPOS system should auto-adjust the stock on all the other sites.

It also helps if your EPOS system centralises all your web traffic in one place. This has the advantage of allowing you to run the sites more efficiently. For example, you can copy products between sites rather than having to re-create them, and also automatically produce a shipping notes or seeing returns in one place, rather than having to go repeatedly into every individual site throughout the day.

Bear in mind that you may not currently be on the web, or may have only one web channel now, but with time, you are likely to have more channels than is now the case. Make sure your selected system can cope so you are future-proofed. Many systems only link to one website channel, and it’s often via a third party, rather than direct. Alternatively, some systems ‘daisy chain’ your web links – so that data has to be passed from one website to another, which dilutes your control while greatly increasing your workload and potential technical issues.

Step 4: Let the reports flow in

Your EPOS system will generate sales reports, so you can see what’s selling, and what’s not – and where. Similarly, stock reports let you see what’s running low… and what’s not! And where things are not selling, you can focus on increasing sales before slow sellers pull down your profitability (strategic discounting or using Amazon/eBay to move slow sellers are very effective tactics for increasing your overall margin).

Things to watch for here are that you can compare products overall and to each other. If your products come in multiple variations, then in addition to assessing performance at the product level (e.g. a particular jacket has currently sold 10 of the 17 I bought) you also need to assess it at the variant level (e.g. red is not selling at all, or I need to order/move an XL). It helps an immense amount if variants are displayed in a matrix/grid format, rather than a long, long list.

Step 5: The EPOS system can do a lot more

Once you have set up your EPOS system for stock management and sales performance analysis, users often like to explore additional EPOS features, such as customer communications via automated texts and emails, bringing customers back again and again. Examine the possibilities for intelligent auto-ordering, or if you have more than one shop, for automated stock transfers.

However, the way an EPOS system manages stock/sales, how easy it makes it, how many steps per task, how clear, are all vital, vital questions. Without an efficient, smooth EPOS engine… it’s not a good vehicle for growth and profitability.

Step 6: How do I actually decide which system I should buy
Every system’s software is vastly different, which is why it’s crucial to invest in an EPOS system that is specifically built for your retail marketplace, not an ‘adapted system’.

For example, let’s say you sell clothing or footwear. An EPOS system that’s been adapted for clothing/ footwear might be £30 cheaper per month, but battling with it each day costs hours of your time, and, in the end due to its shortfalls, sales.

However, a system built specifically around the needs of your retail marketplace allows you to do the day-to-day EPOS essentials in a fraction of the time. It is because the essentials are done so efficiently, you actually have the time to use the system to its full capacity (like multi-channel website selling).

With an inefficient, non-specialist system, day-to-day tasks just don’t get done, as they take hours rather than minutes to complete.

By Top To Toe