Historically, smaller businesses and startups have been faced with prohibitive upfront fees when looking to implement an electronic point of sale (EPOS) system, but multiple factors including technological advancements and dramatic reductions in price have lowered the barriers to entry.

This wider range of choice does come with a catch: it can be difficult for small businesses owners to decide which platform to use and how to get the best out of it. 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.

Focus on simplicity

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.

Whether your business is a bar, bookshop, restaurant or retail outlet, the core requirement for your EPOS 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.

A good-quality POS system should be laid out in a way that allows you to group items by colour and by page, so that finding what you’re looking for is hassle-free. It is also important to consider the speed at which a system can process transactions. 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.

Retailers must bear in mind that 60% 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 makes an EPOS system that works directly with multiple credit card processors a big help. 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.

Avoid large up-front costs

Traditionally, one of the main barriers facing SME owners aiming to implement a POS system was expensive 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. 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.

Even though POS hardware has become more affordable, there is still a lot to consider when making your selection. The hub of your system will of course be a touch-screen register, but most businesses will also require certain core accessories such as a PDW machine, 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.

Card payments are a necessity

If you need one good reason to accept card payments, it should be that multiple 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 that stop you getting the service you deserve.

As a small business owner, you must have an awareness of the features and types of systems that will deliver maximum benefit to implement the right system first time, and reap the rewards over the long term. This will take time to research, however it’s crucial to be able to make the distinction between essential purchases and luxuries when selecting new technology for your business.

By Jason Richelson, CEO of ShopKeep