Time, as the saying goes is precious. No more so when you’re running a retail business.
Let’s face it, we would all rather be enjoying the fruits of our labour than spending all our time checking stock, listing products on Ebay, Amazon and eCommerce websites or doing the end of period accounting. A good multichannel Electronic Point of Sale system can help with this and much more.
What is EPoS?
An Electronic Point of Sale system consists of a computer controlled till combined with an integrated stock control system. Modern EPoS systems manage stock across many different selling channels, so that sales across both offline and online channels go through the till and stock system. This means retailers never oversell stock or miss an order.
These so call ‘Multichannel EPoS systems’ allow retailers to trade Worldwide via multiple connected eCommerce websites, online trading platforms (such as Amazon, Ebay, Google Shopping) and via third party integrated systems.
Online Trading and EPoS
In 2020, online retail is the real growth area for retail business. Trading online with an eCommerce website or via other online selling channels like Ebay or Amazon give a retailer the ability to massively expand the physical selling radius that a physical ‘bricks and mortar’ store can reach, even allowing the retailer to sell Worldwide if that is required.
Employing an EPOS system allows small independent retailers to compete with multi-national retailers on a global level. Combine with the multichannel selling aspect of online stores and channels such as Ebay and the retailer can enjoy 24/7 selling online to a Worldwide audience.
This globalisation of retail is fantastic from a retailer’s standpoint as it re-defines potential turnover of any business, however is impossible without a fully functioning multichannel EPoS system.
Held Back by Manual Systems
Manual tills and stock control systems really do hold back the potential to push your retail business forward.
Whilst it’s possible to manage multiple online and offline selling channels manually, the physical overheads in time and effort make this a non-starter in 2020.
Without integrated stock control and a good EPoS system, you are faced with multiple stock control systems, multiple ways to list products and massive amounts of task duplication. Duplication of tasks wastes massive amounts of time, which is why integrated stock control and a single interface to all the products you sell, wherever you sell them makes so much sense.
A good multichannel EPoS system will allow you to abandon all the admin systems employed by online trading platforms and eCommerce websites so that control of all stock updates and sales come through the stock control system within the shop till. This gives one point of contact for all stock and sales, saving the retailer time and money.
Accounting and EPoS
It’s one of those tasks which fill all retailers with dread. End of period accounting can literally keep you up at night, especially if you still keep manual, spreadsheet-based records!
Accounting software packages such as Sage Line 50 and Quickbooks have revolutionised accounting for small businesses over the past couple of decades, allowing fast and accurate summing up of turnover and revenue, payroll accounts and VAT declarations. Retailers can save even more time by integrating accounting software packages with a good EPoS system.
With this integration, all the transactions that happen in your physical ‘bricks and mortar’ store, your online stores and selling channels are fed through to your accounting software from the integrated stock control system. This means retailers need the very minimum effort to do end of period accounting, saving massive amounts of time and stress.
What about Multi-Site Retailers?
Multi-Site retailers have traditionally suffered big problems when employing manual tills which aren’t backed up with an integrated stock control system.
Sharing stock between different retail sites without an integrated stock control system means that stock levels for each item cannot be properly tracked or maintained, a real issue where stock levels on many thousands of different products need to be tracked manually.
EPoS systems which are based around a centralised stock control system allow retailers to check stock instantly across multiple sites in a retail chain, allowing products to be sold even when they are not physically present in a particular site. Also, because stock is ‘virtually centralised’ by the EPoS and stock control system, accounting for products becomes much easier for a group of retail stores in different locations, so no need to do costly and lengthy shut downs for stock takes over multiple locations.
A good EPoS system can offer retailers much more than just enhanced till functionality and multichannel support. One of the key benefits of centralised stock control is the ability to integrate with wholesale and bulk suppliers.
Supplier integration is especially good for equestrian and card retailers who run eCommerce websites or trade on Ebay and Amazon because of the number of lines held in store is usually high. Manually adding stock to a store can be a very lengthy, time consuming process which supplier integration completely negates.
EPoS systems such as the Intelligent Retail Connect system integrate with equestrian suppliers such as Trilanco, allowing the retailer to benefit from data entered by other retailers and the supplier themselves – simply scan the barcode of the product and all product information appears in the retailer’s stock tree including product name, description, supplier’s price and images. The Connect system also has the ‘Barcode Connect’ module, allowing retailers to benefit from previously entered product information from other retailers stocking the same products. Simply scan a barcode and product data such as images, description and supplier’s price are entered automatically.
Benefitting from a product repository like this saves countless hours of work entering product information manually, meaning the retailer can be selling faster, leading to early turnover and profits for the retailer.
Reporting and Information
One of the big problems when running a business without stock control system is the inability to make data informed business decisions.
Retailers may have an idea about which products may be the best-selling lines or which products bring the most profit, but that is all conjecture without solid data.
EPoS systems allow critical business analysis to be performed on data that goes through the shop till and stock control system so that intelligent decisions can be taken on future stock purchases, sales channel usage and even marketing methods employed.
With use of data from past sales held in an EPoS system, retailers can instantly identify weak supply chains, find out which selling channel is working best and even find out which product is selling in each area of a multi-site retail business.
Combining sales channel data with online tools such as Google’s Analytics website tracking software, retailers can even determine which type of online or offline marketing will result in sales of a particular product range on an eCommerce enabled website. This sort of deep analysis is impossible to achieve without the solid data supplied by a EPoS and Stock Control systems.
Reward Schemes, Gift and Wish Lists
Of course, ‘going electronic’ has big benefits in the ways that you can enrich customer experience. Customer reward schemes, where the retailer offers a discount to a loyal customer become very difficult to administer without solid historical data on customer spend. A good EPoS system give the ability to track customer loyalty over time and can give the ability for the retailer to easily reward those customers who display loyalty.
Gift and wish lists, where customers can set out lists of items that they wish to receive as gifts or purchase in the future can be tracked manually in a spreadsheet, but do you really want to administer this for multiple accounts? Much better to let the customer administer their own gift and wish lists and let the EPoS system take care of the details across multiple stores and online selling channels!
A recent BBC Panorama programme highlighted the benefits and dangers of ‘Big Data’ – this is the data that online retailers collect about us all, but if it’s good for Amazon… it’s good for you too!
A well structured EPoS system like the Connect system from Intelligent Retail allows you to analyse customer usage patterns with a series of structured reports on purchase behaviour. Whilst the system doesn’t go into the same data collection depth as Amazon, when used intelligently the data available alongside Google Analytics can help you predict stock requirements and shopping patterns, helping your store to generate more revenue and cut stock wastage.
Head of eCommerce
David has been involved with Search Engine Optimisation and web development since 1999 and has spoken at many different retail and SEO conferences including Spring Fair (NEC), Autumn Fair (NEC), PATS, Pure London and SES London goo.gl/7qltz3