Finding the right EPoS partner: Mission EPoS-ible?

Finding the right EPoS partner: Mission EPoS-ible?

Making the transition to EPoS may seem a daunting task. So how do you ensure you find a product and provider that is right for your business? Dave Chunilal, Director of EPoS specialist Nisyst, discusses how…

It’s often claimed that an Electronic Point of Sale (EPoS) system is like Marmite – you’ll either love it, or hate it, and some retailers won’t even give it a try.

Regardless of which camp you’re in, to be successful in modern day retail, it’s generally agreed that a robust, feature rich solution that is not only capable of tracking stock, but also has the ability to enhance customer experience and drive business growth is needed.

This means letting go of your old retail system and making the leap to EPoS. But with so many EPoS providers on the market – from those that promise the earth but fail to deliver, to the more reliable, tried and tested companies – how do you make sure you choose the latter and find the provider that’s right for you and your business?

By asking the right questions and knowing what to look for in a provider before you part with your hard-earned cash, you can make sure your new EPoS system leaves you with a taste of sweet success, instead of bitter disappointment.

The older the better
Just like fine wines, EPoS providers mature with age. So one of the first things to look for is a provider who is well established within the marketplace.

Sit down and carry out some detailed research on the provider so you are familiar with their background and level of expertise. How long has the business been going for? What other clients do they have?

For most businesses, especially SMEs, price is likely to be a key purchasing criteria. But don’t be immediately tempted by new start-up EPoS providers offering significantly marked down rates.

Remember, new start-ups are likely to have fundamental design flaws that can hinder your business – and in the worst-case scenario can go out of business, nullifying any savings you made in the first place.

However, established providers tend to have solutions that are much more feature rich. And often, it’s the small features that they have picked up over a number of years that make the biggest difference, increasing productivity and boosting profits. Although this may mean a little more expense, you’ll find that the benefits of working with a company with a proven track record are priceless.

Finally, look for a provider who has a solid reputation in your market sector in particular. Have they dealt with similar businesses? What sectors do they work with? Retailers in different vertical markets all have slightly different requirements, so if you find a provider who is already familiar with your business area they can usually advise you on how similar companies are utilising the system, helping you to make the most of the technology.

You get what you pay for
Like all products in retail – you get out what you put in. And you should apply the same methodology when looking for an EPoS solution.

Generally, a cheap, less robust system will be prone to glitches and is false economy. Invest in a robust, comprehensive solution that meets all your requirements and more, and it will last you for years to come.

Technical support is another key factor. Does the provider have a UK based helpdesk that is centrally managed within the company? If it’s outsourced, you need to be confident that it’s still of a high standard and can resolve problems efficiently. As a guide, it’s always best to go with an EPoS solutions provider that has an internal helpdesk run in the UK.

And remember, although a new EPoS system may not be cheap, the price you pay should be a one off cost. Avoid providers who attempt to charge you an annual software license fee. The only annual fee you pay should be for software and hardware support after your initial purchase, but this is the same across all providers.

Most EPoS providers will offer free software updates if you have a software maintenance contract – so think twice if you are asked to pay for this.

Buying for the future
Retailers need a solution that can grow and develop with the business, regardless of their size. Whether you have only one or two stores now, or 10 or 15 stores, in three years time your business may have doubled or even tripled in size and your needs will have changed.

Look for a provider who can cater for this growth and provide you with head office and warehousing solutions. This way, if your business does expand you won’t have the burden of having to find a new provider to support you in terms of software and support. It’s also important to ensure that the EPoS system offers you key reporting modules as standard, but allows you to purchase additional modules at a later date if required.

Evaluating the type of software the manufacturer creates is another important, yet overlooked area. Some software manufacturers create software that will only run on certain types of hardware, which may prove costly in terms of maintenance in the long run, as hardware will become more difficult to replace.

Try to find a solutions provider that can cater for a variety of EPoS hardware. Therefore, if your printer breaks and has been discontinued, you’ll at least have the option of replacing it with a more up-to-date model.

Remember, the quality of the software should be your first concern – evaluate this first before looking at what hardware is on offer.

Finding a matching pair
There are many EPoS solution providers who prefer to offer a fully integrated solution. However, some companies buy in and resell both the head office and the EPoS software from different sources and then attempt to integrate them to offer a solution – essentially akin to trying to put a square peg in a round hole.

Ideally, find a provider who has written both elements of the solution and that they are tried and tested as a truly integrated end-to-end solution. Partnering with a provider who has developed their own software also means you can receive a more bespoke EPoS package, as the company can modify the solution to meet your needs as and when required.

As this is a long-term investment, it’s vital that you have access to the software for as long as the solution remains in your business. Check that the EPoS provider actually owns the software. This way, if it develops a fault you still have a means of fixing the problem, ensuring business continuity.

For larger organisations this may mean the software is put into ESCROW, which may incur a small charge, but safeguards the software in your favour if the EPoS provider goes out of business.

Training…on the job
Once you’ve paid out a significant amount of money for a new EPoS system, you’ll undoubtedly want to feel confident using it. Look for a solution that is easy to use – will all your staff be able to use it?

Before you sign the cheque, make sure the provider offers some kind of support to help you get the most out of the system. Do they offer competent training and training manuals? How is the training delivered?

To guarantee the quality of the training, find a provider that does not outsource this area of their business – this way, you can ensure the trainer is familiar with the system and is able to provide you with a high level of support.

Decision time
Making the transition to EPoS may seem a daunting prospect. But armed with the right information, you can find a provider that has the level of expertise needed to make this changeover as smooth and as hassle-free as possible. Pick the right one, and you’ll wonder why it took you so long to sample the delights of EPoS.Finding the right EPoS partner: Mission EPoS-ible?

Holly Aston