Point of Sale (POS) Systems

By Aimee Bradshaw | Writer and researcher

What is a Point of Sale System?

At their heart, point of sale (POS) systems enable businesses to process financial transactions. They’re an absolute necessity for retail and hospitality businesses – without them, you’d never be able to sell a thing.

The video below does a great job of explaining how a POS system works:

Thanks to the recent advances in POS hardware and software development, the introduction of electronic point of sale (EPOS) systems has helped turn simple cash registers into entire business management hubs.

This means you can invest in POS systems that don’t just handle your front of house; they handle your back office too. There’s more information about the different types of POS system in the next section.


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What are the Different POS Systems?

There’s a huge variety of POS systems out there, all catering for different requirements. These days, larger businesses tend to opt for more intelligent EPOS systems, while smaller, independent businesses still consider cash registers as a cheaper option that meets their needs.

So what are the differences?

Manual Cash RegisterElectronic Cash RegisterModern EPOS System
Device memory
Electronic display
Touch screen
Back office functions
Rota management
Customer management

What is a manual cash register?

A manual cash register is a basic cash register that does what it says on the tin – it allows you to process cash transactions.

Most manual cash registers allow you to store prices by creating key shortcuts for each item. You can then ring up each item and cash off. These cash registers are cheap to buy, but are really only suitable for small businesses that don’t process large numbers of transactions.

Read more:

▶ Best Cash Registers for Small Businesses


What is an electronic cash register?

An electronic cash register is slightly more sophisticated. Instead of storing prices on individual buttons, you can create an itinerary of your stock and access each item on the touch screen. This more advanced system makes it easier for you to amend prices and change your itinerary. On top of this, the system is intelligent enough to work alongside connected hardware elements, such as barcode scanners and separate printers.

You’ll also be able to benefit from the following functions:

  • Prompts to upsell
  • Table allocation
  • Stock check assistance

What is a modern EPOS system?

Modern EPOS systems take electronic cash registers to the next level. The software used for EPOS systems is so advanced, it requires a heftier computer system to run it – we’re talking computer and iPad level. That’s right: You can literally use your iPad as a cash register.

You’ll find that barcode scanners, card machines and receipt printers will connect wirelessly to your PC or iPad, creating a complete POS system that’ll help you take your business up a notch. We’ve dedicated a whole section to EPOS systems below.


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Hardware for POS Systems

When it comes to point of sale, the cash register (or the central computer hosting the POS software) is only the start. Aside from manual cash registers, both electronic cash registers and modern point of sale systems are compatible with a range of POS hardware.

These are:

Cash Drawer

Those looking to invest in an iPad POS system will need to bear in mind that they’ll have to purchase a cash drawer as a separate item.

In most circumstances, a cash drawer connects to the receipt printer, and is triggered to open when the printer picks up the finalized sale.

Card Reader

These days, a card reader is probably more important than a cash drawer. This is because people tend to carry far less cash than they used to. What kind of card reader you purchase will depend on the kind of system you’re after.

Many EPOS suppliers will include a card reader in their hardware package. However, if you’re looking to buy one separately, you’ll need to set up a merchant account (bank account), which will allow you to process your transactions.

Receipt Printer

For manual and basic electronic cash registers, a receipt printer is a standard component. However, advanced electronic cash registers and electronic point of sale systems will require you to purchase the receipt printer separately.

As with card readers, most EPOS suppliers will provide a compatible receipt printer within the hardware package. You can, however, purchase USB or wireless receipt printers cheaply online.

Barcode Scanner

A barcode scanner doesn’t need much explaining. In a nutshell, a barcode scanner enables you to efficiently register levels of stock and process items quickly through the transaction.


What is EPOS software?

EPOS software takes a POS system to the next level. Over the last few years, POS software has become increasingly more advanced, with the introduction of the cloud crash-landing POS into the 21st century.

Thanks to the cloud, a POS system is now capable of the following:

  • Collecting and storing sales stats
  • Creating personalized marketing campaigns
  • Managing your social media accounts
  • Creating customer loyalty accounts
  • Staff and rota management
  • Fraud and security protection

All of these functions enable businesses to make the most out of customer and sales data. When maximized fully, this data can help businesses grow at a much faster rate. So if you’re looking to expand your business, a modern EPOS system is certainly the way to go.

Even better, many EPOS software suppliers tailor their software to different sales environments. For example, Square offers businesses POS systems that are tailored towards hospitality, retail and appointment industries. This helps businesses operate even more efficiently.

Similar to an electronic cash register point of sale system, you’re still required to invest in all the necessary hardware to work alongside the software. Most modern EPOS suppliers will provide you with the hardware for a one off fee. But if you don’t have the cash upfront, some suppliers charge a monthly fee that’s inclusive of the cost of the hardware.

Many suppliers will throw in their software for free. The catch? They may charge you slightly more per card transaction. This kind of fee is perfectly normal. Even if you were to buy a card machine separately, you’d still need to invest in a merchant account. And merchant account suppliers will charge you near enough the same amount per transaction made.


How Much Does a POS System Cost?

Well, that completely depends on the type of system you’re after. A basic cash register can cost as little as $500, while an advanced touch screen cash register can set your business back more than $1,000. But don’t worry – if you’re set on a cash register but don’t have the cash upfront, you can rent a cash register instead.

For a modern, sophisticated EPOS system, you’re looking at a one off hardware cost and a monthly software cost. These costs differ from supplier to supplier, with their credit card transaction charge often influencing their overall monthly charge. Check out our handy guide to discover how much a POS system may cost you.

Alternatively, you can receive quotes directly from the top POS suppliers. Just fill in our form with a couple of details and the best suppliers for your needs will be in touch.


What’s Next?

Are you unsure on the best POS system for your business? Expert Market has put together some handy guides to help you figure out the best one for your needs.

Those edging towards an EPOS system should check out our guide on the best POS systems. You’ll find a number of different suppliers, all offering tailored retail and hospitality EPOS solutions.

If you’re edging towards a cheaper alternative, take a look at our best cash registers for small businesses guide. From basic manual cash registers to intelligent touch screen cash registers, there are plenty of solutions to choose from.


Aimee profile image
Aimee Bradshaw Writer and researcher
Aimee is Expert Market’s resident telephone systems, point of sale, and field service software go-to. If she’s not writing about business products, you’ll find her daydreaming about Dorset beaches.
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