Despite our growing love for and dependence on online shopping and the convenience of a life lived digitally, people still love to interact, browse and shop in the real world. No matter how convenient and affordable internet shopping is, the experience of going into a shop can simply not be duplicated on an app or a web browser.
We‘re also becoming collectively more aware of the need to support our local high streets after two decades or more being dominated by the supermarkets and out-of-town shopping centres.
As a result, independent retailers and smaller local companies are beginning at long last to revive and it’s partly thanks to the payment solutions offered by contactless point-of-sale (POS) systems. The internet made us shop with cards more than we ever did before historically and we want to be able to do the same in-store.
Alongside satisfying customer choice and providing safe and secure financial transactions for both shoppers and vendors, these next generation payment platforms offer a broad range of useful tools from web shop builders to marketing analytics giving retailers the opportunity to be seen by a much wider audience.
In this article, we look at point of sales systems for UK small businesses from some of the newer market entrant. We’ll share with you:
- What a POS system is and what advantages it can deliver to your business
- Information on the iZettle, Sumup, Square, PayPal and Shopify POS systems
- How to choose a POS system for your business
POS system UK – what is a POS system?
Any retailer or café or bar needs to take payments from its customers. The question is do you allow customers to pay in the way they want to pay? By choosing a small business POS system from one of the newer suppliers, you’ll be able to accept payments from customers using credit or debit cards and other contactless means – for example, Apple Pay.
As well as allowing you to take payments, a POS system can streamline related administrative tasks such as stock management and the sending of invoices.
What does a POS system look like?
A POS system usually consists of a small card reader linked to a smartphone or tablet with optional added extras like a receipt printer, barcode scanner and cash drawer.
The card reader will be able to take contactless payments as well as chip and pin or magnetic stripes. After downloading the corresponding app to your device, you are able to easily link up these elements and begin processing payments. The card reader and linked smartphone or tablet are technically classed as the hardware.
What does a POS allow you to do?
The software refers to the app on your phone or tablet used for managing the system, for example the Square app or iZettle app.
The app is the brains of a POS system and, at a basic level, it allows you to synchronise transaction with your bank account and your online bookkeeping software. Apps also allow you to accurately manage your stock letting you know when popular lines need re-ordering from your supplier.
There are many more in-depth features available on the POS providers’ platforms of a similar ilk however it’s best to research which platform’s functionality will be best suited to your business needs.
Less stress, more information
The best POS system for your business will ensure you capture the most sales and keep your business growing. By streamlining your business’s general administrative tasks, POS systems free up more of your time to invest further in servicing your customers and developing your company.
A significant benefit of using a POS system is the business information that it automatically records when it’s being used. You are able to track and analyse every sale made. Not only is this very useful for gaining an insight into your customer’s preferences but you can also manage your stock more effectively – less dead money sitting on your shelves.
Most of the apps provide you with alerts when supplies are running low and a range of other useful notifications – you get a better idea of the stock you need to try harder to sell and the stock you’re turning over the most.
Choosing the system that suits your business the most
Generally, you will want to make an informed decision on which POS system to choose based on:
- set up costs,
- charges from the merchant service,
- equipment cost and level of mobility, and
- what kind of administrative tasks can be completed by the accompanying app.
There is another important factor to consider – where and how the actual payment processing equipment itself is used.
Perhaps you’re a one-man-band and you require a versatile and mobile payment taking system to take with you on-site. You can do this with one of the smaller card readers simply linked to your smartphone – both of which can fit in your pocket. You probably don’t need a full POS system.
Many POS systems provide specific app functionality depending on what kind of business you are operating.
For example, retail stores are more likely to require their POS system and app to be able to manage stock inventory management through scanner use whereas food and drink establishments will need features like custom floor plan creation and menu control.
For shops and cafes, the POS systems featuring a card reader, tablet, cash drawer and scanner are probably more appropriate. You can also opt for a standalone or built in receipt printer depending on the provider.
When deciding on the right system for you, make a list of everything you want for your business regarding taking payments from clients and back-end organisation. For each system you review, review how closely the services it offers is to your wish list and choose the one which makes running your company easier and gives you and your staff more time to sell and be productive.
iZettle POS hardware
iZettle provides a comprehensive catalogue of POS equipment for its customers. You can build your system from the company’s printers, cash drawers, barcode scanners, charging docks, and tablet stands. Docks start at £39 with the most expensive item being the stylish Receipt Printer Star mPOP at £319.
The iZettle system is built around its Reader card payment machine – a stylish white portable slab with dimensions of 11cm x 7cm x 2cm. Pair the Reader with your mobile device to accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express, JCB, Diners Club, Union Pay, Contactless, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay, and Discover payments.
iZettle POS – what can it do?
The standard iZettle Go App integrates seamlessly with the company’s new integrated e-commerce solution.
The system allows multiple user access and easy product categorisation and organisation. It’s easy to find (and send) customer receipts and built into the package is a daily reporting system allowing you to track sales by staff member or location.
Better business information leads to better decision making – use the app to spot trends within your business and exploit those trends for the maximum commercial gain. The information it outputs is clear and simple enough for a bookkeeper to be able to update your financial records quickly and, thanks to its upload feature, you can add up to 2,000 new products at a time by importing an Excel spreadsheet.
For restaurants, bars, and cafes, iZettle are offering a 7-day free trial on its iZettle Pro for Hospitality package.
The Hospitality packages allows for smarter table management and, to make things easier for your patrons, the ability for larger tables to split their bills. The app provides waiters and waitresses with the ability to take orders at diners’ tables to send through to the kitchen and you can use it to create your own loyalty program offering your most valuable diners special offers and discounts.
Staffing within hospitality has always been difficult as the perception of unfairness in the allocation of shifts can create resentment among staff members who feel that their colleagues are being worked as hard as they are. The Hospitality app allows you to set staff schedules as well as monitor which staff members are shifting the most food and drink.
iZettle POS charges
There is no monthly charge for using iZettle. In-person payments are charged at 1.75% of the transaction value. If you send invoices to clients from the app who use the embedded link to settle their invoice, you’re charged 2.5% (or 2% if your customer uses PayPal).
You can pay £29 a month for the “Go” account which, in addition to the features listed above, allows you to use the stock you’ve loaded onto your app to appear on your own website – the system is very easy to use and fully integrated. Online sales are also charged at 2.5% (or 2% if the client uses PayPal).
The Hospitality app costs £39 a month with a 1.25% card transaction fee.
If you turn over more than £10,000 a month, it’s worth getting in touch with iZettle to see if they’ll do you a better transaction rate on payments.
SumUp POS hardware
The SumUp Air card payment machine is a beautifully compact and stylish looking device. It’s elegant just like SumUp stand on which you place your tablet which then connects to the Air handheld. The stand is curved, has a natural wood appearance, and it makes a bold but restrained aesthetic statement about your business to your clients.
But looks aren’t everything. What can the app do to help you with your business?
SumUp POS – what can it do?
As well as allowing you to take card payments (Visa, Vpay, MasterCard, Maestro, American Express, Google Pay, Apple Pay, and contactless) from customers, it allows you to share sales receipts with your clients digitally via email or SMS. You can buy a mobile printer if you want to hand customers paper receipts.
Portfolio and product management is a key feature of the SumUp POS app – you can add new products and view all of your stock across your catalogue. To your products you can add or edit VAT rates and you can make the calculation of accruing tax you’re liable for easier with real-time personal revenue reports.
The system allows cash payments, for better management of staff tips, and multiple employee access (with varying levels of permissions).
SumUp POS charges
Card payments cost 1.69% with SumUp and there are no monthly account charges. Payments are made into your bank account normally with 2-3 working days.
If a customer phones you up and wants you to send an item to them or to keep it there for them to collect, you can take payment when you’re speaking to them. Over-the-phone transactions cost 2.95% of transaction value plus 25p.
You will get even better rates if your business does more than £250,000 a year worth of card transactions – contact their sales team to discuss the size of discount they’re prepared to offer.
Square POS hardware
Square offers six different ready-made POS kits starting at £395.
Depending on the package you choose, you receive a terminal, a receipt printer, a universal stand, and a paper drawer. Different systems are designed for different environments – for example, three of the six POS kits are designed for kitchens and feature both a receipt printer and a kitchen printer so that orders can be sent to the chefs from the app.
Square POS – what can it do?
The standard Square POS app (which ONLY works with Apple devices not Android devices) is under continual development as the company adds new functionality to better help their customers.
Square describes their POS app software as a “till with brains” – a place where you can track all of your sales including sales made by cheque, gift card sales, and cash sales.
To your receipts, you can add feedback forms for clients to let you know how you’ve performed and the software allows groups of clients to split a bill between them.
The app allows you to track your company’s profitability and to gain a deeper level of understanding about how your business, its staff, and its range of products are really doing. The more up-to-date and accurate information you have about your business, the better you can lead it.
With the app, you can manage your team, compare sales across locations, edit prices at each location, manage staff timecards, apply or remove taxes, manage your inventory, and more. Square allows third-party software developers to innovate further – there is an app market for your Square POS ecosystem.
Included within the app is a virtual terminal allowing you to take over-the-phone payments and to send invoices with an embedded payment link to customers.
There is also a modified version of the POS app for restaurants as well offering custom floor plans, shift and sales reports in real time, takeaway order management, menu set-up, and unlimited permissions and employees.
Square POS charges
Square also charges no monthly fee and its charge on card transaction is just 1.75% (2.5% when the cardholder is not present).
PayPal POS hardware
Offered via West Coast Payment Systems, PayPal’s POS option costs from £660 and is available in black or white.
In addition to the PayPal Card Reader, these stylish and contemporary packages include:
- the award-winning Eposnow software (£50 per month after 12 months),
- a Lenovo Android tablet fully integrated with MePOS and Eposnow,
- MePOS hardware including a thermal receipt printer, and
- multiple ports for extra peripherals you may want to add.
PayPal POS – what can it do?
The PayPal POS app features much of the functionality of its competitors. As with other companies in this sector, PayPal hopes that your use of its apps and services means that it becomes a vital part of the management and operation of your company. That makes you more likely to stay with them and harder to switch away.
You can manage stock with the app using centralised catalogues containing one item or thousands. Each item can be modified to feature multiple colours and sizes. You can also bundle produces and create labels, barcodes, and stock orders.
Its ability to produce reports on sales, trends, and staff member performance is impressive and these reports will give you a real insight into what’s working well in your business and what you might need to improve. On the subject of staff, the app allows you to set sales targets per team member and create league tables of the most successful performers. Depending on an individual user’s level of permission, staff can void sales, issue refunds, or process in-store discounts.
If your business is appointment driven, the PayPal POS app integrates with your website, a special mini-website, and your Facebook page allowing clients to select their own times when they can see you. Customer loyalty can also be rewarded as the app allows the creation of a client database for marketing and follow-up purposes.
The PayPal POS app costs from £20 a month.
PayPal POS charges
PayPal’s card transaction charges are based upon monthly volume and their latest charging matrix is below:
|Monthly volume||Transaction fee|
|Up to £1,500||2.75%|
|£15,000 and above||1%|
For AmEx payments, the fee is 2.75% and for swipe card and manual entry transactions, you’ll pay 3.4% + 20p.
The cards accepted by PayPal include MasterCard, Maestro, Visa, and American Express. Contactless payments are accepted from your clients’ Apple Pay and Android Pay accounts.
Shopify POS hardware
Shopify is best known for giving entrepreneurs and side hustlers the opportunity to build their own webstore (no technical skill needed) and to sell their products online.
Shopify however does not just want to be a major presence in this market. In the last two years, it has aggressively launched its own in-person and in-store card payment systems including its own POS product – the Star® mPOP™ with Scanner.
Available in black or white for £379, this attractive unit features a cash drawer which opens automatically when a sale is processed, a basic stand upon which to place your iPad (this links to the Shopify payment system), a USB 1D barcode scanner, and a starter roll of paper on which customers’ receipts can be printed as well as a power unit.
If you’d prefer to build your own customised POS hardware kit, you can choose from readers and stands, stands for your iPad, barcode scanners, printers, and labels, receipt printers and paper, and cash drawers.
Shopify POS – what can it do?
The Shopify POS app is designed to marry your online sales presence to your in-store presence. If you already have a Shopify store, you can use the information on that to download to your POS app so that the same information appears on your tills as it does on your website.
The POS app provides retailers with information and reports on trends in-store and online and on stocking levels. The POS allows you to:
- pay in a variety of different ways (and allows you to record payment amounts and types),
- add and amend taxes when needed,
- apply discounts (ongoing, custom, and limited-time promotions with reports on performance),
- manage stores and the staff in those stores,
- link to your bookkeeping and accounting packages, and
- build up records of your products and categories (and run reports on them),
The POS system allows the downloading and integration of third-party apps for added functionality – it has its own App Store offering add-on features to help with stock management, purchase orders, staff timekeeping, employee scheduling, draft orders, email marketing automation for loyalty programs, and invoice generation.
Shopify POS charges
In order to be able to use the Star® mPOP™ with Scanner, you need to subscribe to either the Shopify Plan or Advanced Plan monthly service.
The Shopify Plan costs $79 a month and allows 5 staff accounts across up to 5 store locations. Transaction charges are 1.6%.
The Advanced Plan costs $299 a month and allows up to 15 staff across 8 locations. Transaction charges on this tariff are 1.5%.
POS system UK – in summary
What you can do with your point of sale systems from these new market entrants in many ways mirrors the functionality offered by sellers of more traditional POS systems. Particularly complex businesses will still probably need their own bespoke solution but, for the vast majority of retailers and hospitality outlets, you’ll find that the systems described on this page will be able to perform most or all of the tasks you need them to.
If you want any help choosing the right POS system for your business, please fill in the form at the top of the page. Tell us as much about yourself and what would make running your outlet(s) and your overall business easier. We’ll then come back to you with the top 2 or 3 suggestions that we believe would add real value to your business.
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