Running a business comes with no shortage of challenges – managing inventory, tracking sales, processing payments, scheduling staff, and more. An electronic point of sale (EPOS) system can provide invaluable help with handling many of these complex tasks in one centralised platform.
But which system will serve your business the best? I’ve analysed all of the top suppliers in the UK EPOS market, comparing features and functionality, pricing and customer support.
I’ll also explain the difference between some of the entry-level card readers, which come with basic EPOS functionality through an app, and the more complex full-service machines offered by the top EPOS specialists.
Whether you’re a market trader, an e-commerce site, or a large retail and hospitality chain, this article will point you in the right direction.
» MORE Read our full article on The Best Card Machines for Small Business
If you’re new to the world of EPOS systems, I can help you make an informed decision. I’ve been where you are, and I know that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. But don’t worry; let’s tackle this step-by-step.
1. Know your business inside out.
The first step is to really understand your own business. What type of business do you operate? What are your specific needs? Once you have a good understanding of your business, you can start to narrow down your EPOS system options.
2. Zero in on must-have features.
Once you know your business needs, make a list of the features that are essential for you. For example, if you’re a retailer, you might need inventory management, customer relationship management (CRM), and loyalty programs. If you’re a restaurant owner, you might need table management, order tracking, and kitchen display systems.
3. Budget isn’t just a number.
Next, consider your budget. EPOS systems can range in price from a few hundred pounds to several thousand. It’s important to find a system that fits your budget and your needs. If you’re on a tight budget, there are many affordable EPOS systems available, such as Square and Zettle. For larger businesses with more complex needs, there are more expensive systems available, such as Lightspeed.
4. Read the fine print.
Before you sign a contract, be sure to read the fine print carefully. Pay attention to the contract length, termination terms, and any other important details. You don’t want to be stuck with a system that you’re unhappy with.
5. Ratings tell a story.
When you’re narrowing down your options, be sure to read customer reviews. This can give you valuable insights into the pros and cons of different EPOS systems.
6. Don’t skimp on support.
Even the best EPOS systems can have problems from time to time. That’s why it’s important to choose a system with good customer support. Look for a provider that offers 24/7 support and has a good track record of resolving customer issues quickly.
Avoid common pitfalls.
Here are a few common pitfalls to avoid when choosing an EPOS system:
- Flying blind. Don’t choose a system without doing your research. Take the time to compare different systems and read customer reviews.
- Short-sighted choices. Choose a system that can scale with your business. You don’t want to have to upgrade your system in a year or two.
- Ignoring hidden costs. Some EPOS systems have hidden costs, such as add-ons and additional hardware. Be sure to factor in all of the costs when making your decision.
What are the Best EPOS Systems & Suppliers?
Here’s a basic summary of our top choices for EPOS suppliers in the UK. Further down, I’ll go into more detail about each brand and who they’re appropriate for.
|Square||Complimentary POS application, Cost-effective hardware||Free Plan: £0, Plus: £49/month, Hardware: Reader £16, Terminal £149, Register £50||Small retailers, cafes, solo entrepreneurs||★★★★||No Contract||Popular among micro-businesses; offers integration with other Square services|
|Zettle||Complimentary POS application, Cost-effective hardware||Free, Card reader: £29||Small retailers and service providers requiring mobility||★★★||No Contract||Owned by PayPal; straightforward and quick setup|
|Shopify||24/7 Support, Seamless integration with Shopify e-commerce||Basic: £19/month, Shopify: £49/month, Advanced: £259/month||Businesses operating both online and offline||★★★★★||Month-to-Month||Highly flexible; ideal for multi-channel operations|
|Talech||Scalable architecture, Comprehensive feature set||Starter: £29.99/month, Standard: £49.99/month, Premium: £69.99/month||Small to medium businesses requiring operational features||★★★★||12 Months||Extensive analytics and customer engagement features|
|Epos Now||Inventory management, 24/7 customer phone support, Customer loyalty features||£25/month, One-off £399 upfront payment||Retail and hospitality sectors desiring comprehensive features and robust support||★★★★★||12-36 Months||Known for customer service; offers numerous integrations|
|Lightspeed||User-friendly interface, Robust functionality, Optional feature extensions||Lean: £39/month, Standard: £59/month, Advanced: £99/month||Retail and hospitality businesses needing advanced features||★★★★★||12 Months||Wide array of optional modules for business-specific needs|
|Clover||Robust architecture, User-friendly design||Bespoke pricing||Medium to large enterprises seeking custom solutions||★★★★||Custom||Customisable hardware and software options to meet specific business needs|
The 7 Best EPOS Systems: My Verdict
Square, the overall best EPOS system for small business
Square is a popular POS system that is known for its affordability, ease of use, and range of features. I think it’s one of the best small business EPOS available in the UK.
It’s affordable, intuitive to use, has good customer support, and takes security seriously.
The system is designed to grow with you, so as your business expands, you can seamlessly transition to more advanced features and hardware. No need for a big upfront investment; you scale as you grow.
It’s efficient, adaptable, and, most importantly, it doesn’t tie you down into contracts.
The only real caveat is that Square uses a ‘blended transaction fee’, charging a flat percentage for all card types. This is simple and easy to understand, but it may not be the most cost-effective option for businesses with monthly turnover over £5,000.
In a blended fee structure, debit card transactions cost the same as credit card transactions. However, debit cards generally incur lower fees for merchants, meaning you could be paying as low as 0.3% on these as opposed to 1.75% with Square.
For higher-volume businesses, it is worth considering EPOS systems with unblended fees.
- Free POS app
- The reader costs just £16
- Affordable hardware
- Suited to small businesses
- Accepts a variety of payment methods
- Easy to use
- Robust reporting features
- Cancel your subscription anytime without penalty.
- Transaction fees can be high
- Not as feature-rich as some other POS systems
Why We Like It
I like Square because it offers an incredibly easy and affordable way for small businesses to modernize their payments system. Here are some of the things I like about it:
- The free POS software is easy to use and set up. Even if you’re not tech-savvy, you can get up and running with Square in minutes.
- The card reader is affordable and reliable. You can start with the £16 card reader and upgrade to more sophisticated hardware as your business grows.
- The system is adaptable. You can start with the basics and then add features as you need them. For example, you can integrate apps from Square’s App Marketplace or upgrade to the Square for Restaurants plan.
- The customer support is excellent. If you ever have a problem, Square’s customer support team is available 24/7 to help you.
Who Is It Good For?
Square is a good choice for small businesses of all types, ranging from market stalls right up to a retail store with a small card turnover of up to £5kpm.
How Does It Work?
Square’s POS system is easy to set up and use. You can download the app to your mobile device or tablet, and then connect a card reader. You can also use Square’s hardware, such as the Square Stand or Square Terminal.
Once you have set up your Square account, you can start accepting payments. You can create and manage your menu or product catalogue, and you can also track inventory. Square also offers a variety of reports that can help you track your sales and expenses.
How does Square compare to its competitors?
- Compared to Lightspeed POS, Square offers a more user-friendly and affordable solution but falls short in providing specialized features suitable for businesses with complex needs. Lightspeed excels in integrating with a wide range of third-party applications but comes at a higher cost and with a steeper learning curve. Additionally, its customer support is not as robust as Square’s.
- Shopify POS integrates seamlessly with Shopify’s e-commerce platform, allowing businesses to manage both online and in-store sales. It offers a wide range of features and good customer support but is more expensive than Square and not as flexible or scalable.
- Clover offers competitive pricing and a good selection of hardware options. It also integrates well with a wide range of third-party applications. However, its software is not as user-friendly as Square’s, and its customer support doesn’t match Square’s level of service.
- PayPal Zettle is another affordable and easy-to-use option, with a good selection of hardware. However, it doesn’t offer as many features as some of its competitors and its customer support is not as strong as Square’s.
Zettle: Best Entry-Level POS for Paypal Integration
Zettle POS is a mobile point-of-sale system designed for small businesses, including retail, hospitality, and service-based companies. It offers features like payments, order management, inventory, reporting, and employee time tracking.
It’s owned by Paypal so if that’s a payment method you’re already using, you’ll find the integration perfect.
Zettle gets positive feedback for its simple interface, affordable hardware, and transparent pricing. However, some users report issues with limited features and credit card processing errors. The basic POS app is free.
Overall, I recommend Square for its wider range of features like CRM, loyalty programs, and more robust e-commerce support. It’s also cheaper in terms of hardware, costing £19+VAT for a card reader compared to Zettle’s £29+VAT.
Square also wins on reporting capabilities and customer reviews highlight better support and ease of use.
However, Zettle has its moments. It’s a straightforward option if you’re mainly doing in-person sales. It also has a couple of unique features—repeat payments and barcode scanning—that may fit specific needs.
- Free POS app
- Easy to use intuitive interface
- Mobile card reader for £29
- Inventory management tools
- Employee time tracking
- Technical issues reported
- Limited features beyond basics
- Higher rates for card-not-present transactions
- Lackluster reporting capabilities
Why We Like It
Zettle stands out with its free POS app that provides all the essentials small businesses need. For those with simple needs or tight budgets, it’s an excellent way to modernize point of sale without monthly costs.
The card reader seamlessly integrates for taking payments on the go. We also like Zettle’s transparent pricing – no hidden fees, just pay per transaction. While it lacks advanced capabilities, the basic features work well for small retailers and hospitality companies.
For basic mobile POS needs, Zettle strikes a great balance between simplicity and core functionality. It’s an affordable way to start taking cards and manage sales.
How does Zettle compare with competitors?
- Square: While both Zettle and Square offer affordability and ease of use, Square has a slight edge in terms of scalability and feature range. Square also has stronger customer support and a more global reach, which could be factors for businesses looking to expand.
- Shopify POS: Shopify POS excels in e-commerce integration and offers a wider range of features than Zettle. However, Zettle comes in as a more affordable option and could be better suited for businesses that don’t require online and in-store sales integration.
- Lightspeed POS: Lightspeed offers a more specialized set of features better tailored for businesses with complex needs. In contrast, Zettle keeps things simple and affordable, making it a good option for small businesses with straightforward requirements.
- Clover EPOS System: Both Zettle and Clover offer competitive pricing and a good selection of hardware options. However, Clover allows for more third-party app integrations, whereas Zettle keeps it simple with fewer features and less scalability.
Lightspeed: Best EPOS for Retail and Hospitality Businesses
Lightspeed is a major player in the POS industry, offering very focussed solutions for both retail and hospitality businesses. For larger businesses, especially with multiple locations, I see them as the best solution out there at the moment.
Their X Series, (formerly Vend) is a cloud-based POS system aimed at retail businesses. It offers superb inventory management tools, customer profiles, loyalty programs, and reporting, amongst a host of features.
They also have a great solution for hospitality businesses which integrates seamlessly with various Property Management Systems (PMS), and offers advanced reporting and payment options. Additional features include a unified payment platform, cloud-based inventory management, and customer service tools that function on a cloud-based iPad system. The service extends to facilitating both dine-in and takeaway orders through their ‘Order Anywhere’ platform.
Plans start at £39 per month, with add-ons for registers, locations, and advanced features. However, it does offer a free 14-day trial to test it out.
- User-friendly interface
- Flexible payment processing
- Mobile checkout and scanning
- Powerful backend management tools
- Integrated CRM
- 24/7 Support
- Advanced Inventory management
- Integration with accounting software
- Not the cheapest
- Advanced features require premium plans
- Third-party integration is needed for some functions
- No live chat feature for customer support
Why We Like It
Lightspeed stands out for its complete solution to taking payments and is an ideal solution for a business that needs the complex functionality of an entire EPOS platform, as opposed to a simple solution like Square. Granular inventory management, omnichannel selling, customizable reports, and loyalty programs help take your business to the next level.
I like that Lightspeed gives you flexibility. It works on any internet-connected device and has mobile apps for checkout and inventory scanning. You can choose your payment processor or use its built-in option. It also integrates with many e-commerce platforms and accounting software.
While it’s pricier than some POS systems, Lightspeed packs in the features. For retail or hospitality businesses that need a complete solution, it’s highly recommended. The two-week free trial lets you experience its capabilities risk-free.
How Does Lightspeed Compare to Competitors?
- Compared to Square, Lightspeed offers more specialized and robust features but at a higher cost. Square has the advantage in user-friendliness, affordability, and a wider range of features suitable for smaller businesses.
- When set against Shopify POS, Lightspeed offers greater flexibility and scalability, although both systems integrate well with various third-party applications. Shopify POS, while integrating seamlessly with its e-commerce platform, is less flexible and more expensive than both Lightspeed and Square.
- PayPal Zettle is the most affordable and easy-to-use option among the lot but lacks the extensive features offered by Lightspeed. Its customer support is also not as robust.
Talech: Best EPOS System for Mobile Businesses
Talech is another major cloud-based POS system designed for retail, restaurant, and service businesses. It offers features like order management, inventory tracking, employee management, and reporting. Talech aims to provide an intuitive and easy-to-use system at an affordable price point.
The software gets positive reviews for usability and customer support. However, some users report issues with technical glitches and credit card processing errors.
- Easy to set up and use
- Competitive monthly pricing
- Good for small businesses
- Flexible payment processing
- Some technical issues were reported
- Limited integrations
- Credit card processing problems
Why We Like It
Talech stands out for packing a robust feature set into an intuitive and competitively priced package. It aims to provide everything a small retail or hospitality business needs to get up and running quickly.
The software is easy to set up, even for non-technical users. Talech offers tailored solutions for different industries with relevant features built-in. It also gives you flexibility in payment processing instead of locking you into one provider.
While Talech may not be as advanced as some POS systems, its combination of usability, features, and price make it an appealing choice for budget-conscious small businesses. For those needing just the basics to start taking payments and managing operations, Talech is worth considering.
How Does Talech compare with competitors?
- Square: Square excels in ease of use, affordability, and scalability. It boasts a wide range of features and strong customer support. However, it may not be cost-effective for businesses with high transaction volumes and lacks specialized hardware and software options.
- Shopify POS: Shopify POS integrates well with its e-commerce platform and offers a wide range of features along with good customer support. However, it is generally more expensive and less flexible than both Talech and Square.
- Clover: Clover offers competitive pricing and a variety of hardware options, along with integration capabilities with various third-party apps. Its software is not as user-friendly as Talech’s or Square’s, and its customer support is not as strong.
- PayPal Zettle: This system is affordable and easy to use, with a good selection of hardware options. However, it lacks the range of features offered by competitors like Talech and has weaker customer support.
Shopify: Best EPOS System for E-commerce Businesses
Shopify POS integrates Shopify’s powerful e-commerce platform with an easy-to-use point of sale system. It syncs online and in-store sales, inventory, and customer data. Shopify POS offers mobile checkout, payment processing, order management, inventory tracking, staff management, and reporting.
The system gets strong reviews for its intuitive interface, robust feature set, and seamless omnichannel selling capabilities. However, Shopify POS requires a paid Shopify subscription, so it lacks a free POS option. Monthly fees start at £25 for Shopify Lite or £89 for Shopify POS Pro.
- Syncs online and in-store sales channels
- Mobile checkout and payment processing
- Powerful inventory management
- Integrates with other Shopify tools
- Intuitive and easy to use
- No free POS option
- Must have paid Shopify subscription
- Expensive monthly fees
- More focused on ecommerce
Why We Like It
Shopify POS is ideal for retailers who sell online and in brick-and-mortar stores. It makes omnichannel selling easy by centralizing data across channels on one dashboard. The system ensures inventory stays in sync so you never oversell an item.
We like Shopify POS for its mobile capabilities. You can check out customers anywhere in the store right from the app. It also lets you look up purchase histories and send customers follow-ups from any device.
This is the ideal choice if you’re an e-commerce sell principally with perhaps one location. If you’re larger than this, or not operating online as your primary model, something like Lightspeed offers a more advanced functionality.
How does Shopify POS compare with competitors?
- Square: While Square is generally more affordable and easier to use, Shopify POS offers the distinct advantage of seamless integration with its own e-commerce platform, allowing for a unified online and in-store sales experience.
- Lightspeed POS: Lightspeed offers more specialized features and is better suited for businesses with complex needs, but Shopify POS stands out for its e-commerce integration and potentially easier user experience.
- Clover: Clover may offer more competitive pricing and hardware options, but Shopify POS excels in e-commerce integration and a broader feature set, which could be advantageous for retailers who operate both online and offline.
- PayPal Zettle: PayPal Zettle is more affordable and straightforward for basic needs, but Shopify POS offers a more comprehensive range of features and the benefit of e-commerce integration.
Clover EPOS System
Clover POS is a popular point-of-sale system designed for retail shops, restaurants, and service businesses. It offers hardware, software, and payment processing in one package. Clover features inventory management, employee management, customer loyalty programs, and robust reporting.
The system gets positive reviews for its modern design and intuitive interface. However, Clover has faced complaints about poor customer service and lack of pricing transparency.
- Sleek, easy-to-use software and hardware
- Variety of hardware options
- App marketplace for customization
- Employee management tools
- Scalable for multi-location businesses
- Expensive hardware costs
- Confusing pricing overall
- Mixed reviews of customer support
- Locked into proprietary hardware
Why We Like It
Clover stands out for its polished software and hardware that makes taking payments simple. Even first-time users can get up and running quickly with minimal training needed.
We like Clover’s flexibility – it caters to diverse business types with tailored POS solutions. Options like restaurant floor planning and retail barcode scanning enable owners to create a customized system.
The app marketplace also allows limitless integrations to enhance your setup. While Clover lacks pricing transparency, its features help streamline operations for scaling businesses.
How does Clover EPOS System compare with competitors?
- Square: While Square offers a more user-friendly software and stronger customer support, Clover competes well in terms of pricing and its diverse hardware options. Clover also integrates with a wide range of third-party apps, making it versatile for various business needs.
- Shopify POS: Shopify POS has the unique advantage of seamless e-commerce integration and a broad feature set, but Clover offers more competitive pricing and a variety of hardware options, which may be better suited for businesses focused solely on in-store operations.
- Lightspeed POS: Lightspeed provides specialized and robust features tailored for businesses with complex needs. However, Clover offers a more competitively priced alternative with a good selection of hardware, albeit with less specialized features.
- PayPal Zettle: PayPal Zettle offers affordability and ease of use but lacks the feature depth and third-party integrations that Clover provides. While customer support on both platforms may not be as strong as some competitors, Clover’s hardware options may offer more versatility.
Epos Now is a cloud-based POS system designed for retail, hospitality, and service businesses. It offers features like inventory management, purchase ordering, loyalty programs, and real-time reporting.
Epos Now gets mixed reviews, with some praising its ease of use and responsive support while others report technical issues and misleading sales practices. Plans start at £25/month.
- Works on multiple devices
- 24/7 customer phone support
- Integrates with accounting software
- Customizable loyalty programs
- Expensive hardware bundles
- Some report technical glitches
- Can be difficult to get out of contract
- Confusing pricing overall
Why We Like It
Epos Now stands out for providing an intuitive POS system tailored to diverse business types. The software packs in relevant features for retailers, restaurants, salons, and other industries.
We like that Epos Now offers 24/7 customer support at no extra charge. Users also praise the system’s ease of use, with some reporting they got up and running within 15 minutes.
While Epos Now has faced some criticism over pricing and technical issues, its industry-specific POS can streamline operations for small and medium businesses.
How does Epos Now compare with competitors?
- Square: While Square excels in user-friendliness and affordability, Epos Now offers greater flexibility and scalability, along with a wide range of third-party app integrations. However, Epos Now can come at a higher cost and may have a more complex software interface.
- Shopify POS: Shopify POS stands out for its e-commerce integration and wide feature set, but Epos Now offers greater scalability and flexibility, particularly for businesses not requiring a strong e-commerce component. The complexity and cost of Epos Now could be downsides when compared to Shopify POS.
- Lightspeed POS: Lightspeed specializes in robust features tailored for complex business needs and integrates well with third-party apps. Epos Now competes well in these areas but tends to be more flexible and scalable. However, both platforms can be expensive and may present a learning curve for new users.
What is an EPOS System?
An EPOS (Electronic Point of Sale) system is a combination of software and hardware designed to facilitate and automate the sales process.
Going beyond the functions of a traditional cash register, an EPOS system integrates various features to manage inventory, customer data, financial reports, and other business operations. It usually comprises:
- a card reader or card payment terminal
- software to manage inventory, track sales data, generate reports
- hardware like barcode scanners, receipt printers
The software component can integrate with other business systems such as accounting, CRM (Customer Relationship Management), and e-commerce platforms, creating a cohesive ecosystem for managing various aspects of business operations.
Types of EPOS Systems
For the newcomer, the world of EPOS can seem daunting, with a vast spectrum of systems ranging from entry-level card readers to complex top-tier EPOS systems designed for multi-channel integration.
I’ve outlined that range below
|Type of EPOS System||Target Users||Key Features||Notable Benefits||Example EPOS Systems|
|Mobile EPOS Systems||Pop-up stores, food trucks, market stalls||Mobile payment processing, basic inventory tracking||Flexibility, mobility, no fixed contract||Square, Zettle by PayPal, SumUP|
|Retail EPOS Systems||Retail stores, supermarkets||Inventory management, barcode scanning, sales tracking, customer management||Streamlines checkout and effective stock management||Lightspeed, Clover, Taya, YumaPOS, Epos Now|
|Hospitality EPOS Systems||Restaurants, bars, cafes, hotels||Table management, order tracking, tipping, bill splitting||Efficient service delivery and order management||Lightspeed, Clover, Taya, YumaPOS|
|Service-based EPOS Systems||Salons, repair shops, healthcare||Appointment scheduling, service billing, customer history||Efficient appointment and service billing management||Square, Talech, Epos Now, Lightspeed|
|Enterprise EPOS Systems||Large businesses, franchises||Advanced reporting, multi-location support, third-party integrations||Manages complex, large-scale operations effectively||Lightspeed, Clover|
Frequently Asked Questions
What Factors Should I Consider When Choosing an EPOS System for My Business Type?
Different EPOS systems cater to distinct business needs. For instance, restaurants may require table management features, while retailers might prioritize inventory tracking. Consider your sector-specific requirements when evaluating options.
How Does an EPOS System Integrate with Other Business Software?
EPOS systems often integrate with accounting software, CRM systems, and e-commerce platforms. Ensure the EPOS system you choose can seamlessly integrate with your existing or planned software stack.
Are There Hidden Costs Associated with EPOS Systems?
Aside from the initial hardware and software costs, be aware of potential hidden fees like transaction charges, software updates, or customer support fees. Always read the terms and conditions and ask for full pricing details.
How Secure Is the Data Stored in the EPOS System?
Data security is paramount. Inquire about the data encryption methods used, where the data is stored, and what security protocols are in place to protect against breaches.
Is it difficult to train staff on how to use a new EPOS system?
The ease of training staff largely depends on the system’s user interface and complexity. Many modern EPOS systems are designed for intuitive use, often requiring minimal training time.
How does real-time syncing between an EPOS and ecommerce platform work, and what are its advantages?
Real-time syncing means that as soon as a transaction occurs in either your physical store or ecommerce site, the EPOS system updates inventory and sales data instantly across all platforms. This eliminates the risks associated with overselling items and ensures accurate reporting.
Can EPOS systems generate financial forecasts? If so, what metrics do they use?
Some advanced EPOS systems have financial forecasting features that utilise historical sales data, seasonality patterns, and current inventory levels. They might also consider metrics like customer footfall, average transaction value, and sales conversion rates to generate more accurate forecasts.
How do EPOS systems handle multi-currency or multi-location scenarios?
Sophisticated EPOS systems can manage multi-currency transactions and adjust tax rates based on location. For businesses operating in multiple locations, certain EPOS systems allow for regional inventory tracking and provide location-specific sales reports.
What are the typical API integrations available in an advanced EPOS system, and how do they enhance functionality?
API integrations can range from accounting software like Xero or QuickBooks, to CRM platforms like Salesforce, to marketing tools like Mailchimp. These integrations create a more seamless operational workflow, allowing data to flow between different aspects of the business.
What’s the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in modern EPOS systems?
AI capabilities in EPOS systems can range from chatbot assistance for customer queries to machine learning algorithms for inventory optimisation. AI helps in automating repetitive tasks and provides data-driven insights for better decision-making.