The iPad has proven itself a perfect platform for web-based point of sale (POS) systems. It’s sleek and reliable and offers great battery life.
Web-based POS systems enable simple and economical shop and payment handling for businesses of all sizes, with minimal need for any upfront investment. No doubt the future of POS is cloud-based. That said, you want a service that resolves software bugs quickly and offers prompt support to allow you to run your business swiftly without interruptions.
There are many providers out there, and we are not convinced they will all survive the intense competition the next five years. We’ve listed what we consider to be the five best 2018 front-runners in the UK for small businesses.
iZettle Pro for Hospitality
Suitable for: Hospitality, food and drink including full-service restaurants
iZettle Pro is made for the hospitality industry – cafés, bars and restaurants especially. Previously, the Scottish Intelligentpos was the official comprehensive POS system iZettle offered, but this has merged with Zettle who now instead offers iZettle Pro as their premium POS plan over the more basic iZettle Go and Go Plus plans.
The platform is really easy to use and integrates seamlessly with iZettle Reader payments. There are also various equipment bundles on offer, including kitchen printers and cash drawers.
Among other features, iZettle Pro excels with their table management tools enabling you to keep track of open tabs and orders in relation to a map of your table layout. You can allow each table to split the bill, and take orders directly where the customer is through the iPad app – even when offline.
Barista with iZettle Pro connected with an iZettle Reader for payments. Photo credit: iZettle
Payment integration: iZettle Reader 2 – when you use it with iZettle Pro, you only pay a 1.25% transaction fee regardless of card type (normally, it’s 1.75%). Other card terminals can be integrated as well.
Software cost: £39 a month per iPad.
Lightspeed for Restaurant or Retail
Suitable for: Retail, restaurants and hotels
Lightspeed is an omnichannel EPOS solution with Retail EPOS and Restaurant EPOS packages to suit small and medium-sized businesses. It can handle multiple store locations, and integrates online and face-to-face sales so you can run your business from one account.
Lightspeed Restaurant boasts a neat table management overview that you customise, along with many other food- and drink-specific features that help you run your kitchen, bar, waiting and table areas seamlessly. It also has the option to create self-service menus that customers can use themselves to order their food through.
Lightspeed Retail gives you advanced store-related functions such as detailed inventory management functions and customer loyalty profiles so you can anticipate what to offer your regular customers. If a customer can’t pick up a product, the system allows you to create and print delivery documents so you can ship it to them directly and avoid losing their business.
The ability to integrate with an online store makes this a good solution for businesses who want to sell through as many channels as possible. The eCommerce options are so comprehensive that you also get tools to increase your online exposure.
Lightspeed is particularly suited for full-service restaurants, bars, quick-service businesses and cafés.
Payment integration: iZettle Reader 2 and any standard PCI-compliant card machine.
Software cost: Lightspeed Restaurant from £79 a month and Lightspeed Retail from £69 a month
Square Point of Sale
Suitable for: Retail and small food-and-drink businesses
Square Point of Sale is a comprehensive POS system considering it’s entirely free to use. The catch is, however, that you need to use it with Square Reader and not other card machines.
Square Point of Sale is geared towards “all businesses”, but its hospitality-related features and product library make it particularly good for food-and-drink as well as retail businesses.
Among other things, you can add various product features and prices, track stock levels, send invoices, and add staff accounts with limited access. If you log into your Square account through a browser, you can use the virtual terminal also included in the system.
For more advanced tools and systems, you can integrate the Square account with a long list of partner software such as Vend and Xero (which you of course pay for).
Square Point of Sale app with the Square Reader. Photo credit: Square
Payment integration: Square Reader – 1.75% transaction fee for card reader payments, 2.5% transaction fee for virtual terminal, keyed entry and invoice payments.
Software cost: No monthly fees, only the above transaction fees.
Vend for Retail
Suitable for: Retailers of all sizes
Vend is one of the leading EPOS software providers for retailers in the UK. It’s a powerful system that caters to all store sizes from independent small shops to big high street chains.
Vend’s comprehensive features include everything you need for inventory management, a detailed product library, customised reports, and the ability to take payments offline. The analytics functions let you go deep into your sales and employee performance data and track how individual products are performing in a detailed way.
Vend works on iPad, Mac and PCs but not smartphones, so businesses who need to sell on the go will need an iPad or laptop. However, there is a ‘Scanner by Vend’ app for smartphones, which you can use to scan barcodes of your products for inventory counts.
If you’re looking for the most advanced retail POS solution, Vend could meet your needs.
Vend can be run from an iPad – pictured with the Windfall stand – but also a Windows PC or Mac. Photo credit: Vend
Payment integration: iZettle Reader 2, PayPal Here, SumUp Air and Payment Express. Possible to integrate other card machines.
Software cost: From £49 a month.
Shopify POS for Retail
Suitable for: Retail where the online channel is as important, if not more important, than face-to-face sales
The Shopify POS system is one of the most approachable options on the market for shops who primarily sell online. It’s a great choice for people running a business both online and face-to-face, but the backend and frontend may feel more cumbersome than other POS systems designed for face-to-face sales primarily.
Shopify’s web features already make it easy to set up and run all elements of an eCommerce store, from creating the online shop and enabling customers to pay you online to managing stock and inventory. But when you subscribe to Shopify POS, you also get staff management functions, syncing between online and face-to-face sales, and hardware integration with, for example, receipt printers and cash drawers.
Shopify POS with the Shopify card reader and integrated hardware. Photo credit: Shopify
Payment integration: Shopify Card Reader. Other terminals can be integrated, but with a “penalty” transaction fee for not using Shopify’s card reader.
Software cost: Monthly plans start from £56 (USD 29 for Basic Shopify + USD 49 for Retail Package), transaction fee 1.7%. Anyone serious about selling face to face should include the Retail Package on top the Shopify plans. Lowest transaction fee is 1.5% (Advanced Shopify plan).