Having an online store is critical to the success of a business — now more than ever.
Global ecommerce sales are expected to grow to $6.4 trillion by 2024.
And it isn’t just important to have an online channel. To meet rising customer expectations, it’s increasingly important to provide customers a seamless buyer journey from online to offline and back again.
After all, research shows that shoppers who shop on multiple channels also spend more in physical stores. A study by Harvard Business Review found that consumers who conducted prior online research on a retailer’s own site or other retailers' sites spent 13% more in retail stores.
But if your business has been predominantly offline until now, the thought of inventory management across channels might be unfamiliar territory. Luckily, there’s an easy solve for this.
Launching a new arm of your business means you now need to connect your offline POS (point-of-sale) system to your online ecommerce platform. Just like any relationship, communication is the key to success. This integration is essential to the connection between your two main business channels.
“Integrating point of sale with ecommerce is a must for any retailer that’s doing business online and offline. You want your channels to “talk” to each other, so that sales, inventory, and customer data flow smoothly from one system to the next. This saves you time, reduces double-entry, and minimizes human error.” — Francesca Nicasio, Retail Expert, Vend Point of Sale.
In this article, we’re delving into the why, what and how of the all-important point-of-sale system (POS) ecommerce store integration.
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First, let’s set the scene.
What exactly is an ecommerce POS system? Put simply, it’s a digital solution that allows you to process orders or transactions across various channels.
In the offline sense, you may be familiar with using POS hardware, like a cash register for example. How do you take that cash register and connect it to your new online store?
Depending on your current situation, you may need to upgrade to an integrated point of sale system. This is a POS that can handle both online and offline orders and transactions. You’ll still have necessary hardware and software — like your cash register or contactless card reader, but, you’ll experience more enhanced analytics and more organised inventory management by syncing your systems. Plus, your new and improved POS system can handle payment transactions for you.
For customers who have an offline and online store, POS integration is a vital component for more reasons than one.
Danielle Ewert, Senior Manager of Onboarding and Training at Heartland Retail, shares this: “Integrating your POS and ecommerce site means having one holistic view of your customers and business. Inventory, orders, gift cards, images — all of these and more sync, offering your customers a seamless omnichannel shopping experience and your team a 360-degree view of your sales performance and customer journey.”
Here’s a more in-depth look at some of the specific advantages.
Remember, the goal is to be where your customers are. You physically cannot be in multiple places at once, but your ecommerce POS integration can.
By integrating your offline and online channels into one POS, you’ll gain a holistic view of your customers and business without the stress of adding up numbers manually.
Any business owner or ecommerce manager knows how crucial it is to streamline your inventory management.
By having a direct line of sight to inventory, you won’t have to worry about over-selling products and cutting your customers’ orders. This is particularly important if you want to operate a buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) or click-and-collect model. Customers need to know that the item they order for pick-up at your store will be there.
Integrating an ecommerce POS system rids you of having to manually input data. Being able to manage your product information in one place and not having to update it yourself is a huge value add. If the POS syncs order info from online orders (or vice versa) that’s also one less place you have to reconcile data.
Not only does this save you a headache, but also a significant portion of time. This is time you can now invest elsewhere in your business.
Many ecommerce platforms make it easy to enable promotions within their own system, but a POS system integration takes it a step further.
No longer do you have to make a choice between applying all of your promotions to either online and offline channels.
Add a layer of personalization and customisation to your store by enabling promotions with your POS system.
Just like most technologies you integrate in your business, they can help you learn a lot about your customers.
Ecommerce POS system integrations are no different. By integrating your POS, you have clear insights into customer sales behavior. This can in turn improve your customer relationship management (CRM).
“Having all your customer data in one place means you can view shopper behavior on both channels, allowing you to make tailored recommendations and market to them more effectively.” — Francesca Nicasio, Retail Expert, Vend Point of Sale
When vetting which POS solution is right for your business, make sure you understand how data and insights will be shared with you.
By connecting your POS system to your online store, you create a seamless experience for your customers. You’re allowing them to pay in various ways thanks to POS software, make online ordering seamless and even integrate marketing initiatives like loyalty programs.
This integrated solution will increase customer satisfaction and address business needs in real time.
You understand the why — now you need the how.
Here are the five steps you need to take to successfully integrate your POS and ecommerce website:
Properly vetting any technology investment is a big deal.
But, before you dive into any significant decisions about integrating your POS system with an online store, you’ll need to evaluate the state of your retail management operations.
If you have a POS system already in place, you have a starting point.
As long as your current POS system has an API, it can be integrated with an ecommerce platform that also has an open API architecture, like BigCommerce. Check to see if your POS system has a direct integration with BigCommerce here.
Even if your existing POS system is ecommerce compliant, you’ll still want to evaluate the pros and cons of your existing POS system. What do you love about it and what do you wish was different?
If the pros outweigh the cons, take the next step and ask your POS provider what options are available to you when it comes to integrating with your ecommerce site. Get specific — what does the online shopping cart look like? What features and functionalities are native to their online software?
Confirm whether or not you want to continue with your existing POS system. Be mindful that this decision will play an integral role in how you conduct your online and offline business moving forward.
But what if your existing POS system is outdated and doesn’t offer an ecommerce integration?
Luckily, you have plenty of great cloud-based POS options to choose from. Chances are they will enhance your brick-and-mortar experience as well. Here are some of the ones we recommend that have a direct integration with BigCommerce.
Think about what new modern-day experiences you want to be able to deliver to your customers. Maybe it’s contactless payments. Or maybe it’s an integrated loyalty program.
Jot down your must-haves, nice-to-haves, and can-do-withouts.
Starting from scratch means you don’t have to worry about transferring inventory or other data. The world of integrated POS systems is your oyster!
When choosing from all the available options, be mindful of how well each POS system integrates on the backend across various aspects of your business.
Let’s look at some of these aspects below.
This is arguably the most important aspect when it comes to POS system integrations. You need to understand how each POS system works. How do you view inventory? How does it deliver low-stock notifications?
Using your POS system to handle customer management can be a great asset to your business.
Be sure to understand how the following features work:
Do you have a customer that wants to return an online order in person or vice versa? How does this process work? Is it easy for your retail business to handle these transactions?
POS hardware has come a long way in the past few decades. From cash registers, barcode scanners and receipt printers to beautiful iPads, iPhones or Google Androids — your retail POS system hardware will look just as modern as the software itself.
When it comes to brick-and-mortar, chances are your customers are engaging with your hardware. The sleekness of your hardware absolutely reflects on your business and customer experience.
Take Square’s POS hardware as an example — chances are you’ve used it when conducting business with a small business, like a coffee shop or pop-up. Customers are asked to use the touchscreen to finish payment transactions (e.g., adding tips, signatures, etc.).
Plus, they may prefer to pay by Apple Pay or another contactless card method — so, you’ll need a contactless card reader.
You’ve determined whether you are moving forward with your existing POS, looking to switch or are starting fresh. This is where the real research begins. Here are a few commonly asked questions.
Understanding how your POS and online store will work together is essential. While every POS system integration looks slightly different, here’s what you can expect at a high level.
Information that is shared between the two includes:
“You also want your solutions to be in sync so that when you sell something in any of your stores, your system will always have the most updated information and figures. This is crucial, because staying competitive in today’s retail environment requires you to make decisions quickly, based on real-time data.” — Francesca Nicasio, Retail Expert, Vend Point of Sale
This is very important. Having real-time updates is a huge added advantage to having a POS system integration with your online store. This is especially important if you are having a flash sale online, so you can prevent overselling.
Just like your ecommerce store, many POS systems integrate with various tools for ecommerce business management. Make sure the one you pick integrates with what you already use (assuming you want to keep it).
At the minimum, to cover your bases, select a POS system that comes with an accounting software (e.g., Quickbooks). You can also choose to integrate tools like an email marketing system to enable order notifications, etc. Think about how you can use your POS system to make customer management easier. They can also work to manage specialized B2B features like providing purchase orders.
The answer to this question often depends on your ecommerce solution (and that makes it a very important factor when selecting one).
If you launch an online store with BigCommerce you’ll never be charged additional transaction fees and still have the flexibility to choose from many POS integrations, including:
The only additional costs you would be confronted with are specific POS system subscription costs and your payment processing fees (e.g., credit card processing) which will vary depending on what payment options you provide.
This will depend on your technology stack.
When calculating costs, take the pricing (whether it be month-by-month or annually) of your ecommerce platform, the cost to integrate your POS and any added features and benefits to get your total cost of ownership.
Congrats, you’ve selected a POS system! Now it’s time to get set up.
Depending on the agreement you have with your POS system provider, this may be a self-service task or one with assisted support from a customer service representative.
Product descriptions are often forgotten, but they’re incredibly important when working with both an ecommerce site and POS system.
You must understand your character count or product description standard with every POS system you consider. Keep in mind, you may also have to add or tweak product descriptions so they aren’t just short abbreviations that only you and your employees can understand.
You also don’t want to neglect your product images. Web-quality product images are incredibly important for drawing in and converting customers.
Remember, your customers depend on your product descriptions and images to understand your products. A bad product description could hinder sales (and increase returns)!
You’re up and running, but the journey doesn’t quite stop there.
Add routine checks to make sure your store operations and integrations are running smoothly. This will help prevent any hiccups and finding out about issues directly from your customers.
You know the lingo and understand the benefits that POS system integrations bring to an online store.
The reality is every business is built differently. Just because this technology is a fit for one company, doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for yours. Unsure about what to do? Consider these two questions.
If you’re currently operating your POS system and your ecommerce system separately, think of all the extra manual effort it takes to keep everything in sync.
Right now, someone has to process the sales orders, deduct the proper inventory and track shipping information for every customer. It’s a lot of manual, required work.
Ask yourself: would integrating a POS system — that communicates across your sales channels — help save you time and effort?
“We live in a time where convenience is king — and being where your customers are is vital. Consider what expanding your business online, bridged together with the right POS, could do for your business. “The bottom line: With the right software, your brick and mortar POS system and ecommerce shopping cart can be a match made in retail heaven.” — Francesca Nicasio, Retail Expert, Vend Point of Sale
In 2021, customers expect lightspeed interactions and the highest quality of satisfaction.
Expanding your business online, bridged together with your brick-and-mortar business, can offer an amazing shopping experience for your customers.
An ecommerce POS integration is the key that will unlock this. Even better, there are plenty of options available for your business to use, whenever you’re ready.
A POS software package makes it possible to integrate with your online store. POS software is usually packaged with compatible hardware for your offline store. The POS system can then link to not only your ecommerce platform but customer service, inventory management, accounting and more from a single program.
Modernizing your POS hardware can not only make it easier to connect to your online store and find efficiencies in your business processes, it can also improve your customer experience. While the POS hardware you use might not seem to have a huge impact on your customers, it reflects on your business. A modern system gives your customers more, and potentially contactless, ways to pay.
If you have an existing POS system that needs an update in order to integrate with your ecommerce site (or just because you’re ready for a change), you will likely want to transfer your existing data. Depending on a number of factors, including the age of your current system, it may or may not be possible to transfer the data. Your case will need to be evaluated individually, but this is a key question to ask your new POS provider.
Integrating your POS system and ecommerce site allows you to sell in more places at a time, keep you from over-selling by providing real-time inventory data, avoid manual data entry, offer cross-channel promotions and discounts and ultimately improve your overall cross-channel customer experience.
When your POS system and ecommerce platform communicate it provides you with a wealth of customer data so you can better personalize the experience to each individual customer and provide tailored recommendations.
It also improves the overall customer experience by creating a seamless buyer journey. You’re allowing them to pay in more ways and make online ordering simpler and can also integrate promotional marketing initiatives including loyalty programs.
The right POS system for your business will depend on your specific business needs. Here are a few factors to consider in the decision: cost of system (including software and hardware), data reporting, integrations with your ecommerce platform and other mission-critical tech, level of support provided and how easy it is to use.
If you are starting out in ecommerce for the first time, it’s worth it to do research in the beginning to pick the right ecommerce platform. Replatforming and moving all of your data later is a big project, so you’ll thank yourself for doing your due diligence at the outset.
Some things to consider when choosing an ecommerce platform: Will you want hosting included or will you handle hosting and maintenance yourself? How will the platform integrate with your existing tech stack? What features does it have and which will you need to add on? Factoring on any add-ons and maintenance costs, what is the total cost of ownership?
Your POS system should be able to communicate with your ecommerce site to sync the catalogue between online and offline stores and provide automatic inventory updates for both offline and online stores. This information needs to be shared in real-time so you have a clear picture of your available inventory and so do your customers.
Integrating with your ecommerce platform is one thing, but it’s also important to choose a POS system that can integrate with other relevant business tools. For example, you might want your POS system to be able to share data with your accounting software or an email marketing system to enable order notifications.
This will likely depend on your ecommerce platform. Make sure the cost to use your POS system of choice is factored into your budget.
If you’re looking just at the brick-and-mortar side of the business, it can seem like people only interact with your POS system at checkout. However, in reality, especially when its integrated with your online store, the POS system can affect the entire buyer experience. Your POS system is your source of truth for inventory management and keeping customers up to date with real-time information. And then if a customer needs to return or exchange something after checkout/delivery, your POS system can help manage those transactions as well.