You have your own brick and mortar store from which you run your business. You have it listed in Google My Business, maybe you have your own website, but you don’t sell online… yet. What decisions regarding your physical store may affect moving online later? Your Point of Sale (PoS) system is one of them.
A Point of Sale system typically consists of a computer connected to special purpose hardware such as a barcode reader, cash drawer, receipt printer, and so forth. (In this modern day there are also of course cloud based solutions.) Different vendors implement different functionality, but features such as tracking stock levels are common. So what PoS features should you think about to simplify going online later?
When you go online, you will need to be able to take online payments. It is worth thinking through what requirements an online payments solution may add.
- Does the payment processor you are using in your store also support online transactions? If not, you may need to establish a new relationship later when you go online, or at least have separate merchant accounts. (This is not unusual.)
- Do you want to support online purchases with in store returns or exchanges? Another reason for consistent payments across both channels.
- Do you want to support online wallets, such as Google Pay? These simplify the online checkout flow by remembering payment details (such as credit card numbers), which is particularly useful when purchasing from mobile devices with painful keyboards. Is Google Pay supported on your PoS, allowing you better cross-channel visibility into your customers?
- Can you email receipts? This also means you can collect reliable email addresses for customers making email campaigns easier, as well as linking online and offline purchase experiences for better understanding of your customers.
- Do you plan to have a loyalty program with discounts that affect your pricing online or in store? Does your PoS support integration with loyalty program platforms?
Your store may be your warehouse, with your Point of Sale system acting as your inventory management system. How then do you keep your online and physical store stock levels in sync?
- Can the PoS support buy online and pickup in store?
- Can your in-store staff reserve items easily, putting them aside when an order comes in?
- Does your PoS allow easily integration with external systems to update them as stock levels change?
- Can you receive messages via the PoS system so in-store staff know to put items sold online aside for later shipping. (They may be too busy to pack the items immediately, but leaving stock on the shop floor may result in it being sold twice.)
- Can you easily update stock levels to reflect damaged (or stolen) stock?
Ship from Store
If your store is your warehouse, then you will probably be packing and shipping from your store.
- Can your PoS system support label printing? Shipping addresses will arrive with orders from your online store – can you print them?
- Does your PoS support courier integrations to simplifying ordering of couriers for pickups and returns?
As well as features, there are technical aspects to consider.
- Does your store have good internet access? Will you have full, restricted, or no capabilities if your internet connection goes down?
- Can you connect additional devices later (such as a printer for shipping labels), or does your vendor only permit their own hardware devices to be attached?
- Does your PoS have a built in backup strategy? If your device breaks, how can you recover? How long will it take?
The above discussion focussed on single store businesses. As soon as the business grows beyond a single store, many new issues come up that may also be worth thinking about. For example, an order management system (including stock level tracking across multiple locations) may address some of the points raised above rather than being provided by the PoS system.
- Should you have a warehouse for storing excess inventory outside of the stores?
- Will you ship online sales from the warehouse, from stores, or both?
- How will you sync stock levels across storefronts and warehouses?
- Should you provide endless aisle (“save the sale”) experiences – allow store associates to sell items currently located in another store (rather than losing a sale due to being out of stock)?
One of the challenges in selecting a Point of Sale systems is there are so many choices on the market. The purpose of this blog is not to make product recommendations (there are other sites that do that), but rather help you think through what features to look at. Many of the major e-commerce platforms have recommendations on Point of Sale systems with existing integrations that can be worth reviewing.
The above list of questions is not exhaustive, but is a good starting point. For small businesses that want to later move online, selecting the right Point of Sale system up front can save effort (and money) down the track. With the increasingly omnichannel world that we live in, it is worth planning for an e-commerce presence even if your short term vision is only for a physical store.
Oh, and if you had not noticed, Google has a local feeds partnership program simplifying uploading data from a POS system to Google Merchant Center, which can be useful in combination with Google local inventory ads. But I resisted temptation to list support as the first requirement! 😉