Ecommerce and POS integration wasn’t something many mom and pop retailers gave much thought about 10 or 15 years ago.
Today, it’s something all retail store owners need to take into consideration if they want to bring their business to the next level.
If you’re strictly a brick and mortar shop, make this year the year you start your online store. With worldwide ecommerce sales expected to reach over $4 trillion by 2020, there’s no reason why some of that money can’t be yours. Especially when technology has made it easier and more affordable than ever to have an online presence and webstore to support your physical one.
Ecommerce and POS integration may seem like a bunch of technical nonsense that leaves retailers like you scratching your head in confusion, but it’s not. Simply put, an integration is a term used to describe the way two different companies find a shared communication path and combine their respective technologies to create a more comprehensive solution.
In this instance, we’re talking about a point of sale provider joining forces with an ecommerce platform to create a more powerful small business ecosystem of solutions for owners like you.
Let’s take a look at how to integrate an in-store point of sale (POS) system with an online ecommerce platform and set you up for success.
To find your starting point, you need to evaluate your current state of retail management operations. For starters, do you already have a POS system in place? Do you have an existing website with or without an ecommerce component? Do you have none of the above and need to start from scratch?
If you already have a POS system in place, you’ll want to start your search there.
Check with your POS provider and see what ecommerce site or online shopping cart they have an integration with and if the features and functionality will work with your business model.
On the other hand, you may also find that your POS system is outdated and can’t integrate with any ecommerce provider. If that’s the case, you’ll probably want to ditch the old system and opt for something with more modern capabilities like an iPad point of sale solution.
Lastly, if you’re completely starting from scratch with just a cash register in your store, no website, or existing ecommerce marketplace, you have the luxury of building something from the ground up. You can literally start your search anywhere and find solutions perfect for your business.
The Finer Details and Asking the Right Questions
Once you’ve figured out where you need to start and have a good idea of which direction you want to go, we can finally get down to business – learning exactly how the integration works and all the right questions to ask.
Before you sign on the dotted line and pull out your wallet, there are a few questions you want to ask the solution providers before you commit to buying.
- Find out exactly how the integration works. What data, such as inventory quantities is shared between the two systems.
- Understand the communication process. Meaning, when you update inventory because you received a delivery, what system do you use? Do you make inventory adjustments or add new items in the POS software or from the ecommerce platform?
- Is information updated between the two systems in real-time?
- What is the total cost of the ecommerce and POS integration? What are you going to pay per month or year for the combined services?
- Inquire about credit card processing. If you already accept credit cards in your store, you’ll want to know if you can also use the same merchant account with your online store. Ask if there are any additional fees such as a payment gateway fee and what is the increased cost per transaction is since online storefront transactions are keyed-in and not swiped through a credit card terminal like in a brick and mortar store.
- Does the POS system integrate with other business management tools such as accounting software packages or email marketing platforms?
- Do the providers offer customer service and support 24/7/365?
The answers to these questions should give you a pretty good idea of what you’re paying for and what type of service and functionality you can expect out of the solutions.
Now that you’ve selected your solution provider, someone will have to set up the systems. Depending on the particular agreement between you and the other company, this may be a self-service task or an assisted one with the support of a customer service representative.
Either way, the first order of business is to sync your POS inventory with your ecommerce solution. With ShopKeep and BigCommerce for example, there is an easy to follow, self-navigated setup guide in BackOffice for merchants to sync their POS software data to their ecommerce software.
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. Remember, the whole world wide web can view this, so it needs to make sense.
Once all your products and descriptions are added to your online store, you can start to customize it with themes or built-in templates from the ecommerce platform. You’ll find colors and styles for any business, and if you don’t, chances are you or a hired professional can create a customized design that is truly unique to your business.
You’ll also need to figure out the shipping component. Most ecommerce platforms will have shipping calculations baked right into the solution. Others integrate with third-party shipping platforms – giving you more choices and the option to stay in your comfort zone.
Why Integrate Your Ecommerce and POS System
Now that you know where to start and what questions to ask before buying a solution, it’s time to talk about ‘the why.’ Why is all this necessary?
It Makes Financial Cents
The most honest answer is, you can’t afford not to. Having both a physical presence and an online presence helps create an omnichannel commerce experience. It allows customers and potential customers find your business online through your website or webstore, your social media marketplace, and even offline at a physical location. Whichever channel or combination of mediums your customer prefers to shop, they’ll find your brand.
There’s no denying that more and more consumers use the internet to research and buy products. In fact, 81 percent of shoppers conduct online research, and 79 percent of consumers make online purchases. It’s no wonder that businesses that adopt omnichannel strategies achieve 91 percent year-over-year customer retention rates compared to companies that don’t make any omnichannel investment.
It Makes Operational Cents
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? Someone has to process the sales orders, deduct the proper inventory, and track shipping information for every customer.
Think about how many labor-hours that is costing you each pay period or over the course of the year. It’s probably higher than the cost of upgrading to an integrated solution.
With manual effort also comes the risk of human error and mistakes. An employee can accidentally transpose a single number wrong such as zip code digit that would delay the customer’s shipment. Or they inadvertently forgot to deduct the items from the master inventory management list. Not only does this muddle your bookkeeping, but it also opens the door for negative consequences on future orders.
If products are not deducted from your inventory, your online store still shows these items in-stock; when in fact you may have sold your last one. If you don’t catch the mistake before another customer places an online order, you’re now going to have to wait to get the item from the supplier before you can ship it to the customer. Resulting in yet another delayed shipment, negative customer experience, and decreased customer satisfaction.
Any retail owner will agree that Inventory management is just as hard for online retailers as it is for brick and mortar shops. That’s why, if you’re going to do both, it’s absolutely necessary that you find the perfect marriage of ecommerce and POS integration to run a more efficient business in today’s modern world of retail.