It wasn’t too long ago that selling online and selling in-store required two very different processes.
On one hand, you had your store-based POS system, which handled the transactions that physically happened on-site. Online sales were handled completely separately, using different software and even pulling inventory numbers from a completely unrelated location.
However, your customers have always expected one experience, one brand, and one relationship from their interactions with your business. That’s only becoming more true today.
Thankfully, new technology is making it easier for retailers to provide a totally integrated purchasing experience for customers. Modern POS software brings in-store and online purchases together in the same system. This integrated approach is commonly referred to as “omnichannel retailing” (also sometimes called “total retail” or “multi-channel selling”).
In fact, if your company’s retail process still uses different systems for different channels, you may find yourself falling behind your competitors.
Here’s what you need to know about what why consumers expect an integrated experience — and the tools you can use to give it to them.
Consumers’ Changing Relationships With Brands
People have different expectations of companies today than they did in the past. They expect to see and interact with them personally and publicly over many different channels, from Twitter to email. They also increasingly prefer to do business with companies that have a social mission and a good “conscience,” for example.
The way your business aligns itself with social and political causes, the way it responds to customers on Twitter, the way it handles PR crises — all of these things come together to form the perception of your brand as a whole.
In this landscape, brand consistency has become even more important. Customers’ retail experience should have a similar feel to the messages they get from your marketing. Any discrepancies in the experience can be a disorienting turnoff.
Plus, when data about customers’ accounts and habits are tracked in various programs, it’s tough to get the whole picture of your customers’ relationship with your business (such as how long they’ve been a customer, how often they buy, how much money they’ve spent overall, and what types of products they like).
In short, the best modern POS systems aren’t just specializing in making it easier for customers to buy things. They’re making it easier for retailers to communicate with messages that speak customers’ language and meet their needs.
Top Features of Omnichannel POS Systems
Today’s cloud-based POS systems were built to handle omnichannel selling. Here are a few of the integrated features you can expect to find in the best programs:
Seamless Inventory Management
Inventory reports should stay updated across all channels in real time. Omnichannel inventory will ensure that you don’t accidentally oversell an item that isn’t actually in stock, for example. It may also be able to let your customers know exactly which retail locations have a certain product available in-store.
Centralized Customer Info
The customer should be able to see their full purchase history, including both online and in-person transactions, in the same place. That includes all returns, refunds and store credits, from all channels. This info is expected by the customer, but it’s also very helpful on the business end, such as for customer service and marketing purposes.
Consistent Promotions and Perks
Customer discounts, special rates, and loyalty programs should apply to both in-store and online purchases. Customers should also be able to use gift cards in-store and online interchangeably.
Flexible Fulfilment Options
Your POS should give customers the ability to buy online and ship to home, ship to the store, pick up in the store, or even transfer from one store location to another.
Checking out should have a consistent look and feel regardless of where your customer buys. Consistency helps drive brand identity and loyalty.
POS users should be able to access a variety of reports that pull data from all sales sources, even across multiple stores. These reports make it much easier for business owners to keep a finger on the overall financial pulse of the business.
Even More Options for an Integrated Customer Experience
Today’s web-based POS systems actually go much further than just managing sales transactions across sales channels. They also integrate with other software tools that can help businesses run virtually every other facet of their retail operation.
Here are a few other ways that integrations, apps, and bonus features can tie the rest of the customer experience directly into their shopping habits.
Some POS programs can handle every aspect of your store’s online presence, from the domain name registration and hosting to the design and even a blog. The online store, of course, is also completely integrated into the website for a seamless customer-facing front end.
Automated email receipts and email messages regarding account status come standard in most POS systems. But modern POS systems can also tie into popular email marketing programs through integrations and third party apps. These advanced programs can help you send messages out to customers based on various characteristics, such as what they’ve purchased and when. You also may be able to collect email addresses for marketing purposes as part of the checkout process and enroll subscribers into autoresponders, for example.
Some POS programs come with apps that integrate directly with Facebook or Pinterest, allowing your customers to buy directly from your pages on those sites. Some apps also make it easier to communicate with customers directly via those platforms.
Instead of maintaining a helpdesk software that’s completely separate from your store, today’s programs can directly share valuable data such as customer info, service ticket history, and order history. The communication between systems can make for a much better experience for both support reps and customers.
Today’s cloud-based POS systems have so many features that it can be difficult to know where to start. Some come with all the features we discussed fully integrated into the software. Others require apps and interfaces. How will you decide which combination of features will work the best for your needs and your budget?
You don’t have to do it alone. If you want personalized assistance in choosing a cloud-based solution, we can help. We’ll discuss your business’ unique needs and work with you to find a solution that delivers more than you ever thought possible. Then, we’ll help you get it up and running, and we’ll be there to support you as you train your staff and build your systems.
Contact us today at Cloudscape Technologies and book a free consultation.