How to integrate POS and online business activities?

Businesses are now adopting the multi-channel approach as they sell through both online as well as brick and mortar formats. Integrating business activities across these channels is a challenge that most face. While many focus on streamlining inventory management and sales across their online and physical stores, it is not all that requires integration. Branding, analytics, customer management and more, a host of business activities are required to be standardized and integrated across both the channels for an elevated customer experience. Here are a few tips on how to integrate business activities apart from sales and inventory management for your multi-channel business:

1. Customer account management: Customer directories or CRM database for most businesses is built over a long period of time. The business utilizes this information to build the perfect customer experience and deliver value to the customer. From customer purchase behavior to their likes and dislikes, the customer database captures all critical information.  As the business expands to include both POS and online channels, this information is required to seamlessly flow between both the channels. The best way to implement the same is through an integrated POS platform. Shopify's integrated POS system is the perfect example of how businesses can ensure this information flow. Many Shopify apps built to maintain customer accounts and history also tightly integrate with POS systems to help build a comprehensive database. Create a unified customer experience by updating customer information at the point of sale and amalgamating the customers online purchase data in one platform.

2. Appointment management: For businesses providing a service, appointment management is a critical business activity that requires most man-hours. When diversifying into a multi-channel approach, appointment bookings received online and offline may overlap and create double-bookings. This makes it necessary for businesses to integrate appointment management activities. Shopify app market offers applications such as Appointo, the automated appointment scheduling application that allows POS bookings as well as online bookings within the same platform which is the perfect solution. Opt for an integrated software with a full set of features including automated notifications, calendar integrations and more to build a single source of truth. From the freedom to book an appointment from anywhere at anytime to walk-ins - this software allows the customers to build their own preferred experience. This solution also allows businesses to build custom calendar availabilities for the service providers in the firm which can be controlled by the service provider themselves. This allows businesses to make changes in appointments for a particular service provider without affecting the schedule for others.

3. Discounts and offers: Discounts and offers across product lines and services cannot be differentiated, unless it is a strategic decision. From end-of-season offers to new launches, pricing for products and services must remain the same for the customer when purchasing online or offline. This allows businesses to build a customer base across channels and give the customers the flexibility to shop from their preferred channel. Shopify businesses can enable this flexibility by analyzing and extending personalized offers to the customers. This can be achieved with the help of personal discount codes and sales offers that can be redeemed online as well as offline with the help of unique sequences. Here are a host of applications from Shopify that can help build a POS integrated discount offering or generate a personalized multi-channel discount code for targeted marketing.

4. Reporting and analytics: Reporting tools for ecommerce and POS track inventory, sales, consumer behavior, campaign performance, and more. These insights form the basis of most critical business decisions such as which inventory to stock, store timings, delivery and store locations, etc. Once the business goes the multi-channel way, these insights cannot stay disparate as each channel has its own merits although decisions affect both the channels. For example, certain products may not see traction in the store but would perform well on an ecommerce platform making it necessary for the owner to stock the product. Due to its inability to perform at the store, the product can be pulled off the shelves to create valuable space for better performing products in the store. Similarly, for services, integrated analytics help understand customers preference of online or POS appointment scheduling. Reporting and analytics are features that most Shopify tools have although, ensure that they have an integrated dashboard for the same.

5. Returns and exchanges: Another time-consuming activity that many ecommerce as well as offline stores face are returns and exchanges. While most vendors offer this facility to their clients, it is a complicated activity. But if the vendor were to allow returns and exchanges across channels? Say, the customer can buy from the ecommerce store but return at the counter of the physical store for a refund or exchange - isn't this confusing to manage as a vendor? It is only manageable with the help of an integrated POS system and a robust inventory management system. Shopify's app market offers a range of return and exchange solutions suitable for most vendors. These services are most helpful in building customer loyalty and expanding customer base.

POS and ecommerce or online activities when integrated, build a streamlined and agile customer experience that most businesses aim to achieve. The above application solutions should help build this experience for businesses adopting the multi-channel approach.

Tarang Agarwal

Designer by degree and developer by profession, a front end wizard who likes to keep things neat and clean for the clients