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5 Modern POS Capabilities Required in Retail Right Now

Posted by Amanda Nadile on Mar 19, 2021

The point of sale (POS) has long been a cash register for retail businesses. These traditional systems were built for simple transaction functions, such as sales and returns. You typically find them working alongside credit card readers and receipt printers, and fixed to a checkout counter. While this may have worked for the old retail world, it doesn’t work for the new one.

We’re now experiencing a new reality where there is more to retail than just selling. This is especially true for brands looking to digitally transform their businesses.

If your customer experience includes online ordering and multiple locations, you need a modern POS solution that’s part of a larger unified commerce platform. If not, it will be impossible to roll-out the capabilities needed to meet today’s customer expectations. 

Modern Point of Sale Functionality

Having a basic point of sale system or cash register typically means an associate has to leave the customer’s side for any function. This interrupts the consultative style of the buying experience and increases the time customers spend waiting. 

On the other hand, with a modern, more complete retail POS solution, associates can be trusted advisors to shoppers from anywhere in the store. So, what are the core functions of a modern point of sale system? 

To put it simply, it needs to help you do more than ring up a sale or initiate a return — like what old-school point of sale software does. It needs to be able to easily facilitate key omnichannel workflows (for associates) and experiences (for customers). With the following functionality, the focus shifts to service at the point of sale, instead of just the sale itself. 

Mobile Checkout

There are many benefits of a mobile POS. When it comes to the new retail world though, where customers will continue to be wary about personal space, mobile checkout is king. Mobile checkout brings the point of sale to the shopper. The entire experience, from scanning products to processing payments, is all completed on a mobile device. 

The payments piece is important to note because older point of sale solutions can’t easily accept digital payment payments like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and the like. In the next three years, shoppers will carry a phone but no physical wallet, so being able to quickly deploy these options is a necessity. Not to mention, contactless payments are now part of normal buying behavior. According to a Mastercard report, nearly 75% of people worldwide plan to continue to use mobile payments once the pandemic ends. 

With digital payments via a mobile checkout system comes another opportunity: customer capture. An email address is gold in retail, and you’d be remiss not to grab it at the point of sale. 

Most people are willing to give their information if there is a value exchange. There doesn’t have to be a discount involved; people are often happy to share their email if it makes a future return that much more seamless. The customer capture doesn’t have to be tied to a transaction, either. Use the data to market to customers, notify them about pre-orders, and for future clienteling. 

A woman holding three shirts in one hand while scanning their tags with a phone in the other

Store Inventory

Inventory solutions have not evolved at the same pace as other retail systems. There are still some brands using spreadsheets to receive and know what goods are on-hand. This very manual process not only takes store associates off the selling floor, but it is also prone to human error. Brands today cannot afford poor inventory management. It is critical to omnichannel, and without it, you can’t align supply with demand — wherever it may be coming from.

Having store inventory integrated with the point of sale is an easy way to add confidence to the shopping experience. For customers, it means that when they search online for something in-store, the item you say is available…actually is. For associates, it prevents them from needing to leave the customer’s side to check the stock room.

When you put inventory information at the associate’s fingertips, they can confirm availability from anywhere in the store. This helps keep the one-on-one relationship with the customer intact. 

Inventory also comes into play for returns. You need to have a streamlined process to accept returns in-store, and place them back into your stock. Retailers want to sell as much inventory as possible, that is the name of the game. With store inventory as part of the point of sale, you can drive up inventory levels and make all items available-to-sell. 

Endless Aisle 

If you have a modern POS with real-time access to inventory information, use it to your advantage for endless aisle orders. Endless aisle means store associates can sell inventory from anywhere within the organization. An item might be out-of-stock or unavailable in one location, but you can purchase it for the customer from another location or a distribution center. 

Endless aisle is an effective way to “save the sale.” Across the NewStore customer base, brands have seen up to a 15% lift in store GMV from endless aisle. These are sales that might not have happened if there wasn’t a mechanism in place to access and sell enterprise-wide inventory. They may also be sales from cross-selling or upselling. If a customer wants a top to go with their bottoms, but you don’t carry it, order it from another location for home delivery. 

When thinking of this new retail normal, you’ll want to have an endless aisle strategy because the store of the future will hold less inventory. That means you won’t find the same depth of product in-store, both because it’s expensive and because you may choose to downsize your brick and mortar. Carrying fewer sizes and not as many color combinations will be commonplace for these reasons. 

BOPIS / Curbside Pickup

Another omnichannel service that accurate inventory enables is buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS), which appears at some brands as curbside pickup. 

A new survey of U.S. consumers found that 8 in 10 people want these options, with the majority citing safety as the primary reason why. Omnichannel fulfillment has taken off in the last few years but dramatically accelerated because of the pandemic. Target stores fulfilled 90% of total sales in the middle of 2020. Similarly, 53% of Goorin Bros’ sales in Q4 2020 came from units shipped from stores

At the store level, this fulfillment flexibility isn’t possible if the point of sale isn’t tightly integrated with an order management system (OMS) on the backend. The OMS is the gatekeeper for all inventory and order information. It enables customers to buy from anywhere and you to fulfill from anywhere, improving customer convenience and helping to avoid margin erosion.

But, you need to have a seamless pickup process in-store to make this worth it. With store fulfillment on a mobile POS, you can decrease picking errors and increase processing efficiency. This will allow you to ramp up omnichannel fulfillment to a high enough degree that it makes a meaningful impact on cross-channel sales. 

Two women in a store talking about a shirt and looking at a phone


Like with inventory and orders, a modern point of sale needs to include customer information. This includes the basics like contact information, but also online order and browsing history, preferences, and wish list items. 

Most shoppers, including those in older generations, shop online or through other touchpoints. Mobile apps, social media, streaming, etc. You need to be able to access their information wherever and however they engage with your brand.

This is where having the POS on a mobile device really comes in handy. 

Data suggests shoppers who interact with retail associates are more likely to make a purchase. Even more, they’re likely to have higher basket sizes compared to those who don’t interact with associates. In these instances, the associate is able to match the shopper to products just for them. There is less guesswork, making the experience for everyone involved a little more special. 

Clienteling isn’t just an opportunity for in-store associates. Having customer information in an omnichannel platform means the point of sale can exist at any touchpoint. From customer support reps online to call center agents back at headquarters, as long as the data is carefully collected and distributed, it can drive value for the business.

Adding a Modern POS to Your Store

Stores are more valuable now than they’ve ever been. 

From marketing and fulfillment to customer service, they are where brands survive and thrive in retail. In order for them to operate with efficiency, you need a modern point of sale at the hub of all store operations. Legacy POS solutions, or even niche ones, weren’t built for today’s omnichannel customers or omnichannel associates. 

A modern, mobile POS is a system that is connected to the cloud. Because all you need is an Internet-connected device, it is cheaper to implement and can integrate with any other critical store tools. You’ll never get bogged down by manual maintenance or updates, and you’ll always be able to extend it to include the latest functionality. 

Customers want to engage and transact with your brand anywhere and everywhere. This is possible with a point of sale that’s part of your core commerce platform.  

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