While eCommerce sales have been growing quicker than brick-and-mortar store sales in the past few years, this growth took a massive leap forward in 2020.
Because of new customer expectations and buying habits, retail has changed drastically in a short amount of time — and you may be one of the retailers who needs to adapt by offering more eCommerce options, providing new local pickup options (including buy online, pick up in store [BOPIS] for online orders), or scaling up your existing website or retail system.
This comes with many possible issues and gaps in tech stack functionality (and therefore gaps in sales and customer experience). Manual reconciliation, additional training time for additional apps, and complicated returns processes can all lead to disappointed customers and lost revenue, so point of sale (POS) and eCommerce integration is paramount.
You need to stay efficient in order to scale using these new retail channels, which means you also need to:
- Reduce training issues and manual work for you and for your employees.
- List all your inventory. Are you sure everything in your inventory is available to fulfill orders made by online customers? To be competitive and maximize sales, you need the publishing process to be simple, so you can list every unit of every product online.
- Creating and distributing truth across all sales channels. You want to know that everything your eCommerce store and retail POS software say you have in stock is actually available for customers to buy, either online or in store.
There are three main ways to manage these needs, which we cover in this post:
- Manual intervention for stock reconciliation, which leaves you or your employees to go through multiple apps, matching up inventory.
- Our integrator, Accumula, which can help you automatically keep track of inventory by simply connecting your existing POS and website for a single, distributed truth across all your inventory-managing applications.
- Verticalized solutions, meaning your POS and webstore are provided by the same vendor and are therefore synced by their software, but not always as robust as they could be. These may seem like a good option at first glance, but we’ll dive into their shortcomings below.
Note: Accumula integrates your eCommerce with POS and fulfillment systems, making all your inventory available while allowing you to control what’s available for pickup or delivery. Book a demo to learn more about how Accumula can help you provide a better customer experience while making your job easier.
The Pains of Manual Intervention for Reconciling Your Point of Sale and Website Data
Manual intervention often means running an online store and a retail store almost as two completely separate businesses, which forces you to do everything twice. By “everything,” we mean entering data in multiple software systems, training employees on both of those systems, reconciling stock between those systems, and dealing with the inevitable issues that arise from all of that extra admin.
For some businesses, it seems easier to have separate online stock and in-store stock, just to cut down on the amount of errors that arise from not being able to easily reconcile those systems. But then there can be products available to sell in one channel that aren’t moving, while another channel sees those items selling out — meaning you have items that are just sitting there losing sales.
Splitting things up like this is okay starting out, but with online sales now becoming critical to retail survival, a manual, split approach will not scale — and it won’t help you drive more sales or better serve customers.
For those retailers that do run their businesses like one cohesive unit, if they’re still functioning manually, they have to do a lot of upkeep to ensure the POS and the website reflect the same product availability. And that doesn’t even include the training time it takes to make sure employees know how to not only run both systems but also keep them up to date once they’re trained.
Expecting errors and customer dissatisfaction seems like a given with this method.
The Practical Issues with Manual Intervention
If you’re manually managing your inventory, you’re dealing with more than one software system. It’s totally understandable to have two different software solutions for your eCommerce website and your in-store POS, but if they don’t talk to each other, someone has to deal with making sure your inventory is correctly reflected online, easy to find in store or in your fulfilment department, and kept up-to-date in all applicable software apps.
So, every time a sale is made online or in store, someone has to get into the other system and update the inventory records.
Even if you only have a handful of employees, you know how time-intensive employee management and training can be just to onboard an employee to basic store functions. Manually reconciling inventory between two different systems adds to this, and increases the likelihood that things get missed — since employees have twice as many stock-controlling systems to keep up with.
Considering how many apps a retail employee may need to use on a daily basis (e.g. it’s seven for this retail employee), any time you can cut down on the amount of apps they need to learn and use, the better. Because the more apps that need to be used, the more likely things will get missed.
And if every time a sale is made in one system, the other must be updated to match, then it will be inevitable that eventually, a customer is going to end up unhappy because they tried to buy something that no longer existed, or they buy something that your fulfilment department can’t easily locate, etc.
Integrating Your POS with Your Website Using Accumula
We think the best option for keeping your retail business efficient and scalable is to use an integrator. And here, we’ll make the case for our solution — Accumula.
Using an integrator like Accumula develops a seamless omnichannel retail environment that’s great for your organization and for customer satisfaction.
An integrator does the work of keeping your POS and your eCommerce pieces automatically in sync, by working away in the background. This means:
- No more manual reconciliation. You get less errors and more time to focus on your business when you streamline these inventory processes.
- No more training employees (or yourself) on multiple systems. Give yourself and your employees more time to focus on what needs to be done, such as other business-critical tasks or serving customers better.
- No lag. The best integration keeps your POS and eCommerce site updated in real-time, removing the possibility of items being missed, and/or the need to offer refunds to customers who have been let down by untrue inventory when they’ve done online ordering. This is especially important for BOPIS customers who want to purchase something online and pick it up ASAP.
Accumula is a particularly strong integration platform because it is completely hands-off — i.e. you can stop running your retail business as if it’s two different businesses entirely, you don't need to log into Accumula, and you can trust that Accumula will keep everything synchronized with no additional intervention from you or your employees.
How to Create the Retail Experience Customers Expect
Using Accumula can help you provide the same retail shopping experience that your customers expect from much larger retailers.
Some large retail businesses (e.g. nationwide department stores) have entire departments with their own massive budgets, just to make sure their online and in-store inventory reflect accurate availability across multiple channels. This involves building complex custom solutions to make sure customers get their item home in whatever way is most convenient to them — either shipped or collected.
If you’re not an enormous retailer, Accumula’s simple integration gives you the same benefits without the heavy lifting. This is because it works with the best-in-class solutions, such as Lightspeed POS, Heartland Retail, Shopify (and Shopify Plus), and Magento. This means you can keep inventory accurate without needing to pay for, install, maintain, and update bulky customized solutions.
In the end, all of this adds up to a better customer experience — which is one of the most important parts of maintaining and growing a successful retail business.
Use Cases: How Retail Businesses Benefit from Accumula
There are various ways that integrating your POS and website with Accumula can completely change an entire function or facet of your retail business:
One of our customers, Nicole Whitesell, uses Accumula to manage inventory across multiple locations. She was able to grow her retail business from a one-person, one-storefront operation to a 4-location chain with 28 employees in just a few short years.
For Nicole, connecting Shopify and Lightspeed with Accumula to integrate in-store, online, and back office processes has eliminated the manual tracking and order management process. She could stay with the platforms she already felt comfortable with, and Accumula would improve the experience for both customers and staff.
“If you have multiple stores and you have a solid online business and you need that connection to happen, [Accumula] really is a no-brainer,” says Nicole. “And I like to keep things as low-cost as possible, but at the same time — you get what you pay for.”
Company Culture Improvement
You might not expect it, but being able to run your entire business cohesively — especially if you’ve historically had online and physical-store sales running as independent departments — can actually inspire a marked improvement in company culture. For example, one of our customers in-store and online teams viewed each other as competitors instead of teammates.
The online team would set aside inventory for online sales that the in-store associates couldn’t use to fill shelves — even when those shelves were sometimes empty, causing a major issue with product not being sold when it could have been, just because it wasn’t available in one channel.
This retailer brought on Accumula to integrate their eCommerce inventory and orders with their physical stores, with the unforeseen bonus that by doing so, the two teams serving two different channels would be able to stop viewing each other as competitors for the same products. This brought about more harmony.
Another great example is the way returns can be improved for customers when an integration between the POS and eCommerce site allows associates to access data from both.
Besides buy-online, pick-up-in-store customers, there are also plenty of people who love to buy something online, have it shipped to their home, but want to return it at a storefront if necessary.
When this happens, if the eCommerce and POS systems don’t communicate with each other, it can be difficult for in-store employees to create a return or even figure out how much to refund the customer.
But when these systems do communicate, it’s easy for the associate to pull up the original online transaction data in the in-store POS and complete the return without issue for the customer. This, again, is something customers now expect.
So, Why Not Try Verticalized Solutions?
Verticalized solutions are software apps that provide both eCommerce and POS systems in one package. This cuts down on inventory issues because there aren’t disparate systems to reconcile. Instead, everything usually exists within one environment.
This is a huge step up from managing everything manually, since most of the issues we mentioned above will be mitigated just by not needing a second environment. That said, you’ll be dealing with a robust primary system, connected with a secondary solution that is actually more of an “offshoot” or extension.
In the case of Magento, these third-party extensions are famously unreliable and problematic, leading to retailers having to hire developers to fix issues. When it comes to Shopify POS and Lightspeed eCom, you certainly don’t have that same level of danger, but there are a few functional limitations to be aware of.
For example, Lightspeed’s eCommerce add-on has limited support for multiple stores, so if you’re trying to find a solution that allows you to maximize your inventory availability, this likely won’t be the best fit.
And Shopify POS has some limitations on SKUs and locations — and you’ll also need to install third-party Shopify apps to do inventory management, which adds to staff training demands and ties you to the developer’s speed of innovation. In the end, the cost can be the same or more than integrating two best-in-class systems.
Put simply: if you use a POS with an interconnected eCommerce solution, you’re getting a great POS, but the online store extension can put a limit on your scalability. And vice-versa: implementing a POS extension using your online store doesn’t always give retailers the functionality they need to run their business.
It very much depends on your circumstances. The smallest single-store retailers can benefit from keeping everything in one environment, but if you’re scaling to multiple stores or if you need to manage inventory and orders across lots of channels, Accumula is a more robust solution for eCommerce POS integration.
Final Thoughts: Using Accumula to Integrate Retail
If it’s time to up your retail game by integrating your website and your POS, Accumula is the answer. Accumula will help you reduce manual intervention in your inventory management while increasing your ability to do business across platforms, sales channels, and physical locations.
And in the new retail environment we’re all becoming accustomed to, peak efficiency and scalability are necessary for ensuring your business stays profitable, keeps growing, and satisfies customer expectations without a hitch.
Note: Accumula integrates your eCommerce with POS and fulfillment systems, making all your inventory available while allowing you to manipulate what’s available for pickup or delivery. Book a demo to learn more about how Accumula can help you provide a better customer experience while making your job easier.