Quick Guide: Two Options for POS Integration with Magento
By Charles Kain, Senior Technical Architect
POS integration to an eCommerce system can be as simple as adding swipe to your checkout process or as complex as synchronizing a full suite of back office operations with a custom front end sales tool that also includes credit card swipe and cash register functionality. Before you begin the integration process, it is important to understand your business needs and plan a roadmap to get where you want to be. POS comes in many sizes and flavors, and the more you modify, the higher the costs. It’s imperative to review business practices to find where small changes in process may generate big savings in custom implementations.
Integration Option #1: Out of the Box
Many POS systems offer attractive swipe and cash register-like features out of the box, but at the cost of integrating to an eCommerce store as an afterthought. Integration is often limited to the POS maintaining a copy of the product catalog with regular synching to the eCommerce store in an effort to adjust inventory and to maintain product updates.
While this does provide a full-featured POS, such systems fall short in providing a true integration. In many cases, orders taken on these systems are handled completely separately from the online store, and so back office OMS is completely missed. This creates a chain reaction of failures from lack of fulfillment, inaccurate accounting reports, and missing information in customer account history. Additionally, product and inventory management becomes more difficult, especially when the eCommerce store is connected to an ERP. These POS systems are slow to update information such as latest pricing, new product options, and current availability.
Other POS systems seek to integrate more fully to the eCommerce experience and provide features such as native integration to the Magento back end order system. Such POS may offer seamless integration to already existing back office operations like product and order management and fulfillment services. Reporting is typically easier with this type of POS. However, native integration POS tends to lack many desired features of a full featured POS system such as cash register and receipt printing functionality. This type of POS, often used in niche markets, offers limited options in terms of supported hardware and payment processor services.
Integration Option #2: Custom Implementation
Combining eCommerce and POS brings entirely new opportunities to an online business. With custom implementations, you can create a POS system that opens up various capabilities to drive your business forward. For example, it is possible to integrate eCommerce and POS while in the process creating new tools aimed at supporting the floor sales process. Such tools integrate seamlessly with the eCommerce back office catalog and order and payment system while presenting solid POS functionality. These tools can even provide extended customer management, allowing sales associates to show customers the online store and sell products currently unavailable in the physical store.
Custom Implementation Considerations
Custom implementation allows for the selection of either a full featured but stand-alone POS or a more fully integrated option with an eCommerce store that can lack some POS features. Customizing a POS can provide the best of both worlds, but at the cost of more time and money to make it happen.
When considering customization, it is useful from the beginning to identify and detail an approach. Normally the best approach is to modify only one end or the other; that is, customize either the POS system or the eCommerce store, not both. This decision will often help determine which type of POS is best to use.
Scalability and future-proofing should also be considered. When crafting POS integration, pay attention to how the parts will perform as the system grows. If the POS includes a third party service, you must consider the longevity of that business. If the customizations are complex or involve multiple development platforms, you should evaluate the level of technical debt. Can the POS hardware be upgraded to keep pace with industry changes? While all of these issues are also present for out of the box solutions, customization is a more serious and complex investment and such variables take on even greater importance.
Today a variety of POS systems are widely available, with a plethora of out of the box options and a broad price range to fit both bigger and smaller budgets. Low-end out of the box solutions can be obtained for an upfront equipment cost of a few hundred dollars and a small monthly subscription fee. On the other side of the spectrum is the massive customized implementation with integrations to ERP, OMS, fulfillment, and analytics services – as well as adding floor sales tools to the mix. These POS implementations are quoted individually and can get quite expensive. Options exist between the two extremes which provide a rich selection from which to choose.
For further information, read about our experience leveraging Blu Dot’s Magento Enterprise eCommerce platform to enable an innovative POS approach.
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Charles Kain is a Technical Architect on the LYONSCG eCommerce Implementation team. He leads discovery and refinement processes for client requirements, develops scalable enterprise solutions to fit client needs, and acts as a primary technical lead for projects. Charles is a Magento Certified Developer and has several patents in the knife industry for products he has invented.