Point of sale definition

Point of sale most commonly refers to in-store electronic cash transactions, although it can refer to online transactions too. Point of sale terminals are used to register these transactions via card. This includes contactless and mobile payment in newer devices.

The term ‘point of sale’ refers to the time and location a customer buys a product or completes an electronic cash transaction. Different devices are commonly used to complete transactions in-person, e.g. PCs, tablet computers, etc. These are known as POS terminals or POS devices.

POS systems and software

Nowadays a wide variety of devices can be used to complete POS transactions, including:

  • Electronic cash registers and POS terminals
  • PCs
  • Tablets and iPads
  • Smartphones

Besides dedicated POS terminals, which already have all the necessary hardware and software, each of these devices need to use special POS software. Portable devices, like smartphones, are becoming increasingly popular as POS terminals. This is because they allow transactions to be completed outside the usual restrictions of a store.

The majority of modern POS terminals use cloud-based POS software. The main benefit of cloud-based POS software is that data doesn’t have to be stored locally. Instead, it’s stored in the cloud and accessed by each device when necessary as actions are completed. This increases data security, gives users remote access, and gives much better flexibility for businesses that need a portable solution. As long as the POS device can log in to the POS software, it can technically be used anywhere.

POS software usually performs a number of additional functions other than simply registering transactions. This includes inventory management, reporting, loyalty and referral program management, staff rota functions, etc.

Point of sale marketing

The conditions and circumstances surrounding in-store purchases are fundamentally different to online purchases. As a result, retailers usually take a different approach towards the sales and merchandising processes for in-store purchases.

Point of sale marketing makes use of a number of product differentiation techniques to upsell products or increase order value at the point of sale. Common techniques include installing displays with small gifts, signs advertising special offers, snacks, etc. This is the in-store equivalent of the special offer pages you sometimes see when completing a shop online.

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