If you have an online shop and retail store—or aspire to sell online and in-person—you’ll need to connect your ecommerce platform to your point-of-sale (POS) system using a POS integration.
POS integrations help make selling across multiple channels easier by sharing product, inventory, sales, and customer information between both systems. This ensures your data is reliable, whether you’re checking store inventory or reviewing your sales for the week.
While it sounds like a perfect solution, POS integrations leave a lot to be desired. Data isn’t shared between both systems in real time, which can lead to manually reconciling sales, inventory, and customer data to have a reliable source of truth. If you want to run your entire business from one place, a POS integration may not be the ideal solution.
Thankfully, there’s an easier way to sync your Shopify site and POS system. In this post, you’ll learn everything providers won’t tell you about POS integrations, alternatives to POS integrations, and how to bring online and store sales together with Shopify.
What is an ecommerce POS integration?
An ecommerce POS integration links your brick-and-mortar store’s point-of-sale system with your online store and shares data between the two systems. When these two platforms integrate, they share product, pricing, inventory, sales, and customer data, which helps you get a unified view of your business.
Even with a POS integration, either your ecommerce platform or POS system will be your system of record—meaning that’s the main system you use to run your business. This can lead to inefficiencies where data isn’t shared between systems quickly or at all, resulting in a fragmented, inaccurate view of your business. To solve this, you may find yourself manually reconciling inventory and sales at the end of each day.
If you want to manage your business from one place and keep manual reconciliations to a minimum, we recommend using an integrated POS system—that’s a POS that speaks to your ecommerce platform without a POS integration. Integrated POS systems are usually built by the same company as your ecommerce platform. With an integrated POS system, you have one system of record, and both online and store data flow to the same place and update in real time.
For example, if you have a Shopify site and use Shopify POS, Shopify's back office is your system of record for your online and physical stores. From there, you can add products, set prices, fulfill orders, manage inventory, view customer purchase history, and more.
How does a POS integration work?
You connect your online store to your POS system using an API, which is short for “application program interface.” APIs are usually built and updated by a third party and are charged monthly.
To install a POS integration, you’ll need to install it as an add-on in your system of record and import your product catalog either manually with a CSV file or automatically. The more products you have, the longer this process will take.
What are the drawbacks of an ecommerce POS integration?
While APIs do connect your POS system to your online store, there are drawbacks that POS providers don’t tell you about.
Slow refresh rates
A third-party API’s refresh rate may not be fast enough to keep your sales and inventory data synced as you sell online and at your store. This can result in inaccurate inventory or sales data, which is especially risky during high-volume sales periods or if you run a promotion.
Fashion brand Mister Zimi, for instance, suffered from slow API refresh rates between its previous POS system, Vend POS, and its online store. When launching its first major online sale, the third-party API Mister Zimi used to connect Vend POS to its Shopify online store couldn’t keep up with the online sales.
“We had a pretty cataclysmic event during our online warehouse sale,” says Felix Ilett, Head of Sales for Mister Zimi. “There was a significant amount of people shopping on our site, and Vend’s API refresh rate couldn’t keep up with the online transaction volume. That caused our website to display incorrect inventory availability, which resulted in us overselling certain items.”
The team had to spend countless hours figuring out which inventory they had oversold, issuing refunds, and managing damaged customer relationships. Following that disastrous experience with third-party APIs, Mister Zimi chose to unify its online and retail stores by switching to Shopify POS.
When you use an API to connect a POS system and ecommerce platform built by different providers, you may not get to give customers the shopping experience you had hoped for.
Using separate systems to manage online and retail stores can create a messy customer experience, ranging from minor frustrations—like not being able to fulfill in-store pickup orders or the inability to see inventory across store locations. That’s what tokyobike faced before switching from Lightspeed to Shopify POS.
“There were things we wanted to do that we couldn’t, mostly around how we wanted to blend online and store experiences, show in-store stock availability online and offer order fulfillment like in-store pickup,” explains Juliana Di Simone, tokyobike’s Partner and Director.
The interaction between physical and digital should feel like a natural part of your customer experience. To do that, you need your systems to speak the same language. That’s why we use Shopify POS.
Built by a third-party vendor
Since the API is built by a third-party, they need to be updated each time your ecommerce platform or POS system is updated by your provider. Delays between updates can result in a broken connection that interrupts product, inventory, customer, and sales data flow from one system to another.
Updates are also not as frequent as you may need to keep your online and physical stores connected. This can result in a broken customer experience, where services like in-store pickup or your loyalty program stop working until an update is released.
Additional monthly subscription cost
Since third-party APIs are built and maintained by another provider, they come at an additional cost on top of the cost of your ecommerce platform and POS system. That’s one more vendor to deal with and an additional monthly cost eating into your cash flow.
Accumula, for instance, is one of the most popular third-party APIs whose entry-level pricing starts at $49 per month. For that, you can only sync 100 Shopify orders per month with your POS system, and its slow refresh rate may result in inaccurate data, which makes it harder to make decisions and run your business with confidence.
What are the benefits of unifying online and in-person selling with Shopify?
Customers expect to be able to shop wherever and whenever they want. Meeting their expectations is crucial in order for your business to thrive. If you don't, consumers will shop elsewhere.
Selling everywhere can get complicated, especially if you use different vendors and integrations for your online and retail store. With Shopify, though, you can run your ecommerce site and retail stores from one system without using an integration. Your Shopify site and Shopify POS speak to one another and share product, order, inventory, sales, and customer data. This lets you use Shopify as your system of record for both online and in-person selling and avoid the inherent drawbacks of APIs and third-party integrations.
Now that you understand the drawbacks of using an ecommerce POS integration to connect disparate systems, you’re ready to learn about the benefits of unifying your sales channels with Shopify.
- Manage your online and retail stores in the same place
- Spend less time reconciling inventory
- Avoid overselling stock
- Prevent stockouts from hurting sales
- Get centralized reporting and analytics
- Create more effective retention marketing campaigns
- Reward customers wherever they shop
- Offer flexible order fulfillment options
1. Manage your online and retail stores in the same place
Nearly 50% of brands say that unifying online and in-store operations and data is their biggest challenge. That’s partly because when integrating a POS system and ecommerce platform built by two different providers, you’re likely to need complicated workarounds and plug-ins. Even then, the results are often cumbersome and underwhelming.
The best retail POS systems don’t just connect to your online store, they work in perfect harmony with it and have built-in omnichannel selling and order fulfillment features. Store staff can follow up with indecisive in-store shoppers by sending them email carts that include products they were interested in. Think of it like an abandoned cart email, but for in-person selling.
💡 PRO TIP: With Shopify POS, you can run your online and retail stores from the same platform without using third-party APIs. Shopify is your system of record—product, inventory, sales, and customer data update automatically whenever you make a sale online or in person, and you pay just one straight-forward monthly subscription.
2. Spend less time reconciling inventory
When your ecommerce and POS system come from the same provider, inventory quantities automatically update whenever you make a sale online or in-person. This saves you time that would otherwise be spent counting and reconciling inventory.
The amount of times I count inventory is close to never. I still do them, but before I had to count stock at the end of each day to know how much we sold, reconcile inventory, and update stock quantities customers saw on our website. With Shopify POS, our stock levels sync automatically.
3. Avoid overselling stock
When your ecommerce platform and POS system share the same inventory data, you’ll never risk overselling inventory online that you don’t have in stock. Since switching to Shopify POS, Mister Zimi knows their inventory data is reliable because stock levels balance in real time as they sell online and in-person.
We can sell with confidence knowing the inventory availability we show customers online is accurate, and the inventory levels our staff see in the POS system is as well.
4. Prevent stockouts from hurting sales
If you’re out of the size or color an in-store shopper wants, there’s no need to lose the sale altogether. With Shopify POS, for instance, you’re not limited to selling products your store has in stock. Rather than lose a sale to stockouts, you can use ship-to-customer to close sales in-store and ship purchases to customers from your warehouse or another store location with inventory.
5. Get centralized reporting and analytics
If you’re a multichannel seller, the last thing you want is data that’s siloed by the sales channel. That will cause you to spend countless hours in spreadsheets to find the data points you want.
Since Shopify helps you run your online and physical stores using the same system, our reports give you a unified view of your online and brand’s performance. This will help you understand the big picture or get as granular as you need to—track inventory across each store location, see revenue per sales channel, discover which products are selling or languishing on shelves, and more.
"We use Shopify on a daily basis to monitor sales and key performance indicators, both in-store and online," explains Miquel Cardona, Chief Business Development Officer at PDPAOLA. "The user-friendly way that this information is presented is so important and it makes it easy to see what is working.
💡 PRO TIP: Only Shopify POS unifies your online and retail store data into one back office—customer data, inventory, sales, and more. View easy to understand reports to spot trends faster, capitalize on opportunities, and jumpstart your brand’s growth.
6. Create more effective retention marketing campaigns
When ecommerce and retail sales are unified, you can learn more about your customers, their shopping habits, and their preferences without exporting transaction data from two systems. Use that data to create impactful retention marketing campaigns.
With Shopify’s unified customer profiles, turning one-time customers into lifetime fans is straightforward. Offer more personalized service when they shop in-store with quick access to their order history, and easily create tailored email campaigns to increase repeat purchases and boost lifetime value.
📧 EMAIL MARKETING TIP: Want to put your customer data to work? Try Shopify Email to create segmented email lists, design and send branded emails, and track campaign results directly from Shopify admin.
7. Reward customers wherever they shop
If you use an API to connect your POS system and ecommerce platform, chances are you’ll need two loyalty programs—–one for online purchases and another for store purchases. Even with that workaround, customers won’t be able to redeem points from online purchases at your store or vice versa, which isn’t ideal.
With Shopify, though, you can launch a rewards program that works both online and at your stores. Reward customers for the purchases they make online or in-store and let them redeem their rewards wherever they choose.
8. Offer flexible order fulfillment options
Modern consumers want the flexibility to shop however they want. Whether it’s online, in-store, or through social media platforms like Instagram—retailers need to build a buyers journey that puts customers in control if they want to meet customer expectations and build brand loyalty.
If you choose a POS system that doesn’t integrate well with your ecommerce platform, though, it can be difficult to show store product availability online and offer flexible delivery options like in-store pickup. Choosing a POS system that speaks to your ecommerce platform helps you unify those channels and let shoppers buy and receive products however is most convenient for them.
Which POS systems integrate with Shopify?
While POS systems like Square, Lightspeed, and Vend integrate with Shopify's ecommerce platform, they come with limitations.
You need to pay for a third-party integration partner like Accumula to connect your systems. While these integration partners claim to link both systems, they’re very limited and don’t live up to expectations.
More often than not, inventory data doesn’t sync in real time—especially if a high volume of transactions happen in a short timeframe. Additionally, sales and financial reporting may not accurately reflect online and store sales.
Asides from reporting, integrating other POS systems with Shopify can make it challenging to refund customers in-store for online purchases and vice versa. You may also have to sell different gift cards online and at your store. Since the gift card was created with only one of your channels in mind, customers won’t be able to use them wherever they prefer to shop. Minor inconveniences like this eventually add up and make for a less-than-ideal customer experience.
Using an integration to connect another POS system with your Shopify store also makes it harder to get support when you need it. If the connection between your POS system and online store stops working for whatever reason, you need to contact the third-party integration provider to get help. If anything breaks, you may need to contact three different support teams: your POS system, your ecommerce platform, and your API.
💡 POS INTEGRATION TIP: Skip the headaches and choose Shopify POS to run your retail stores. Shopify POS instantly pulls your product catalog and customers from Shopify admin. This makes it easier than ever to get set up, start selling in-person, and run your whole business from Shopify.
Bring online and in-person selling together with Shopify
Modern consumers expect a convenient shopping experience that lets them use whatever mix of online and in-store shopping they want. While bridging another POS system with your Shopify online store with an integration can work, it isn’t ideal—especially if you want to offer customers the best experience possible.
The best way to bring your sales channels together is by using one powerful platform to run them both. With Shopify POS, you get everything you need to sell in person, accept payments, and manage your store’s day-to-day—backed by the most powerful ecommerce platform available.