Point-of-sale and contextual commerce

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As the ecommerce industry expands and increases its prevalence everywhere – whether it’s big name brands pumping money to their selling sites, or more and more entrepreneurs building their first businesses – so does the technology. An online connection made it clear that it’s possible to sell anywhere and everywhere (even at your local graffiti graveyard!) via ecommerce, but it seems the market is taking it a step further, moving to POS and contextual forms of selling that multichannel retailers can’t completely ignore.

POS systems

That stands for point-of-sale, and they’re far from what you might have thought that acronym means. Many POS solutions are out there to get you selling on the ground as opposed to the worldwide web, and they’re growing in both quantity and success. In fact, payment processor and POS provider Square filed for IPO only a day ago after racking in considerable revenue for years now.

The reason POS systems are such a large deal is because they bridge the gap between offline and online selling. Multichannel retailers that have a variety of storefronts can now go a step further and sell at a brick and mortar location, like a small office or at a local craft fair. Having the option to truly go mobile, all the while keeping your storefronts in check and aligned, is incredibly useful and only adds to the ease of selling everywhere, both physically and on the web.

Context is everything

It’s no new news that POS systems are on the rise, especially with some carts, like Shopify, offering their own POS tech. But what’s being dubbed as “contextual commerce” is winding up to be another part of ecommerce’s next ‘frontier.’ As many abandoned-cart-fearing e-retailers know, having as few steps as possible in the purchase process can be a sale saver. But before you can even begin to think of a customer at checkout, you need to get them on your site.

I’ll hustle up and get to the point –  getting customers to your online store is as inconvenient as having to go to the grocery store, even if it’s only a matter of pressing buttons on a keyboard or mouse compared to driving. At the end of the day, attracting consumers to your site is another step in the purchase process and it can be a time consuming hindrance. Contextual commerce aims to fix that inconvenience and enables consumers to purchase within whatever (you guessed it) context they’re in.

Where there’s content or conversation, there’s commerce

Whether browsing social media or watching a product review on YouTube, there’s an opportunity to place the purchase process directly in that context to avoid the drawback of additional steps that potentially reduce a retailer’s chance of a sale. It’s as simple as a consumer seeing their friend share an amazing infinity scarf on their feed, the consumer trusting their friend’s taste in fashion, and moving straight to buying it.

Already, you’re probably aware of the proliferation of “buy” buttons on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, and these features are going nowhere anytime soon. Around a year ago, Twitter launched its own purchase button, which was beefed up and expanded by payment processing company Stripe only a few weeks ago. Facebook is also testing a shopping section within its own app, and already has opportunities to buy within a news feed. Even PayPal is moving that direction, recently acquiring mobile commerce platform Modest, which offers customers options to buy anywhere at the tap of a screen.

Multichannel matters

Both of these forms of selling – POS and contextual – are an effort to simplify and accelerate the online buying process. Anywhere people are congregating on the web to talk, interact, or browse is a space for commerce. But instead of having to go to an online store for products, they will instead be offered within the customer’s context – online or in person.

For multichannel retailers, it’s a channel opportunity for growth that builds branding and, obviously, sales. POS allows for face-to-face interaction at any physical location, contextual commerce empowers businesses to sell on their social and content channels, and both hone an entrepreneur’s brand and customer engagement.

Photo: VBC17, Flickr