For many small-business owners, getting customers to the point of sale is no easy feat. It starts with building awareness for your business needs and target market. Then, you may nurture prospects for weeks, months or years before finally convincing them to purchase your product or service. The point of sale is a critical time in the customer journey, and it’s important to optimize the experience so you satisfy the customer while increasing your revenue.

What Is the Point of Sale?

The point of sale is the place where customers pay for the products or services they want to buy. However, POS solutions extend far beyond just the physical transaction of money exchanging hands from the customer to the cashier. Businesses have a major opportunity at the point of sale because prospects already prove they are a target customer who is convinced of the benefits the business offers.

Small businesses can optimize the POS experience in a number of different ways:

  • Ensuring that all staff are trained to streamline the purchase and make things easy for the customer

  • Branding the POS machine and any POS displays

  • Training employees to ask for feedback during the POS transaction

  • Marketing high-margin items during the lead up to the POS

  • Convincing customers to take part in loyalty or rewards programs

  • Asking customers to leave reviews of their shopping experience online

It’s critical for small businesses to provide a smooth and pleasant customer experience at the point of sale. This is often the last touchpoint before customers leave the business or e-commerce website, so it’s important that they have a good memory of their shopping experience. This will encourage your customers to come back and make another purchase.

Point of Sale in a Store

In retail businesses, the point of sale is the last impression the customer has of the business. While it differs from business to business, the point of sale in a retail store usually consists of a sales counter with a POS terminal. This machine is operated by a cashier or other business employee. Around the POS system is a good place to put POS displays marketing low-cost products the customer may be influenced to buy.

It’s critical for brick-and-mortar stores to optimize their POS process because it is the last chance for a customer to abandon the sale. If the line is too long because the cashier is unfamiliar with the POS software, for example, the customers may decide they don’t want to wait in line and may leave. If there is confusion about the price of a product, the customers may decide they no longer want it.

Similarly, flexibility might be a big need for your POS. If you run a restaurant or cafe, for instance, you may want to have mobility in your POS system, like an iPad or smartphone that can do payment processing. There are many point of sale software options that offer add-ons to mobilize your system. Consider your customer's and the ease of their experience.

A key element to consider regarding the point of sale in a physical store is that it is a guaranteed moment of interaction with a customer. Even if you have a self-checkout, the customer still interacts with the retail POS. This is an opportunity with limitless potential. With this guaranteed interaction, businesses can ask customers for feedback, ask market research questions or ask for online reviews.

Businesses can differentiate themselves from their competition by ensuring that the POS experience is quick, smooth and worry-free. Associates need to be well-trained not only on the POS terminal but also in the way they interact with customers. This means being helpful, friendly and on-brand in all cases.

Point of Sale Online

In an online store, the point of sale experience begins when customers click “buy” on a product or service. Once the item they want to purchase is in their online shopping cart, the customer is taken through a checkout sequence, which may include logging in to their account, filling in their shipping and payment details and clicking a confirmation button. Throughout this experience, there are several ways an online retailer can optimize the point of sale for customers.

Abandoned carts are a frequent occurrence for online retailers. This is when customers place an item in their online shopping cart but do not go through with the purchase. Many reasons can lead to an abandoned cart, such as changing their mind about the purchase or not having the patience to fill out all the required fields during the checkout sequence. It’s important to make the checkout sequence as simple and streamlined as possible to minimize abandoned carts.

In e-commerce, cross-selling is an integral part of the point of sale experience. Businesses can suggest similar or complementary items for purchase once a customer has clicked on an item. Most online retailers offer this feature, including Amazon. It’s a good way to increase the customer’s total sales without increasing marketing costs.

Getting the Right POS System

A major component of the point of sale experience is the POS system used. This hardware and software can make or break the customer experience. It’s critical to select a point of sale terminal that offers the features your business requires, is easy to use for employees, and provides a quick and seamless experience for customers. If the POS system is slow or difficult to use, it could lead to flustered employees and unsatisfied customers.

When looking for a point of sale system, consider the following:

  • Whether it takes all payment types, such as debit cards, and includes a credit card reader

  • If it is a secure and modern system: Does it process via EMV chips?

  • If it includes a receipt printer

  • The accuracy of the barcode scanner

  • If there is an inventory management system that provides real-time updates on stock levels

  • Whether you can accept mobile payments

  • How much the POS software and POS hardware costs

Branding the Point of Sale Experience

Part of building and growing your customer relationship is ensuring that your business’s brand permeates every interaction. From the moment your customers walk into your store or click on your website to the moment they pay for their purchase, each element needs to have the look and feel of your brand. Consider what elements of your brand you want your customers to remember. From your logo to your colors to the language you use to describe your products, it all needs to be present in your point of sale experience.

Ways to brand your point of sale experience include:

  • Training employees on your company’s mission, vision and values and incorporating those elements into the language they use to interact with customers. For example, if your business is all about making your customers’ lives easier, then train employees to ask if they can help carry customers' bags to their car.

  • Ensuring the POS hardware matches the business aesthetic. This may involve getting custom-made hardware or using vinyl stickers with your business logo on the POS terminal.

  • Focusing on your unique value proposition. The way your business can stand out against the competition is by focusing on what makes you different. If your business is the only one that uses a specific kind of ingredient, for example, then have your employees remind your customers of that at the point of sale.

Increasing the Shopping Cart

There are many ways a small business can increase its overall revenue by optimizing the point of sale experience, both in store and online. Once your customers have reached the point of sale, they have already qualified themselves as interested and engaged customers: They are ready to buy. At the point of sale, they can be influenced to increase their purchases, especially with high-margin, low-cost products.

Provide customers with the opportunity to make additional purchases at the point of sale by:

  • Creating engaging POS displays: Counter displays, free-standing displays and dump bins are some examples of the most effective POS displays. They capture the customers’ attention as they are approaching the cash register.

  • Providing cross-sell opportunities: Online, a small business can offer links to complementary products. In a store, associates can be trained to ask customers about purchasing complimentary products. For example, if a customer is wanting to buy a duvet, the cashier can ask her if she also saw the sheet set with the same pattern.

  • Knowing what your audience wants: Based on your target market, offer low-cost products they will be tempted to buy impulsively. These can include snacks, travel-size toiletries, stocking stuffers or small gift items.

  • Offering free samples: While it’s important not to crowd the point of sale area, you can also set up strategic locations near the POS terminal where customers can actually try products. This is a great way to encourage impulse buys.

Building a Loyal Customer Base

Signing up customers for your loyalty program is a key point of sale activity. The business already knows that the customer is interested in its products. By asking for their email address and consent to add them to a loyalty program, businesses can further engage their target market.

An effective strategy for signing up customers for a loyalty program at the point of sale is to offer them an incentive they can use right away. For example, if they sign up for the program today, they can receive 10% off today’s purchase. Another way is to tell them about what they can receive later on, such as exclusive access to discounts or services that nonmembers don’t get.

Rewarding customers who frequent your business is an effective point of sale optimization strategy. If you encounter customers who are already part of your loyalty program, offer perks while they are making a purchase. For example, provide them with a coupon code they can use or give them free shipping even if they don’t meet the minimum purchase requirements. Be sure to tell them they are getting these benefits because they are part of your loyalty program.

Getting Feedback From Your Customers

Understanding customers is one of the most difficult parts of running a successful business. The point of sale experience is a time when businesses have the opportunity to ask customers for their feedback. In a retail location, associates can be trained to ask customers if they found everything for which they were looking or if they have any questions about any of the products. Online, a simple survey as part of the checkout experience can tell businesses whether their customers are satisfied.

The customer information you gather at the point of sale can help you to improve your processes, operations and customer service and products. For example, if customers frequently say they weren’t able to find a particular kind of product, you may need to rearrange your store.

Ensure your point of sale employees are trained to handle both positive and negative feedback and that you have a structured process for taking in that information. You don’t want the feedback to be lost before it can be incorporated into your customer data.

Asking for Reviews at the Point of Sale

Once your customers have reached the cash drawer, they are clearly pleased with what your business has to offer. The point of sale is a good time to ask your customers to leave you a positive online review. Review platforms like Yelp or search engines like Google are places prospects visit before deciding to buy from your store. If you can show them hundreds of positive reviews, they may choose your business over a competitor.

You can use an automated review invitation platform where you send an email or text message to your customer just as they have made a purchase from your store. This way, all your customers have to do is click a link, go to the review platform and type their review. You can also physically ask customers to provide you with an online review. While this process has a lower success rate, it’s still a good start for small businesses that do not have a lot of reviews.