Guide: EPOS and eCommerce jargon broken down by the experts

You’ll be forgiven for being left behind in the transition from keeping paper records to the present day of digital data. Indeed, the tech-savvy among us are now accessing stock levels on our smart watches. Whether or not that’s your cup of tea, we’ll all have stumbled on the jargon that comes tethered to both back and front-end epos and ecommerce technology. Here David Gaule, Citrus-Lime’s expert in the filed breaks down some of the lingo:

EPOS / POS – ‘Electronic Point Of Sale’ or ‘Point Of Sale’.  A term widely used to describe the software for your ‘till system’.  Usually this isn’t just the screen that you process your sales through at the till – the term also incorporates the ‘back office’ elements for running your in-store operations.

Back Office – A term often used to describe the ‘behind the scenes’ part of your EPOS or Ecommerce system, where you do all your administration such as setting up and updating products, managing purchase orders and viewing reports.

Ecommerce – ‘Electronic Commerce’.  A term used to describe the buying and selling of goods online.  When speaking with ecommerce providers, this usually means their websites are ‘transactional’ i.e. customers can place orders through it.

System / Platform / Environment / Module / Solution – All terms (there are more) to describe a particular piece of software/app.  This is often used to describe an EPOS/ecommerce provider’s collective offering of software/apps, especially if they’re integrated.

Integrated – EPOS and ecommerce providers describe their various offerings as ‘integrated’ to explain how they ‘talk’ to each other i.e. the passing of data between them.  The most common of these is when describing integrated EPOS and ecommerce platforms, i.e. the EPOS system shares its data with the ecommerce system, so things like product names, descriptions, prices and stock levels don’t have to be re-entered.  Some EPOS providers integrate with other third-party providers for things like workshop modules.  Other specialist EPOS providers keep it in-house and develop their own.

Integrated/Live Stock – This describes the link between your EPOS stock levels in-store and your ecommerce stock levels that are displayed to customers online.  Each of them should reflect changes in the other i.e. if you sell something in-store, it should no longer be available online and vice versa.  What constitutes ‘live’ according to each provider is worth investigating.

Database – All your product, sales and customer information/data will be stored in a database ‘behind the scenes’.  Your EPOS or ecommerce system is what you use to access, change and use that data.  Populating your database (filling it up) with products and keeping it up-to-date (cost prices, obsolete items etc.) can be a very time consuming task.  So any solutions/modules that an EPOS or ecommerce provider offers for quickly and easily doing this are well worth researching.  However, ‘good data in = good data out’ i.e. carefully control what you put into your database, so it’s easy to manage and you understand the sales (and other) reports it produces. jarg2

Supplier Integration / Product Catalogues / Product Import – There are a few different terms for this and not every offering is the same.  Essentially it’s all about populating and updating your database as discussed in ‘Database’.  Most allow a simple import of a supplier’s product file.  Though bear in mind these files are usually exports from the supplier’s database, intended for distribution and not quite ready for use in retail (e.g. product names that are so long they don’t fit on store price labels).  These files need a fair amount of reworking to ensure the right data ends up in the right place in your system and is useful.  You can also end up with a lot of unnecessary products in your database.  Some providers store these files and allow you to select which individual products you import into your database.  You also need to consider how you’ll update on mass, things like cost prices and obsolete products etc.  Some providers also give you supplier stock levels, so you can check availability within your EPOS system.  In addition, these supplier stock levels can sometimes be used to fulfil orders online, when you might have temporarily run out of stock.

Whichever you choose, investigate whether the provider works closely with your suppliers to receive their data cleaned-up ready for retail and how frequently it is updated.  Also check what data they receive – ecommerce data includes much more than EPOS data (barcodes, descriptions, images, tech specs).  Lastly, check if they’re receiving accurate supplier stock levels and what their platform can do with them.

Cloud – Cloud-based products are popping up everywhere and most people already have a sound understanding of the concept.  With particular respect to EPOS and ecommerce, it usually means your software/platform and database is stored online and accessed via a web browser (such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer etc.), instead of being ‘locally’ stored on a computer or server at your store.

Click and Collect – An increasingly important (some say essential) element of an ecommerce site.  The concept of Click and Collect is prominent enough to need no further explanation but it’s worth noting that whilst this is usually an addition to an ecommerce site, some ecommerce providers can offer this with integrated stock levels but no need to have a full transactional ecommerce site i.e. the customer can place a click and collect order online but pays in-store.  Either way, embracing this ‘convenience retail’ concept drives footfall to your store and may well be the saviour of the high street as it blurs the lines between ‘bricks and mortar’ and ‘clicks and mortar’.

‘Bricks and mortar’ vs ‘Clicks and mortar’ – a catchy marketing term to describe in-store and online environments/operations.

jargMultichannel – This is a term used to describe an EPOS system that allows you to integrate with multiple sales ‘channels’ through which you sell your products – e.g. in-store, your own ecommerce site, Amazon, eBay, etc.  Again, the term ‘integrated’ means they talk to each other and should share a stock level to ensure you only receive orders you can fulfil.

Omnichannel – Very similar to the term ‘multichannel’ (some might say the same term remarketed), it is used to describe not only the sales channels you sell through but your entire presence and communication with the consumer.  Hence the combination of the terms ‘channel’ and ‘omni’ (‘in all ways or places’).  There are articles and videos that go into great depth on the topic but put simply, it often describes what a lot of good retailers have always done – know your target market and existing customers, reach them through the right channels (in-store, ecommerce, magazine ads, social media, trade shows, newsletters etc.) with the right products and keep them coming back for more.

UI – ‘User Interface’.  What you or your customers see and interact with when using any of a provider’s solutions/platforms etc.

UX – ‘User Experience’.  How the user interface and its processes make you or your customers feel.

Fully-Responsive – Anything online (ecommerce site, cloud-based EPOS and other modules etc.) that automatically resizes and reorganises itself to optimise the way it looks and is used by you or your customers across different devices (desktop, tablet, phone etc.).

Categorical Search – An ecommerce term that describes a particular method of how your site allows customers to search for and find products.  Generally, you have a set navigation structure and put products in the relevant places within that structure on your site.  Providers often use more familiar terms such as ‘search’, ‘navigation’ or ‘departments and categories’.

Faceted Navigation – Built on the foundations of Categorical Search but far superior.  An ecommerce term that describes a different method of how your site allows customers to search for and filter products.  More specifically, this method assigns attributes (type, size, fit, discipline etc.) to both the navigation structure and products to increase the likelihood of customers finding what they want.  It can have a significant impact on the user experience for your customers and therefore your conversion rate.  Providers often use a more familiar term such as ‘search’, ‘product filter’ or ‘find and filter’.

Conversion Rate – A term that describes what proportion of people visiting your store and/or site make a purchase from you.

SEO – ‘Search Engine Optimisation’.  There’s an entire industry dedicated to getting this right. So, put simply, it’s a term used to describe the numerous and ever-changing ways in which you can improve the probability of your website being found by search engines such as Google and Bing.

Google Adwords – A paid for advertising service provided by Google.  You bid on certain keywords so that when people search for those keywords using Google, your site appears in Google’s search results.  The more you bid (among other factors), the more likely you’ll be found by someone searching for those keywords.  Generally, you only pay the amount you bid if someone clicks through to your site, hence the term ‘pay per click’. The use of Adwords for marketing ecommerce sites is declining with the introduction of Google Shopping.

Google Shopping – A pay per click advertising service provided by Google, designed for use by ecommerce sites, which largely replaces Google Adwords for this purpose.  You bid on certain keywords, brands or specific products, so when people search for these, your ecommerce site appears in Google Shopping search results.  The better your ecommerce product data (barcodes, descriptions, images etc.) and the more you bid (among other factors) the more likely you’ll be found by someone searching for those products.

Remarketing Ads – A paid for advertising service provided by Google.  Google has a network/marketplace of sites where you can advertise.  These are the clever ads that follow customers around the internet once they’ve navigated away from your site.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of terms but it covers the key terminology to help you better understand what’s on offer from all EPOS and ecommerce providers and make a more informed choice.  We’ll be adding to this over time, but if you feel something needs adding or adjusting, feel free to get in touch with the author:
01229 588 628