|Combined POS+storefront software|
for mail order/internet businesses
One of my clients is a successful retail outlet for hardware who are strictly phone/internet based. They have no showroom or cash registers, and all their orders come either from calls or their web site, which is currently just a few hundred html pages and a little bit of php. Currently all the filing and orders are done by hand, and it's time to install a system to do the grunt work. At the same time we're looking to upgrade the web store to something data driven, like OSCommerce.
I've done quite a bit of research on traditional point of sale software for other clients, and have found that most software seems to fall into 3 categories:
1. Web store software that handles orders just fine, but doesn't offer things like stock reorder points or manual orders real well.
2. Traditional POS software that is designed for cash registers, vendor/inventory tracking, etc but doesn't have a way to integrate with a web store.
3. POS packages that have a small/cheesy/tacked-on e-commerce module that is designed for people who are brick and mortar and want to sell a few items online.
What we'd really like to find is some package that combines both functions without having to get 2 distinct systems and then grafting them together. I'm pretty familiar with php and OSCommerce, but I'm not married to it. We'd be willing to spend a good chunk of cash for a system that's really worth it.
I'm sure there are lots of people here who run online-only businesses... what do you use?
Metrex Systems (http://metrex.net) built one for a local computer dealer (http://www.mlhsystems.com). I know it handles some of the back end stuff in addition to the web store. Maybe give them a look.
Not affiliated with either site, they're just friends and former co-workers.
Thanks, I'll check them out. Any chance you other mail-order houses can share what you use? I'd prefer not having to develop an entire solution or a large, complex bridge between 2 separate systems...
I'm currently grappling with a similar question: I developed an e-commerce website for a client who mainly does wholesale. To add to the fun, they're running Mac, dev is on Windows, and the site server on Linux.
I coded the web application in Java, so there's a bit of work to get it on the desktop (with the advantage though that it is cross-platform). Some of the recent GUI librairies use native system widgets, so look nice too.
Having spent some time thinking about it, I much prefer different applications synchronizing with a back-office inventory database, whether POS, mail-order or web. One monolithic application will be far too unwieldy, and like you I haven't seen anyone so far pull-off integrated software that didn't seem cheesy.
If you go with a monolithic solution, trying to extricate yourself will also be very difficult.
think of it as three seperate items...
A storefront (makes sales via web page. reports orders to database. reports changes in inventory to database.)
A Database (holds all data. duh.)
A managment tool (views changes to database by storefront, sets up promotions, checks inventory levels, prints invoices, etc.)
Expect the managment tool to be far larger in complexity than the store front cataloge, shopping cart, etc.
might not be the best explanation, but try to think of them as three seperate items. the core being the database. once you have a well designed database, you can do anything with it.
im sorry, i was replying to this as if you where building your own! no worries.
Hmm... It's beginning to seem like everyone who is doing this has rolled their own from scratch. That's pretty disappointing, but I guess the bigger developers are a bit behind the curve. It seems to me that I'm not asking for anything special, and that there would be a pretty good market for a fairly generalized solution like this, sort of like accounting packages... Most people don't develop their own accounting systems unless they have special requirements.
Maybe in a few years the big POS developers will catch up.
Web applications in general tend to be custom writen more in comparason to other software products.
A big reason for this is the need for a custom look and feel and the reluctance of non-tech webmasters to learn html.
I came across one called Pos-It (.com) a while back that seemed to integrate traditional POS with web-based retail. It may be the kind of thing you're looking for, although I don't know much about it. Probably worth a look.