Jun 6, 2017

Point of Sale systems vs. Tablet Assisted Sales

The differences and similarities of PoS and TAS

There is a lot of buzz in traditional retail about both Point of Sale Systems (PoS) and how they can improve store processes. More recently, Tablet Assisted Sales (TAS) is also getting attention. This article discusses what the two technologies have in common and what separates them.

Point of Sale systems

Point of Sale (POS) systems are primarily payment focused. They are basically an evolution of traditional cash registers. Examples are (mobile) payment terminals, counter-top terminals and tablets or smartphones that are connected to a basic payment terminal (for example Payleven and iZettle in Europe and Square in the US).

Traditional Point of Sale system

Traditionally POS systems support three main activities: payment, sales registration and customer relationship management (e.g. gift cards or loyalty programs). New parties are entering the market in recent years and they add new features to their products, such as basic resource planning, product information or eCommerce integrations. These solutions are particularly interesting for small stores that can use these new platforms as a one stop shop for most of their IT and administration needs. All solutions however remain very much focused on the payment transaction and a fixed location is usually the starting point. They can be described as payment focused and static.

Tablet Assisted Sales

Tablet Assisted Sales (TAS) is a newcomer to brick-and-mortar retail. The idea behind TAS is not only to support the customer checkout, but to support both the sales person and the shopper with information during the complete in-store customer journey. TAS is usually used as an iPad app to assist staff with providing relevant information to customers. The checkout process can be part of the app, but this is not necessary.

The first versions of TAS were basically copies of the retailer’s e-commerce website, optimized for use on a tablet. What usually happens is that tablets are put in a stand for shoppers and staff to view information on the e-commerce website. Sometimes a payment terminal is connected to the tablet to enable shoppers to directly order and pay their product online. The core purpose of the product is to assist the retail staff with digital functionalities, but the solution is still very static.

TAS in De Bijenkorf, a department store in the Netherlands

Tablet assisted sales can also be used in a different way. Instead of keeping it fixed in it’s stand, the tablet can be paired with a salesperson and assist him or her (doh! ;) during the entire sales process. This opens a whole new set of possibilities. Now the salesperson can casually use the tablet during the sales conversation with a shopper to access all kinds of information. It seamlessly supplements the experience shoppers are already used to online.

The TAS app can provide information including (but not limited to):

  1. product images
  2. in depth specifications
  3. product recommendations (based on the shopper’s preference)
  4. product comparisons
  5. stock information (based on the customer’s store, not the e-commerce website)
  6. reviews and ratings
  7. videos
  8. Comparable products or matching accesoiries

Because the tablet is mobile, the sales person can quickly look up information and generate comparisons about the product that the shopper is currently looking at. This can be done be scanning the bar codes of products straight from the aisle.

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Quickly compare products, straight from the aisle.

Another advantage of pairing a tablet with a salesperson, is that customer information can now more easily be collected. For example, if a certain product is out-of-stock, the shopper can leave his email address to be reminded if the product is back in store. Traditionally, this type of information would only be collected at checkout, if a sale was successful.

Finally, the checkout process is not limited to POS systems. Many payment and checkout solutions have been presented. Putting this directly in the hands of store associates enables them to offer higher levels of service and does not force customers to queue in line to pay for their purchase.


Point of sales systems focus more on payment and the checkout process. Tablet assisted sales is more tailored to support the sales staff and to assist the wider sales process of informing and helping the customer. Payment is only the last step in this process. POS is more transaction focused, while TAS is more customer focused. With that said, POS and TAS should not be seen as competitors, they supplement each other. A better integration between the two could speed-up the process towards seamless omnichannel retailers. In this scenario, a sale and direct payment could take please anywhere in the store, based on both the skills of the employee and the objective information from the tablet.

Merging PoS and TAS will likely become more and more important for physical retail in the coming years. These retailers can improve their omnichannel presence and improve their chances of survival in a competitive landscape.

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