Point of sale / stationary trade – a definition: The point of sale (PoS) is the place where the goods are offered, where the customer and the goods are brought together commercially and thus the sale or purchase or exchange can take place. The PoS is physically located in a stationary shop, even if the online trade is increasingly often also called PoS. Shelves, parking spaces and advertising are used to offer goods at the PoS and encourage customers to make so-called impulse purchases; the salesperson and customer come into direct contact.

Important: According to documentation, there is a difference between Point of Sale (PoS) and the associated term Point of Purchase (PoP). In English documentation, PoP describes the entire sales area within a stationary store, while PoS exclusively represents the checkout area. This differentiation contributes to the fact that the payment area within an online shop can be understood as a point of sale. In the broadest sense, however, a distinction is made in German documentation between two perspectives, the seller’s view (PoS) and the buyer’s view (PoP). The German definition will be discussed in more detail below.

Point of Sale / stationary trade – definition

PoS describes in the broadest sense the entire sales area of the local store, which is drawn to attention by advertising signs, neon signs, large lettering and inviting shop windows; however, if you look at PoS in detail, it is the specific place in the store itself where an article is located, such as a chewing gum shelf at the checkout, a display case at the cheese counter or a display stand with peelers in the fruit and vegetable department.

The stationary trade as a point of sale is characterized by

    • Personal advice – employees in the shop are representatives of the business, they convey respectability, professionalism and credibility.
    • Direct contact with products – in a stationary shop, the goods can be examined closely; no product description in the online shop can replace the haptic discovery, trying out and testing. In the stationary shop, people buy out of conviction, which is why the complaint rates are much lower than in e-commerce.
    • Shopping as an experience – only shopping in a stationary store offers the possibilities to turn the pure purchase of goods into a comprehensive experience. All senses can be addressed: Music plays in the background, there are stands with snacks and drinks, products can be tried out and tested.


  • Numerous marketing measures – marketing at the PoS is immensely important, as it offers numerous opportunities to attract the attention of customers locally. Display stands and shop-in-shop systems as well as samples of goods at strategic points on the sales floor are among the most common means.


Point of sale / stationary trade – as a concept of trade

In stationary retail, there is a fixed location such as the branch. Since sales take place there, this is also the PoS – as described above, in the broadest sense. Point of sale and the corresponding marketing measures are particularly relevant in the large area of a supermarket with thousands of different products, because 70 percent of the purchasing decisions made there are made in the store, according to the science journalist Reto U. Schneider.

The PoS is interesting for products of daily use, so-called low-involvement products. The PoS marketing that takes place there generates more attention and thus more purchases for a specific product.


Point of Sale can therefore be seen as a concept of a stationary store, which is enormously influenced by marketing. There, goods are positioned and distributed over the area in such a way as to stimulate spontaneous purchases. Furthermore, the shopping path through the store is controlled by placing goods of daily use, such as dairy products, further back in the store. In this way, the customer who needs milk can be guided along numerous points of sale, thus making use of the entire local sales area.

A PoS in the supermarket that is highly differentiated from a sales psychology point of view is the shelf space; shelves are divided into different zones: Stretch (high bar)-, View-, Grip– and Back zone (logistical view). In the visibility and gripping zone, the most profitable products are placed; in the bending and stretching zone, the goods of daily use, such as milk and toothpaste, which are not harmed by poor visibility and accessibility, are placed; the same applies to products of cheap or private labels, which generate a smaller profit margin. The better shelf zones can also be booked by manufacturers by means of bonus payments. For example, while the toothpaste is placed at the top of the stretching zone, the toothbrush is in the visible zone below; when stretching after the toothpaste, the toothbrush is particularly noticed and ends up, spontaneously, in the shopping basket.

There are few factors that have a greater impact on the sales of a product than the height at which it is placed on the shelf.

Reto U. Schneider in NZZ Folio

Each variant of stationary trade thus has its own methods for creating points of sale and encouraging customers to make (spontaneous) purchases. What toothpaste and toothbrush are in the supermarket, helmets and bells are in the bicycle shop and blouses and scarfs are in the fashion store. This is one reason why, for example, the IKEA furniture store guides the customer across the entire sales area; the customer thus passes through all the thematic sales areas. And those who still take a shortcut are confronted with the many small offers in the checkout area. The checkout area is a very effective PoS in all stationary stores, because all customers have to pass through it.

Point of Sale and online trade

In online trade, the PoS is also increasingly spreading as a buzzword. The measurability of purchase cancellations and the tracking of the customer journey have led to the establishment and design of points of sale in web shops as well. Cross-selling and buying recommendations based on the purchasing decisions of customers with similar buying preferences are among the most common methods of stimulating spontaneous and impulse purchases. Distinguishing features from the actual PoS in stationary trade are, for example, the lack of personal advice from trained staff or the different exchange rights offered by online trade compared to stationary trade (see also E-Commerce: Customer Experience vs. Experience Gap.
In addition, the customer now has the choice of how and where he or she wants to complete the purchase. Thus, the different sales channels play an increasingly decisive role for retailers; whether Multi-Channel, Omni-Channel or Cross-Channel, there are numerous ways to bring customers and goods together. For customers, on the other hand, the focus on certain channels is virtually non-existent; they simply want to shop. In this context, the design of the corresponding points of sale is also becoming increasingly relevant. In cross-channel sales, for example, an article can be ordered online and then picked up and paid for in a stationary store. In this way, a (planned) purchase is made on the Internet, but offers the opportunity for further, spontaneous purchases in the local store.

Summary PoS / stationary trade

Point of Sale describes the place where customer and goods are brought together and the purchase is completed. All measures at the PoS serve to lower sales hurdles and encourage the customer to make a spontaneous purchase decision. The design of the PoS has great relevance as well as effective influence on the customer; it ranges from the packaging and the presentation of the goods (see also Packaging Logistics) to the height of the space on the shelf and the positioning in the store itself.

If you are interested in the topic of point of sale and stationary trade, then you may also be interested in the articles POS system, warehouse management and store logistics and the Merchandise management system.

Image source: Mostafameraji / CC BY-SA 4.0

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