The Cash Register Is Dead. Long Live the Cash Register.

The cash register is dead. Here’s why:

It can’t compete with e-commerce.

There’s been a seismic shift in the retail and payment options available to consumers. e-commerce, which was virtually nonexistent 20 years ago, has grown into a nearly $60 billion industry, forcing brick-and-mortar retailers to shut down or evolve.

In order to survive, it’s essential for small business merchants to make use of point of sale systems that help them capture the same kind of rich data that e-commerce companies are capturing from their customers to enhance their services and offerings.

Traditional cash registers and point of sale systems, which provide operators with limited data (or none at all) about their sales and customers’ buying habits, simply won’t cut it anymore.

It isn’t cut out to cope with new payment technologies.

At the same time, we’re seeing a rise in alternative payment methods, such as virtual currencies like Bitcoin, Dwolla, and in-store mobile wallet payments, such as those available from Square and PayPal.

Traditional point of sale systems are not equipped to handle new technologies in payment, and merchants will miss out on potential sales as increasing numbers of customers are won over by these new payment methods, including smartphone- and iPad cash register point of sale systems.

Businesses need to capture all these new channels. It won’t be about simply swiping customers’ credit cards at the register anymore, but about helping the customer interact with your business using the technology that works best for him or her. Already, innovative stores like Apple and Nordstrom are using iPad cash registers to process customer sales throughout their retail stores. We are rapidly coming to a time when there won’t be a single “point” for a sale, but many points.

It doesn’t provide an interactive experience for the customer.

Traditional cash registers and point of sale systems are purely transactional: They’re designed to help you collect your customer’s money or credit card information, but make no effort to enhance the customer’s user experience. In contrast, iPad cash registers can be used to help customers interact with your merchandise, like an Ann Arbor, Michigan, restaurant is doing, giving them the tools to direct the buying experience by customizing orders or viewing additional information or videos about specific products.

Long live the cash register.

While the actual cash register itself may be losing traction, its central concept is not. The cash register was originally developed as a tool to make commerce simple and inspire customers to buy. Today, new technologies, such as iPad cash registers and mobile payment systems, are building on that role.

The register is still the brains of your business

With all of these enhanced opportunities to interact with customers through data and technology, it’s more essential than ever to develop centralized hubs that can help your business store, measure, and analyze the multitude of data points coming in — and consequently enhance the buying experience to generate more sales. Many modern tech companies are leading the way in building point of sale solutions that serve to manage transactions, collect data, and enhance the customer buying experience.

For instance, businesses like Square, Breadcrumb, Instore, Shopkeep, Revel, and many others have developed innovative iPad cash registers and mobile-based digital till systems, and their solutions are rapidly gaining traction among small and large businesses. These tools enable businesses of any size to turn an iPad or other mobile device into a cash register, using an app to place orders, collect cash, share product information, and collect detailed insights about trends in customers’ purchasing behavior. These solutions, while on the iPad, still insist that the register is the primary and most important interaction point for your business.

The register is more flexible than ever

Registers are now more flexible than ever. As customer needs and desires evolve, it’s essential that retailers’ technologies do as well. With newer “cash registers,” such as an iPad point of sale, retailers can use the technology to perform actions such as collecting data about employees’ and customers’ behavior; monitoring trends in purchasing behavior; integrating with new apps and payment channels, and allowing customers to place and customize their own orders — as well as performing the traditional function of cashing out customers after every sale.

The register is now a hub

Registers today are no longer just a “point of sale.” They are now hubs that control the ordering, inventory, cash flow, customer information, and analytics from a variety of sources: online ordering, mobile wallets, in-store purchases, and delivery orders. All these points feed through the register software and the cloud. Instead of a point of sale, there are many points of sale. The new crop of iPad point of sale systems are better called mobile point of sale, or mpos, which captures their broader nature as opposed traditional point of sale (tpos).

The cash register as it exists today — a 100-year-old technology — is rapidly losing its relevance in modern society. But the customer interaction machines and mpos devices rising to take its place will bring in a new era of commerce that offers more flexibility and convenience for the buyer, and more in-depth knowledge for the seller — ultimately reshaping and revitalizing the commerce experience — just like cash registers did in the industrial age over a century ago.