What’s the Difference Between a Cash Register and a POS System?Cash registers have been around since the late 19th century. After discovering the technology used to count the revolutions of a ship’s propeller, a saloon owner in Ohio named James Ritty created a machine that could keep track of his sales. He patented the machine in 1879 and called it Ritty’s Incorruptible Cashier. This first cash register didn’t include a cash drawer — it only tallied totals from each sales transaction. After Ritty sold the rights to his invention, John H. Patterson founded the National Cash Register Company in 1884 and popularized this machine with business owners all over the nation. The cash register has long been a staple piece of technology for business, both big and small. Today, many small businesses still rely on traditional cash registers to facilitate transactions. Modern cash registers are electronic, but they still fulfill the basic functions of earlier cash registers. Electronic cash registers consist of a cash drawer, a small display screen and buttons the cashier can press to add up dollar amounts, assign sales to particular departments and calculate change. Some registers will also print a basic receipt.Cash registers are essentially calculators designed for sales transactions attached to a drawer to keep cash secure. So, how does the traditional cash register compare to a POS system? A POS system takes advantage of modern technology to expand greatly on the basic capabilities of a cash register. Like a basic register, a POS system includes a cash drawer. POS systems vary, but with an all-in-one POS system, you can also expect additional integrated hardware, such as:
- Barcode scanners
- Receipt printers
- Credit card processors
- Track inventory
- Record sales analytics
- Log employee shifts
- Facilitate sales promotions
What Are the Pros and Cons of Each?Now that you know the difference between a cash register and a POS, you may be wondering which of these options is the best choice for your small business. As with almost any comparison, there are pros and cons to each option. Let’s start with the advantages of cash registers and then look at the disadvantages of this more basic option.
Pros and Cons of Cash RegistersDigital cash registers do have some advantages compared to POS system, including:
- Affordability: Cash registers tend to cost less than POS systems, which is helpful for small businesses with a limited budget. Since there is no software involved, you won’t have to pay a monthly or annual fee to maintain software, so the upfront cost you’ll pay for your cash register — which could be up to $800 — is the full cost, with the exception of potential maintenance costs to fix a malfunctioning register.
- Familiarity: If your employees are already used to using basic cash registers, then they may find it easier to stick to the method they’re familiar with. However, since cash registers come in different models, it’s likely that employees who have used a cash register before will still need some training to learn how to operate your business’s specific model. In contrast, POS systems are designed to be cutting-edge and therefore will be updated continuously with new software improvements and features that will help you run your business better.
- No Integration: Cash registers are independent machines that are not integrated with other components you need to facilitate the checkout process, such as a barcode scanner and card reader. If you have multiple registers, they won’t be integrated with each other, either. This lack of integration means there is no communication among your equipment to streamline the process.
- No Inventory Tracking: Cash registers simply aren’t designed to help you manage your inventory, so you can’t count on a cash register to tell you when to order more product or when you may be overstocking a certain product. This means you have to rely on manual methods for tracking inventory.
- No Sales Analytics: Some cash registers may truly be like a calculator that wipes the slate clean after each transaction. Other cash registers are made to keep track of the day’s sales so cashiers can balance the cash register drawer. In either case, a cash register will not keep track of sales data long-term, so you have to do this manually, which is time-consuming and is likely to be inaccurate.
- Inefficient Checkout: Even if you’re only interested in facilitating sales transactions, a cash register does not provide the most efficient checkout experience. Having to punch in totals and manually subtract savings from promotions results in a slower process, which can feel cumbersome to cashiers and frustrating to shoppers who are in a hurry.
- No Screen: Even though digital cash registers have a small display screen, similar to the screen on a calculator, all this screen will display are the totals as the cashier rings up items. If you want a larger display screen that includes more detailed information for the customer, then you’ll need a POS system. A POS system also includes a touch-screen for the cashier.
Pros and Cons of POS SystemsNow that we’ve covered the pros and cons of cash registers, let’s focus on POS systems. POS systems offer many benefits, but we’ll hit the highlights with six significant advantages that a POS offers compared to a cash register:
- User-Friendliness: One of the advantages of POS systems is that they’re user-friendly. The touchscreen features clear, colorful buttons that make navigating through features easy. The interface will feel familiar to employees who are used to using a smartphone or touchscreen tablet, which means they may not need a great deal of training.
- Integration: Especially if you purchase an all-in-one POS system, you also benefit from the fact that all the components needed for checkout are seamlessly integrated together. If you need multiple checkout lanes or even if you have multiple store locations, POS systems with cloud-based software will all send information to an app so you can access all your data in one place.
- Inventory Management: Managing your inventory is a critical aspect of any small business. A POS system makes inventory tracking easy by maintaining an accurate account of what you have in stock, letting you know when to order new stock and providing data to help you accurately determine which products are helping your business grow and which may be a financial drain.
- Sales Analytics: A POS system also helps you make data-driven decisions to help grow your business. They track sales, so you can quickly answer questions like what your peak times are, which cashiers have facilitated the most transactions, whether a promotion helped boost your sales and more.
- Efficient Checkout: If you’re more concerned with the checkout experience itself rather than the additional features a POS offers, it’s important to note that a POS also provides a more efficient checkout process, which will please employees and customers alike. A POS automates multiple aspects of checkout so you can maintain accuracy and get customers checked out quickly.
- Dual Screens: All POS systems feature a touchscreen which makes the checkout process far more visually engaging for employees. Some POS systems also feature a display screen for customers. This customer-facing screen can help you improve sales since it provides transparency and can even display ads to inform the customer of upcoming promotions.
- Higher Cost: The main disadvantage that concerns some small businesses, especially start-ups, is that POS systems cost more than cash registers. While POS systems are more expensive than cash registers, they include many more features that will help your business become more profitable. Consider the many other components and software programs you would need to buy if you opted for a cash register instead of a POS, and the real price gap quickly disappears.
- Software Updates: POS systems are intended to keep up with current technology so they remain the best piece of sales technology you can have. This means that POS software will need to be updated from time to time. If your software is stored in-house, this can be an inconvenience. However, if you go with a cloud-based system, you’ll enjoy automatic updates whenever the developers improve the software.
- Potentially Intimidating: A final possible downside to consider is that a POS system is a departure from the old, familiar cash register. This may be intimidating to some employees who are not used to using modern touch-screen technology. That said, 42% of Americans aged 65 and up own smartphones, so it’s likely that all or nearly all of your employees will embrace the technology with some familiarity.
Why Do Small Businesses Need More Than a Basic Cash Register?As we’ve seen, cash registers are extremely limited in their capabilities compared to POS systems, which do far more than just help you ring up customers. In light of the advantages POS systems offer, it should be clear that they are preferable for any small business that can afford them. Even if you’re worried about the cost, you should still consider investing in a POS system for a few reasons. There are many reasons to invest in a POS system, but we’ll focus on three main reasons why you need a modern POS system instead of a basic cash register:
1. To Offer a Modern Checkout ExperienceCustomers today are often in a hurry and expect the checkout process to be efficient. That’s why retailers are always on the lookout for ways to speed up checkout time. Using a POS is an excellent way to do this since it integrates hardware and uses cutting-edge software to offer a seamless checkout experience. No more punching in discounts or getting frustrated over errors. A POS makes it quick and easy to facilitate sales in a way that shows customers you’re committed to the best technology has to offer.
2. To Manage Your Business EffectivelyA POS system also gives you valuable tools to help you manage your business, from employees and inventory to promotions and more. These are all major aspects of management, so if you don’t have a POS to help you, you’ll find yourself relying on outmoded methods or software options that may work well on their own but aren’t integrated. A POS allows you to view data and make changes all in one place, so you can manage effectively, either on-site or on the go.
3. To Make Data-Informed Business DecisionsAll-in-one POS systems include sale statistics that help you make business decisions based on data. Big companies use data to create their sales strategies. As a result, the best way to keep up with them involves using statistics yourself. POS systems track sales by item type, payment type, sale time, transaction total and many other factors. These robust statistics help you build business strategies based on your customers’ behavior. You’ll get to market directly to your customers to generate more sales and profits than just relying on a cash register for a small business.
4. To Improve Customer SatisfactionWith a comprehensive POS system, you will also get to improve your customers’ experience. In addition to offering a modern checkout experience, a POS system gives customers opportunities to save. All-in-one systems like POS+ have built-in promotion features that make it easy to create in-store sales. Integrated loyalty programs also help customers save money with a card scan. With the smart usage of these features, you can increase your profits while helping your customers reduce their costs.
5. To Increase SalesFinally, when customers are pleased with the checkout experience they have at your business, and you leverage data to make smart decisions about what products you carry, when you run a sale and more, you can expect your sales to climb. If your POS system comes with loyalty software, this can encourage more repeat business. A POS system is a financial investment, but for many small businesses, it could help you become more profitable.
The Best Small Business Cash Register Goes Beyond a Cash RegisterWhen choosing point-of-sale technology for your store, the best small business cash register includes complete POS features. POS+ has a full suite of features for store management. At National Retail Solutions, Inc., we understand that managing a store takes more than software and hardware. We provide comprehensive support and business services to help you succeed in your market. These features make POS+ the best POS system for small businesses:
Dependable HardwarePOS+ has all of the staples you need to run an efficient checkout. Its hardware includes a touch screen, barcode scanner, cash drawer and much more. We focused on dependable design to give you a system that holds up to frequent use.
Powerful SoftwareThe technology in the POS+ system records your sales statistics and helps you manage your inventory. It includes many big business features at a small business price.
Customer SupportOur customer service team offers support via phone or email. They provide options for remote and bilingual support to give you the best customer support experience possible.
Mobile AccessEvery POS+ user can use the free My NRS Store app to manage their system remotely. It works from anywhere with an internet connection to display sales information and let you change settings.
Integrated ServicesAt NRS, we offer additional services that complement the POS+ system. They integrate with POS+ to provide you with powerful business tools. POS+ users enhance their stores with these amenities:
- The BR Club: Every business that uses POS+ automatically becomes a BR Club store. Customers with BR Club cards get exclusive discounts that we cover for you.
- Payment processing: For a low flat rate, you can also participate in our payment processing program for major credit cards and mobile payments. When you sign up for specific plans, you’ll get a free card reader.