Retail store owners can choose a basic cash register or advanced POS cash register to manage payments and track sales. Basic electronic cash registers are suitable for some businesses, but most are moving toward feature-filled POS cash registers that more efficiently run operations. We explore both options and help pinpoint the best solution for your store.
Cash Registers vs POS Systems: Which Checkout is Best for You
|Cash Register||Small businesses that just need to ring up sales, run receipts, and receive cash, check & credit card payments||$90 & up|
|POS Cash Register||Retailers that want to manage all types of sales, payments, and business functions in one streamlined computerized system.||$99/month & up|
Cash Registers vs POS Systems: Assessing Your Needs
Assessing your business needs is the first step in deciding whether a basic cash register or POS system is best for you. Here’s a quick checklist that walks you through the most common retail payment needs and management tasks. Your answers will tell you if a basic cash register will do the trick, or if a POS cash register will benefit you more.
Cash Register vs POS Cash Register: Your Business Needs Checklist
|What’s your business need?|
|Accept cash & check sales|
|Process credit cards|
|Add tax to sales|
|Track departmental sales|
|Customer price displays|
|Inventory management & stock counts|
|Create & track purchase orders|
|Connect to a webstore|
|Process & ship online orders|
|Accept phone orders & payments|
|Process & track returns in detail|
|Manage employee time|
|Track commissions & tips|
|Create & track invoices|
|Receive invoice payments|
|Manage customer data|
|Discounts, marketing & loyalty programs|
|Track sales details & pull advanced reports|
|Try it out|
|Where to try before buying|
Clearly, a POS system is the better choice than a basic cash register if you want to manage your entire business with one system. While it’s difficult to try out a cash register in a store, you can sign up for a free trial of Lightspeed POS and see how some of Lightspeed’s features we outline in this article work for yourself.
What a POS Cash Register is & What it Does
POS stands for Point-of-Sale, which in retail terms is the customer checkout process. A POS cash register is a computerized cash register that rings up sales in a retail setting, processes payments, plus tracks all of your sales, inventory, and customer data within one system.
POS cash registers like those offered by Lightspeed combine a computer screen, cash drawer, credit card reader, receipt printer, and sometimes a barcode scanner. Lightspeed’s POS software can also be used on a combination of computers, tablets, and smartphones without extra equipment.
A basic cash register calculates sales totals, prints receipts, and has a cash drawer. A POS system handles basic cash register functions, plus many other key business management tasks, including:
- Inventory tracking — this tracks your stock counts in real-time and automatically reduces stock numbers as you sell products
- Customer data tracking — this makes checkout faster for repeat shoppers and tracks items sold for returns and targeted marketing
- Tax tracking — you can set-and-forget your sales tax rates in most POS systems, which automatically apply taxes to sales, then provides detailed reports come tax time
- Employee management – track commissions and tips, schedules, work hours, assignments, and more
- Marketing — tracking customer data helps you manage your email and direct mail advertising and create effective promotions based on customer buying habits
Having all of your data stored and accessible within one system makes your operation more efficient and, in many cases, more profitable. With POS cash register, you get more than an electronic cash till with a glorified calculator. You get an entire retail store management solution.
Successful retailing is about having the right data about what is selling, at what price, and ultimately who is purchasing. Without a POS, you’re guessing. With that POS data, you can ultimately determine who you should be targeting with advertising based on customer data you’re capturing at the point-of-sale.
— Ray Riley, Chief Executive Officer, People in Progress Global
But Aren’t POS Cash Registers Expensive, High-tech & Bulky?
If you’ve avoided switching to (or starting out with) a POS cash register for these reasons, worry not! Modern POS cash register systems will surprise you in every possible way; most notably in their low operating costs and ease-of-use.
Modern POS systems are far less expensive and easier to use than old cash registers. They feature intuitive interfaces on bright, clear touch screens and even work on on iPads and smartphones.
— Josh Phillips, Nobly POS
Older POS cash register systems ran off of internal computer networks and required an expensive in-store computer server and clunky software. But that’s changed in recent years, thanks to cloud-based technology that runs on computers, tablets, and smartphones like Lightspeed POS laptop and mobile-friendly screens.
A modern cloud-based POS system like Lightspeed makes full POS functionality far less costly. You can connect your data via the internet and run your entire operation from a tablet or smartphone, or with a customized POS register station.
But, if you don’t need to track your sales, customer, and inventory data, inexpensive electronic cash registers can meet your shop’s basic payment needs.
Cash Registers vs POS Systems: When to Choose a Cash Register
With a one-time purchase price starting around $95, a basic cash register can be less costly than a POS system, if that’s all you need. But POS systems have low monthly fees, especially considering the many time-saving benefits you get. So cost isn’t always a major factor in this choice. Nor is there an ease-of-use concern since modern POS systems are quite intuitive to set up and use.
Choosing an intuitive system from the start sets the entire team up for success. Even simple registers have a learning curve for new teams: train your team once in an intuitive system to set them up for success and avoid future confusion.
— Weaver Ellard, Field Marketing Associate, NCR Corporation / NCR Counterpoint
So, if cost and ease-of-use aren’t deciding factors, are there scenarios where a cash register is the best choice? Yes. Here are 4 situations where a basic electronic cash register makes more sense than a POS system. These are:
1. You have very basic payment needs
If you simply need to receive payments, an inexpensive cash register will handle it all for you. Even the $90 models will track cash and checks sales along with credit cards if you add a credit card terminal. With even the most basic models, you can print receipts for customers, add and track sales taxes, and tally the day’s sales.
2. You have no or a very limited internet connection
Most POS cash registers and software systems need internet access to process sales, credit card payment, and access and update data. If you don’t have internet access on a regular basis, a cash register with a phone line connection for credit card processing (if needed) is your best bet.
3. Computers, smartphones, and tablets are not your friends
We get it, not everyone likes to rely on computers or mobile devices to get important tasks done. And if you don’t like working in a computerized, online environment, then you’re not likely to set up and maintain the many business management features you get with a POS. In this situation, a good electronic cash register with tax calculations and daily sales reports should serve you well.
4. You really like managing your business with spreadsheets
This is another I-get-it reason. I know a surprising number of small business owners who are completely at home in Excel spreadsheets. Moving their system to a POS would up-end their entire world, it just doesn’t match their workflow. For these business owners, an electronic cash register with tax and sales reporting features and integrated credit card terminals is all they really need.
If you fit into one of these 4 sales scenarios, you can feel confident that a cash register is the right choice. But, here are a few things to know about using a cash register day-to-day.
- Credit card processing isn’t built-in — If you want to accept credit card payments, you’ll also need to set up a merchant services account and connect a credit card terminal. These start at about $150. And you’ll need to check that your cash register and credit card terminal are compatible. Your merchant services provider should be able to assist in that.
- You need a power source — Most cash registers are electronic and this is something to keep in mind if you plan to use your register for markets or fairs. Many temporary sales booths charge extra to rent power for a day or weekend.
- You have to manually track key business data — Basic cash registers don’t provide very robust sales or tax totals, nor do they have a way to automatically deduct inventory as it sells. You’ll need to manually track inventory and business financials using spreadsheets or notebooks.
So, there are situations where a cash register is the best option, as long as you’re aware that you’ll need to manually handle some important tasks. However, if you don’t fit in the above 4 reasons to choose a cash register, a POS system is likely the best choice for your business.
Cash Registers vs POS Systems: When to Choose a POS System
To manage your retail business as efficiently as possible, you need a POS system. The right solution for you might be an in-store POS cash register with cash drawer and receipt printer. Or, a sleek, portable iPad checkout with a mobile credit card reader may be your best fit.
A POS system is one of the best investments that a retailer can make because it doesn’t allow store performance issues to be swept under the rug. POS systems let retailers create more profitable operations by managing inventory flow and velocity of items, starting on day one. We haven’t met a retailer who could give us answers about performance and profitability better than a POS system can. You have to look at a POS system not as an expense, but as an investment that will make the store money.
— Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender, Retail Store Design Consultants at Kizer & Bender
Even mobile sellers can benefit from a POS system. Just use Lightspeed POS on a tablet with a credit card reader and pair it with an inexpensive cash lockbox. This low-cost, portable solution let’s you take your business on the road and still track your inventory and sales.
The point is, there are many ways to craft a POS cash register solution and benefit from the efficiency a POS system provides, no matter how or where you sell.
Here’s an in-depth look at the many ways a POS like Lightspeed can help you track manage all types of sales and track key business data. To learn how Lightspeed POS compares to other top POS systems, check out our Best Small Business POS System Guide.
Lightspeed POS: What it can do for your retail business
|Startup & Monthly Costs|
From $99/month, with 14-day free trial
|POS Register Options|
Use Lightspeed on your mobile tablet or build a full POS register system
|Credit Card Processing|
|POS System Features|
|Cash & Check sales||Accept, record, and track all types of cash and check payments|
|Credit Card & eWallet sales||Add credit card scanners and contactless card readers to securely accept all types of credit payments|
|Mobile selling||Add mobile card readers to mobile tablets to sell anywhere|
|Customer Tracking||Track customer contact, purchase history, and promotion response|
|Coupons & Promotions||Create all types of promotions and track their effectiveness|
|Track & Record Invoice Sales||Create invoices and track payments and outstanding balances|
|Inventory tracking||Track inventory quantities and variants|
|Create Purchase Orders||Forecast your purchasing needs accurately|
|Connect Vendor Catalogs||Easily order stock from hundreds of pre-loaded vendor catalogs|
|Online Store Sales||Connect your inventory to an online store and manage sales and shipping|
|Employee management||Track employee schedules, training, commissions, and access|
|Multi-register||Run one or many register stations|
|Multi-location||Manage inventory, sales, and staff across multiple locations|
|Email marketing*||Manage email promotions via third-party integrations|
|Customer Loyalty Program*||Run traffic-driving programs to attract repeat business|
|Payroll*||Connect a number of payroll services|
* Advanced features or 3rd party add-ons, learn more at Lightspeed POS
As you can see, the real beauty of a feature-rich POS system is the efficiency it brings to your operation. Everything you need is at your fingertips. Inventory counts, sales totals, payment details, employee commissions, marketing data, and more can all be quickly accessed from countertop registers or via any computer or mobile device.
The danger is in not utilizing the data that the POS provides. Those reports need to be reviewed often. We’ve seen stacks of POS generated reports lying on retailers desktops that are never read. That just doesn’t make sense.
— Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender, Retail Store Design Consultants at Kizer & Bender
Once you start to rely on the detailed data your POS system provides, you’ll refer to it quite often. In fact, being able to access your business data on-the-go is a real plus for small business owners. Cloud-based systems like Lightspeed and others really deliver this convenience via computers, tablets, and even mobile devices. Want to check your sales while on a buying trip, or review employee activity while on vacation? A POS makes it all possible.
The Bottom Line
A budget-friendly electronic cash register runs about $90 and can handle basic retail checkout and payment needs. For some, it’s a just-right solution. But if you want to efficiently run your retail operation and have growth-driving data and tools at your fingertips, a POS system is the answer.
If you’re looking for a POS system, you should try Lightspeed. In addition to offering customizable POS cash register systems, Lightspeed’s POS software also gives you the flexibility of selling from your smartphone, tablet, or computer with all of the sales and inventory management features of a full POS. Click here for a free trial.