What are the Different Types of Cash Registers and Which One is Best for Your Business?

Cash registers are a staple in retail stores, and for good reason: these devices facilitate in-store transactions and without them, the checkout process wouldn’t be possible. 

These devices have evolved over the years, and the traditional cash register (known for its iconic “ka-ching” sound) has been replaced by more sophisticated alternatives.

In this post, we’ll explore the realm of retail cash registers and give you an overview of the types of devices out there and how to choose the best one for your business. 

Let’s get started. 

Mechanical cash registers

The mechanical cash register is one of the earliest iterations of the device. These cash registers simply functioned as adding machines that allowed merchants to ring up sales.

Cashiers did this by entering the amounts into the device, and when they pressed the “total” key, it would trigger the machine to open the cash drawer. A bell would ring to alert managers that a sale was occuring. 

Mechanical cash registers are standalone devices that don’t really do much except add up the totals of the transaction and opening/closing the cash drawer so you can take the money and dispense change. Some mechanical cash registers have built-in receipt printers as well. 

You can see exactly how mechanical cash registers work in the video below. 

These machines are hardly ever used today, as they’ve been replaced by more efficient devices, such as electronic cash registers and cloud-based software. More on these solutions below. 

Electronic cash registers

After the mechanical cash register came the electronic version of the device. This is a major step up, because aside from being less clunky than its predecessor, electronic cash registers have the ability to connect with payment terminals, allowing you to accept credit card payments. 

They eliminate some of the manual work that came with the mechanical registers. For example, while mechanical cash registers require you to add tax manually, the electronic register has built-in capabilities to do so. 

However, electronic cash registers aren’t connected to the web and cannot be directly integrated with other business software — such as accounting, inventory management etc. 

Some registers have export functionalities that allow you to transfer POS data via USB, so you can then import it into your accounting system. But this process is way too cumbersome and can lead to wasted time and human error. 

That’s why retailers are much better off using modern POS systems. 

Cloud-based point of sale systems

In the world of cash registers, cloud-based POS systems are the cream of the crop. These solutions are more secure, powerful and affordable than their predecessors. The cloud POS software market has been gaining steam for quite some time now. In fact, the market size is expected to grow from $10.39 billion to $19.56 billion from 2021 to 2028.

Because these solutions live in the cloud, they enable you to get your hands on your retail data from anywhere. Cloud solutions are also highly scalable; it’s easy to add users, features, and functionalities. 

In addition, cloud-based systems go beyond point of sale functionalities. They come with capabilities that simply cannot be matched by mechanical and electronic devices. Such features include:

  • Inventory management. Most cloud-based POS solutions come with stock management features that automatically update your inventory alongside your sales. You can track stock levels easily and you always have a handle on how much inventory you have. 
  • Reporting. Modern POS systems also have reporting and analytics capabilities that enable you to generate reports on your sales, product performance, customers, and more. Whether you’re looking to know what your bestsellers are or who’s buying from you the most, you can easily get your hands on that data with the right POS. 
  • Customer management. Want to keep a record of all your customers? A cloud-based POS has got you covered. These solutions enable you to set up shopper profiles and track their preferences, purchase histories, and more. 
  • Ecommerce. With consumers increasingly using physical and digital channels to shop, having the ability to sell over the web is essential. Fortunately, most cloud solutions come with ecommerce capabilities so you can set up shop online. 
  • Software integrations. Cloud-based POS systems often have software integrations so you can connect your POS to other business applications, including your accounting software, loyalty program, employee management solution, and more. 

Cloud-based POS systems also work on different devices. Depending on your provider, you can use the software on your computer or tablet (or both).

Browser-based POS

A browser-based POS system works on any device with a web browser, so you can use it on your PC or laptop. This is a great setup to have for retail stores with a dedicated checkout counter or if you need other POS bells and whistles like barcode scanners, receipt printers, and more. 

Mobile POS

On the other hand, if you need a more compact or portable solution, then a mobile POS is a good option. Mobile POS systems work on tablets, so you can take the checkout experience on the go. Mobile POS solutions are ideal for retailers that want to ring up sales during events or if you prefer to take the checkout experience to the customer. 

Do your business a favor — opt for a cloud-based POS system

Mechanical cash registers are now considered antique, while electronic registers are largely becoming a thing of the past. If you’re a retailer doing business in today’s modern landscape, adopting a cloud-based solution is the only option that makes sense. 

Fortunately, modern POS systems are simple to use and cost-effective. With Vend by Lightspeed, for example, you can get started for as low as $99 a month and you can get up and running in no time. 

Discover why 20,000+ customer locations choose Vend by Lightspeed to run, manage, and grow their retail business. 

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.