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The evolution of the “cash register”

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It was 40 years ago at a Marsh Supermarkets store in Troy, Ohio, that a pack of Wrigley’s chewing gum made history as the first item ever scanned in a retail transaction, ushering in the era of the modern point of sale system. Much has changed since then. Architectures have evolved from computerized “dumb terminals” to PC-based client-server systems to the sophisticated cloud-based systems of today. Software has also changed from simplistic “buy one, get one” functionality to extensive “mix and match.” Then there was self-scanning and self-checkout solutions and, most recently, the emergence of tablet-based mobile POS.  Interestingly enough, these innovations are, at their core, an extension of that first POS system back in Ohio.

Along the way came the Internet, which sparked the consumerization of information technology. E-commerce systems with their corresponding transaction engines evolved separately from brick-and-mortar POS. Even today, consumer-facing mobile apps are evolving separately from traditional e-commerce platforms. The problem is that these many siloed systems, certainly effective in their own channel, have put huge strains on the ability of a business to effectively respond to the ever-changing retail landscape. The result is a duplication of costs from system acquisition to maintenance and support. Perhaps more important is the intangible cost of displaying an inconsistent customer experience across these channels.

Fortunately, retailers and solution providers are working together to address these problems. Both have recognized internal and external issues surrounding isolated transaction systems. That’s why NRF, in partnership with Demandware and the University of Arizona, recently conducted original research on trends in POS which indicates that retail IT leaders are looking at how they can bring together these disparate transaction systems. One example found in the report explains that today’s e-commerce engines – featuring flexibility and extensive functionality that goes beyond core transaction support – are poised to lead the next evolution of the “cash register.”

Learn more by reading the new “Digitizing the Store” study. And, after reading the study, contact me to learn how you can get involved with NRF’s technology leadership community, including the CIO Council and ARTS.