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Cash registers used to be incredibly ornate machines. With a certain sense of authority and triumph, every sale would be accompanied by the sound of makin’ money: “Ca-ching!”

Of course, spare for antique shops and a few hipster establishments, most retailers no longer use those beautiful – albeit primitive – machines. In their place is a modern point-of-sale system, (PoS) – a garden-variety computer really.

But as smart devices continue to infiltrate out lives, they’re also completely revolutionising the way small business conducts the day-to-day.

For any new retail or hospitality business, the $20k outlay on a PoS system is simply a thing of the past. In fact, most already own it: it’s that tablet in their hand. It looks sleek, it’s mobile, and it gives merchants the kind of flexibility in serving customers that their retailing forbearers dreamed about.

As Stephen Ormandy, co-founder of retail label Dinosaur Designs tells Dynamic Business, the decision to upgrade their PoS and use tablets across their seven stores was a no-brainer. Their particular PoS product, Island Pacific’s SmartStore, runs on Apple iPads and Ormandy says it delivers a more contemporary customer service experience, and plays an important role in meeting the expectations of today’s more sophisticated consumers.

The mobile nature of tablets also enables staff to serve customers from anywhere in the store with full product and customer information at their fingertips. The small hardware footprint also frees up valuable store space.

“Like anything when you introduce something new there’s a period of transition, but it seems to be working really well. The old system was great, but iPads are really intuitive and everyone knows how to use it so it’s been pretty seamless,” Ormandy says.

Josh Franklin, General Manager of Revel Systems, a PoS made for the cloud and mobile devices, says the biggest fear small business owners have is ‘what happens when the internet goes down?’

The answer is actually very simple: nothing. It continues to work locally and is in sync with the other devices in the network.

Franklin believes that from a functionality perspective, the legacy systems of the incumbents simply can’t compete. In fact, they’re not even seen as competition.

Still not sold? Consider this:

It’s the headache of restaurants, cafes and bars everywhere in the world: the docket gets handwritten written by the waitress or waiter, then either punched into a cash register to create a bill for the customer, and/or dropped off to the kitchen manually.

The first docket may be received ok, then there’s another round of coffees, and then some dessert – by the time the order is complete there could be four or five additions. In a single day of trade, even if a café loses just a few dockets or the server forgets to add in the extra coffees – that’s a massive annual burden.

“This is an area where traditional cash registers simply cannot compete,” Franklin says.

Perhaps the most exciting element of migrating to a cloud-based PoS for a business owner though, is the analytics.

From rostering staff shifts, to daily ordering, to the integration with cloud accounting software and automatic reconciliation, it’s the sort of analytics that can make the difference between profitability and failure.

Indeed recent survey findings taken from a pool of Australian quick service retail (QSR) operators found that most are jeopardising business growth by failing to monitor and measure staff performance levels.

According to research by franchise PoS provider Shift8, just under half of those questioned as part of the research said their POS system allowed them to evaluate staff productivity and efficiency. Some one in five admitted to spending four or more hours a week compiling sales and KPI reports.

Yet modern systems are now to the point where a café owner can tell how many milliliters of milk they’re using, how many grams of beans they’re using, it can even re-order your milk and coffee beans when you get down to a low threshold amount – it’s having your ordering done automatically.

“You can see the entire lifecycle: from the sale, through to the purchase, check that the right goods have been delivered, and whether or not you’re actually profitable,” Franklin says.