Interview • 07.01.2011
Demands on cash registers vary a lot
Interview with Andreas Berger, Board of Directors Awek AG
As a medium-sized company, Awek stands its ground against the big companies in the point-of-sale system market. Managing Director Andreas Berger describes the changes that are currently happening at cash registers in retail: Touch-screen monitors are more and more asserting themselves, cash registers are turning more and more into personal computers and paying is getting ever easier – via cell phone, fingerprint or by card. What do chain stores want? What makes sense and is necessary for smaller retailers?
Touch-screen cash registers have been center stage at the EuroCIS for many years now. How big is their share of your installations out in the real world?
All in all the ratio is already at 80 percent touch-screen cash registers to 20 percent keyboard cash registers. In new installations touch-screen cash registers dominate and have become more and more accepted. We offer the retail industry a variety of different touch hardware for the most diverse demands. Our line of products ranges from space-saving smaller and modular cash register hardware all the way to compact All-in-One POS systems.
What are the benefits of touch-screens and what are the ones for keyboards?
Touch-screen cash registers are simple and intuitively operable. User prompting is very easy to learn thanks to integrated pictures and fast call up of additional information. Especially in the retail industry where staff often changes or many part-time workers need to be quickly trained, touch monitors pay off. With a touch monitor training periods are significantly reduced. Pricing is the decisive argument in favor of keyboard systems. Acquisition costs are still more favorable. If you count this toward total cost of ownership, this cost assessment of course is put into perspective.
Cash registers can replace the office computer. What functions make sense, what do retailers request the most?
It varies. In general, a retailer is interested in easy access to inventory control and the possibility to quickly call up sales figures and reports. Thanks to our web-based technology, via the Internet the retailer can also conveniently call up his register transactions from home, regardless of time and place. Depending on the industry sector, other functions are being used. Our POS systems for instance are used in the book trade. With these cash registers, the bookseller uses the register to index books, that is to say perform a specific item search. Access to an internet-based database makes a quick book title search possible. By being linked-up to the inventory system, the bookseller can immediately order the book.
What do you recommend for retailers when it comes to ergonomics at the cash register work station? How important is his employee’s health to a retailer?
The health of his staff is of course very important to a retailer. The cashiers are friendlier when they feel good and they also have less absence periods. That’s why we are very involved in this topic and consult retailers in outfitting a workplace. You don’t just have to consider the cash register, but also the configuration of the scanner, conveyor belt and card reader. The entire cash register environment needs to be outfitted so it doesn’t lead to malpositions during collection and unhealthy tiring of the cashier.
Currently we are actively working on optimizing our cash register user interfaces according to ergonomic aspects. In collaboration with a college we are conducting a study on ergonomics of touch-screen systems. Based on this, we will further improve our cash register surface. At the EuroShop in Düsseldorf we will introduce our new solution to the public for the very first time.
Which cash register makes sense for a small specialty retailer without stores?
Beyond the basic functions, the specific demands on a cash register differ with each industry sector. Generally it is helpful if a cash register is clearly laid out and keys for specific often recurring activities can be created. Our cash registers for example have special programmable keys for faster check out. The automatic balancing of the cash register at the push of a button makes daily processes easier on every retailer and saves time. It’s also great if the cash register can run at any time and stays fully functional even during a power outage. This offline operability ensures that no data is being lost.
What does a baker need?
Besides the registry function, at a bakery you often also need a scale for weighing slices of bread. A scale with an attached cash register makes sense in this case. Important factors at a bakery are also warehouse management and the possibility to order via the linked up inventory management. The cash register for instance identifies the ingredients of a roll based on the store recipe and automatically reorders the right amounts through inventory control. This automation saves costs and time.
What do you recommend for an optometrist or a hair salon?
With a register at an optometrist, one special function needs to be the ability to manage prescriptions from the eye specialist. Both at the optometrist as well as the hair salon measures for customer retention are important. The cash register plays an important role here, because the Point of Sale customer data can be entered, customer charge cards managed or promotions initiated. There is a multitude of possibilities on how the cash register today beyond the pure cash function can offer the retailer options to set him apart from the masses and gain a competitive advantage.
One of your reference customers is Globus. You installed self-checkout cash registers for Globus in the Czech Republic. Why does a nationwide implementation in Germany take so long?
The self-checkout systems at Globus are indeed very well received and work well. By doing so, the market has taken on a cutting-edge role in terms of technologies. Aside from investment costs which many retailers dread, the obstacle for launching self-checkouts is the fact that there is no standard yet. The currently used “scan and bag“ process in food retailing where the purchased merchandise first gets weighed and then packed into a bag, are still not the best there is. In the future there will certainly be more innovative self-checkout solutions, which will also be affordable and viable for smaller retailers.
At the last EuroShop three years ago you introduced a fingerprint payment system. What happened to it?
Our fingerprint payment system is completely operational. However, fingerprint technology is competing with other interesting payment systems like wireless payments or other mobile methods. Time will tell which technology will prevail.
Are you counting on contactless card payments or payments by cell phone in the future?
Payment by cell phone in times of smartphones is of course very exciting. We make payment via cell phone possible for instance at a terminal at the cash register. We can also realize other types of connections. By now we also have users that count on payment by card with Near Field Communication – NFC. However, we assume based on the expansion of cell phones that in the future payments by cell phone will continue to spread.
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