The cloud may soon move the cash register to your smartphone. Technological innovations have been reshaping the way we do, and think about, business since long before the advent of the internet, but new advancements in cloud computing are set to revolutionize the way people do business on a scale we haven’t seen since the advent of fixed pricing and self-service grocery stores.
With the high level of flexibility that comes with the cloud, combined with mobile computing technology, certain facets of business don’t have to be tied to a physical location. Imagine what that might mean to the traditional cash register or checkout. For customers the benefits are plentiful. No more holiday shopping lines, no more waiting behind slow check writers, and no more reading the entrails to determine the fastest checkout lane.
As a business owner the potential benefits are essentially limitless. It would allow staff to move more freely through the store without having to worry about the line building up at checkout, which would allow them to be more responsive to customers. It would also reduce labor costs, as you wouldn’t need a huge amount of workers to do business this way.
Any retail professional can tell you how often customers drop their selections before they reach the register. These undecided shoppers start out secure in the knowledge that they’ve found what they were looking for, but somewhere in between finding that item and getting to the checkout they rethink their choice and drop it on the nearest shelf. There is no way that cloud computing will make frequent store cleanup, known in retail as recovery, an obsolete concept, but having the ability to pay for an item as soon as they’ve decided to purchase it may increase the actual sales, with this particular type of customer.
Several companies, including Apple, Google, and Square, have decided that this niche of cloud computing, founded by the creator of Twitter, is worth developing. In general they use a technology called ‘near-field communication,’ which can make any smartphone capable of reading credit cards. Even without this specialized software, there are many applications available that will allow the entry of payment information manually. While this process is slower, it is available.
There are of course risks involved with moving the point of sale into the cloud, but those risks are often exaggerated by commentators who are deeply attached to the traditional way of doing things. The danger from hackers and malware has been equally present ever since cash registers first connected to the internet, and there is no evidence or logic to suggest that data stored and processed in the cloud is any more at risk. In fact, the rapid pace at which companies and users are developing applications and software with the cloud in mind suggests that, very soon, there will be stronger security measures available there than anywhere else. In addition, hiring a competent, reliable IT hosting company will provide your business with the technical support that it needs.
Just the other day I walked past an actual lemonade stand, run by actual, adorable little girls, but, since I didn’t know they would be there, I hadn’t brought any cash with me. There will come a day, not far in the future, when that will not be an obstacle to business any longer, because cloud computing will have advanced to the point that business can happen anywhere, anytime, and on any scale.