IBM has unveiled a Web-enabled cash register that will help in-store employees gain access to customer data from all of the retailer's channels - whether bricks and mortar, catalogue or online.
The all-channel devices ultimately should help retailers improve customer service, sell merchandise not available in physical stores to in-store shoppers and even prevent fraud, IBM said.
For instance, checkout workers using IBM's new SurePOS machines could verify a credit-card holder's identity if the owner's photograph is on file.
Or, using the device's Web-enabled screen, employees could suggest and then show customers accessories related to their purchases, especially items that the brick-and-mortar store doesn't stock.
Customers could order the items on the spot and select the desired method of delivery.
The point-of-sale devices can also help companies link loyalty-program and merchandise-return systems, IBM said.
Karstadt, a major German retailer, is pilot-testing SurePOS machines, and an IBM official said two large US retailers have expressed interest in the devices, which are expected to roll out in the next few months.
"This might be a wake-up call for a lot of people who are thinking about a clicks-and-mortar strategy," said Paul Farris, a professor at the University of Virginia's Darden Graduate School of Business Administration.
Companies that split off their dot-com operations - even to the point of offering different pricing schemes on the Web than they do in their stores - might rethink some of their decisions.
"It would be a hell of a lot harder to have two separate organisations running one cash register," Farris said.
"I'm not saying you can't do it. But I'd want to go back to the drawing board and say, 'Is this going to work the way we thought it was going to work?'"The SurePOS line features a Java-enabled Universal Serial Bus, which gives users a choice of printers, scanners and other peripherals.