Which Tablet POS is right for your Retail Business?
Today we’re going to compare Bindo, Lightspeed, Revel, Shopify POS, ShopKeep, Square, and others so you can decide which is best for your retail business.
Now that you’re opening a retail location, you really should consider selecting a point-of-sale system adequate to your needs. What’s that? You.. hadn’t really considered it?
The plan consists of standalone terminals and hand-written inventory checks? Look, I don’t want to tell you how to live your life, but.. you are an abject failure as a person. Don’t worry though! I got your back. There’s still time for us to turn this ship around.
Putting your trust in me is a good first step. After all, there’s a lot to consider when setting up your storefront — and likewise, many tools available to you. Here are the products we’ll touch on today:
- Lightspeed Retail
- NCR Silver
- Revel Systems
- Shopify POS
There are certain functions desirable to retailers of all shapes, sizes, and styles:
- – Detailed inventory system
- – Advanced reporting
- – Smooth checkout experience
- – Customer tracking
- – Specialized Features
Now obviously there is more to consider than these universally applicable features — but we’ll get into specifics as we go. For now, it’s important to ensure that your basic retail needs are met. Once you’ve got a handle on the crucial needs, we’ll discuss how these solutions distinguish themselves.
Possibly the most crucial of retail features is inventory. Oh sure, you can’t ring up a sale without checkout functions. But if power runs out in your grocery while ringing up a big sale, what manual activity will you find most difficult to complete: taking payment or tracking totals for everything you just bagged? Personally, with prices labeled on packaging, I find the prospect of a little math a minor nuisance — but reconciling those items with what remains in stock sets off my stress alarms. How many cans of peas did she get? Suddenly I’m agonizing over shelf space. Besides, it’s my article, so we start where I please.
There are few systems out there that haven’t addressed my favored dilemma already, but to what extent have they solved it? If you’re looking at Square or Zing — popup-friendly apps with light inventory features — you’re probably going to spend a lot more time auditing your stockroom than you intended when first you dreamed of action-packed retail heroism. While surely helpful in some sense — specifically the sense that something is better than nothing — these two options won’t change your life. Moreover, at a similar price point, a system like NCR Silver is already offering more effective stock reporting backed by big name support. Sacrificing inventory is probably not the way to save money.
Luckily, you may not have to even consider that route. ShopKeep keeps you in a friendly price range while providing a detailed inventory interface. Owners can decide to track raw goods assemblies — allowing users to subtract two tires, a chain, and frame from inventory for every bicycle sold, for example. This assists in reducing loss due to sloppy recordkeeping and keeps all the guesswork out of reordering. Couple this with the ability to make bulk adjustments, manage detailed modifiers, and comprehensive reports, and ShopKeep is saving you time and money from the start.
But let’s say this isn’t enough for you. You’re very picky. In that case, my next suggestion would be to check out Vend. With numerous features and pricing scaled for merchant growth, Vend is more than capable of handling just about any retail environment. Regarding inventory specifically, the level of detail is a slight step up from ShopKeep — with custom reporting and stock levels that track down to each variation on a product. Now you can generate a stock report showing not only how many Trendy Hipster V-Neck Tees you have, but how many of each color and unreasonably plunging neck line you have available. Though a tad pricier, Revel is a complete solution with numerous custom options, depending on need. Their enterprise reporting can help manage inventory across all locations for franchise merchants (more on this below).
That’s pretty cool, huh? Or do you need more? Wow, you sure are demanding. OK, well I’ve got just the thing for you then: more (it’s what you wanted, right?). Take a gander at Lightspeed Retail. Lightspeed has been kicking around for a while now in the retail market, and Retail is their answer to the tablet boom. You want to talk inventory? Let’s chat. You’ve got all the detail of the above systems — plus the ability to invoice, create and track purchase orders, and maintain meticulous records of every step, including shipping. Complex matrices can be constructed to address every permutation of product imaginable. If you’re not already quaking with fear that our computer overlords will soon rise, you should be. Lightspeed Retail is not for the faint of heart — but it definitely has the answer to all your inventory questions.
Don’t let all this gushing fool you into thinking I’ve run through all the possibilities already. Bindo also utilizes complex product matrices, but I’d really like to mention their Simple Scan Technology, that matches products to existing information in their database. Setting up your store doesn’t have to be so time-consuming when you can scan a tube of tennis balls and instantly populate your inventory — complete with accompanying photo. Additionally, it features purchase orders similar to facilitate restocking. Speaking of restocking, are you growing to the point where you need to track distributed order fulfillment from multiple warehouses? In that case, budding regional capitalist, Springboard may be worth some of your time.
Now here’s a category where retail is mercifully uniform. Most of the tablet systems out today provide more than enough reporting power to handle small merchants, so we can lump them into two broad classifications: those that do the job, and sales data overload. There are no losers here.
Let’s pretend you have a small boutique; you handcraft artisan socks for organic hippie love communes, and your needs are simple and salt-of-the-earth. In this case, you’d do well with something like Zing, ShopKeep, Bindo, and Vend — all systems that feature preset report templates and optional accounting integrations with services such as QuickBooks and Xero.
Alright, well, good news and bad news time… the grassroots sock movement is exploding, but now you’re facing some stiff competition from Hanes trying to corner your market with its clout. Though the sales dashboards are easy to read, you wish you had more custom report options to aid your marketing campaigns. One option is NCR Silver. It’s close enough to the previous group in terms of price and function, but it boasts big name customer analytics, as well as automated loyalty and marketing capabilities. Their dashboard not only tracks your sales, but your unique visitors, repeat customers, and promotion management.
OK OK.. now things are getting serious. You’ve considered franchising. Orlando Bloom and Sean Penn have been spotted wearing you in Us Weekly. Bono retweets your coupon promos. You’re outsourcing your craft to vetted, respected vendors — and bulk orders are coming in from major retailers. Custom reporting is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Time to test Lightspeed Retail, Revel, and Springboard. Using these more advanced systems, reporting is mainly limited by your imagination. In fact, the breadth of options can be pretty daunting for the amateur accountant. Still, the ability to filter, sort, and save templates in any configuration is a power not taken lightly. Merchants looking to dig deep into data will find capabilities on par with established retail heavies. Revel in particular offers enterprise reporting, enabling multi-location merchants to easily reconcile all their new sock outlets. How can you go wrong?
The literal act of ringing up sales is oft overlooked when it comes to making POS decisions. Everyone looks for the bells and whistles, but an easy workflow is crucial to customer satisfaction. Whether you’re operating a traditional checkout line or line-busting with mobile sales terminals, customers hate idle downtime. I know if I’m standing next to a struggling clerk, my credit card increases in weight exponentially, and I begin to silently plan an ambitious grocery heist to avoid future delays.
Fortunately, many tablet apps are compassionately designed with my personal comfort in mind — although I suppose your patrons may appreciate it too. Among the selections discussed in this piece, all but one use a familiar variation on shortcut buttons. ShopKeep, Silver, Zing, Square, and Vend all utilize color-coded buttons that can be grouped as necessary to smooth out your workflow. Some of the systems handle more items than others; the size of your inventory will determine whether you need 250 item SKUs or 10,000. Regardless of how many you load, items can be searched or scanned via barcode if scrolling through buttons is taking too long.
Lightspeed had previously relied on a Bluetooth barcode scanner for best results, but their new customer-facing app has solved this dilemma with the addition of shortcut buttons. This is a marked improvement over the old method, which heavily favored merchants with scanners. Springboard lamentably clings to this model, significantly slowing the checkout process for merchants without peripheral hardware. However, it should be noted that retail merchants doing enough volume to justify using Springboard are most likely relying on barcodes for inventory anyway. Bindo’s aforementioned SKU system goes one step further with shortcut photos. Revel also allows product photos to accompany buttons, but they must be manually uploaded with inventory. Commonly a feature of restaurant point-of-sales, pictures of items can speed up the process further for certain businesses.
Once your ticket is complete, all the above systems provide similar capabilities: discounts, tax adjustments, and multiple tender types. Receipts can be printed, emailed, or even texted in some cases (Square and Zing boast SMS receipts). Specific payment integration depends on the app and processor, but workflow is similarly intuitive across all platforms.
Ignore loyalty at your own peril. About 80% of your kitten-shaped candle revenue will be driven by your top 20% cat-obsessed customers. If KittyWicks LLC is going to really take off, you’d best be prepared to make full use of those analytics I mentioned earlier. Sure, you can track your patrons with the standard offerings on Bindo, ShopKeep, Revel, Square, Springboard, and Zing — but what if you really want to reward your adoring public? Admittedly, Springboard digs a little deeper into sales history than the others listed here — yet it doesn’t provide more detailed insight into how to use the information. Tracking sales totals and favorite purchases may not be enough without a few extra tools in your belt.
Vend, for instance, has a nifty loyalty tracking method that adds value to your customer records. Say Johnny Cardholder has earned $10 in “loyalty dollars” previously, and he arrives to buy a fresh batch of wax felines; when applying tender, users can select his existing loyalty balance to pay his current purchase — no coupons or technological knowhow required. They also have a functional layaway option for long-term purchase plans. Think that’s a neat trick? Lightspeed takes this even further, and can create actual customer house accounts that can be paid into and out of as needed.
By far the most impressive is Silver, however. Retail systems are rapidly expanding their analytic options — Square notably launched a gaggle of details on their platform recently — but they’re all playing catch-up when it comes to Silver. Breaking down customer data is only the beginning. Other systems (Vend, Zing, for instance) integrate with third-party services such as Mail Chimp for marketing purposes; NCR has a fully integrated, standalone solution built right into their platform. Precious customer data is never shared with a third-party, improving security and maintaining control over valuable information. In today’s highly competitive economy, it pays dividends to retain sole access to your sales analytics. With companies like Amazon entering the payments space, merchants should do all they can to keep their data private, lest the big dogs come around trying to steal your customer base and eat your lunch. Most importantly, the simple-to-use marketing allows SMB owners to easily interact with customers without too much effort.
Alright. Here’s where we brave the whole post-structural article thing. Y’see, retail is a strange bird; restaurants, in contrast, all require the same basic set of features — menu, open tickets, tips, etc. POS systems designed for retail space have to encompass a terrifically wide variety of business models from your basic corner shop to complex service-based merchants. As such, each system has a specific focus to differentiate itself from its competitors — often manifested as a unique set of features.
As we’ve touched on earlier, some options have fairly straightforward goals that bleed into some of the above review categories. ShopKeep, for instance, wants to rule the SMB/quick serve market by offering a sleek, powerful POS with friendly support and uncomplicated setup. NCR Silver seeks to grow your business by automating your analytics and marketing without the need for third-party apps. Square has made accepting cards simple for part-time merchants and pop-up shops — and they’re constantly adding new wrinkles in an attempt to lure more traditional businesses. Zing has redesigned its interface to draw more attention to online sales (via BigCommerce) and local social media presence. And Vend has narrowed its focus to retail, forsaking quick serve restaurants in a quest to provide a complete, scalable retail system — detailed inventory, custom app integration, etc. — at a competitive price point.
Some of them, on the other hand, have more intriguing functions that don’t fit into any general categorization. Take Shopify: we hardcore POS fans aren’t the biggest proponents of their brick-&-mortar app (see our review for details on its limitations) — but the ability to instantly link local sales with web orders through a single platform has been a boon for merchants that do the bulk of their work online. Sometimes sacrificing pricing or platform agnosticism just makes sense for owners with a large web presence and limited face-to-face sales.
Or if you’ve got an old fashioned retail business on the rise, maybe you want to invest in Springboard, with its aforementioned distribution capabilities. Multiple supply warehouses, purchase orders, and enterprise reporting features enable brick-&-mortar owners to operate a traditional model on modern hardware at a fraction of the cost of those archaic register bundles. Similarly, Lightspeed Retail boasts work tickets, price quotes, and labor billing to appeal to more service-oriented merchants — mechanics, bike shops, independent contractors, and the like. To top it off, their newest customer-facing iPad app allows owners to customize art in order to present a distinctly branded POS to patrons; instead of ringing someone up on a Lightspeed terminal, you’re checking them out on Joe’s Studebaker Repair Co.’s official iPad register, complete with Joe’s own logos and color scheme.
Bindo has one of the most fascinating additions of all. Users can decide to opt-in to the Bindo Marketplace, which syncs their inventory with the POS system’s merchant network in order to facilitate local shopping. Shoppers searching for a particular product online will find not only which local Bindo merchants carry the item, but also which ones have it in stock nearest to the them. The programming team plans to integrate logistics which will allow shoppers to have items shipped directly without needing to pick up the item from the store. In this sense, Bindo is the anti-Amazon — crowd-sourcing products across locally clustered SMBs instead of mammoth, conglomerate warehouses. The more merchants using the POS, the more products are available on the Marketplace.
Finally, you’ve got Revel. Oh, Revel… you defy my predetermined pigeonhole, preferring rather to remain a genre-bending jack-of-most-trades. I’ve touched on this in other pieces — including the POS review — but Revel’s claim to fame is its ironically broad range of services. Commonly lumped in with its fellow San Franciscan tech firm, Square, it distinguishes itself by taking the opposite track. Whereas Square launches numerous free and value-added features in the bid to expand from small-time merchant payments into inexpensive point-of-sales, Revel prefers instead to ignore processing entirely. Instead, they offer a plethora of custom options to business owners with special POS needs in every market imaginable. Want a video chat drive-thru interface? They built one. Kitchen displays and delivery tracking for pizza parlors? Easy. Standalone self-service kiosks in your wheelhouse? Covered. Payroll? CRM? Scheduling? API? Even Bitcoin? No sweat. While Revel invariably negotiates cost based on merchant needs — and even on a case-by-case basis, these flashy POS superpowers don’t come free — savvy owners will find that Revel can build just about anything they can dream up, provided the ROI fits the budget. If you can’t find it on an existing product, give them a call.
As you may well have noticed — and I certainly hope so — we have pricing listed elsewhere on this classy website we’ve got going. Even then, I fully expect you to check out the details with whatever system you consider. I mean, let’s face it, we’re all informed, consenting adults here. We don’t spend a buffalo nickel on a product without reading the fine print, am I right? (Hint: I’m right). Since there’s no reason to duplicate effort, I’m just going to do my damnedest to provide a little color to these dry numbers. Ultimately, your circumstances will inform your decision more than a price chart.
Bindo offers its most modest tier for $79/month, with licensing dependent on what hardware is required; cost scales up from there based on merchant need. Pricing doesn’t appear 100% firm, however, and like Revel they are known to negotiate based on need. As a newer player in the market, they pride themselves on ease-of-use and consumer transparency. They currently service both large enterprises and smaller mom & pop stores, and they have a solid tech base in place for continuing upgrades as the company evolves. For instance, they recently announced a fully market-ready EMV reader, a step ahead of most other tablet offerings.
Lightspeed Retail sticks to a tiered model, Lightspeed Retail sticks to a tiered model, opening at $76/month and increasing from there based on store requirements. There are also value-added options such as more advanced reporting and web store available on any plan. Though our articles here at ( ::drum roll:: ) POS Options mostly focus on Retail, there is another version of the software for owners operating their very own restaurant: Lightspeed Retail Restaurant. Pricing is also tiered, but we’ll save further details for another day and another review.
Revel’s pricing is situational, you could say. Registers operate at around $49/month plus $500-1000 license fees for each iPad. However, we know Revel is all about designing dream solutions. Those imaginative features may cost more, though they are known to negotiate on a case-by-case basis. Just remember that there’s a reason Cadillac costs more than Kia.
Shopify has a relatively distinct pricing model — and it’s essentially useless to our purposes here. See, the company’s main selling point is its ecommerce platform. It’s impressively powerful and user-friendly, and it allows your choice of credit processor. Yet the brick-&-mortar POS app is laughably basic at best, and all credit processing must run through Shopify Payments at a fixed rate (see our review). As I’ve addressed before, flat pricing really only favors volume-driven, money-hungry behemoths like: Square, Shopify, Stripe, PayPal, Intuit, Amazon (see a pattern here?). If your average transaction is over $10, you’d save time by simply dumping your money in the nearest active volcano. Pricing starts at $49/month — that’s in addition to your ecommerce tier — but it doesn’t even begin to meet the needs of a traditional retailer. NOTE: Unless you’re an established web merchant synchronizing order fulfillment at a new physical store, you can safely skip this one.
ShopKeep keeps pricing simple at just $49/month per terminal. All services and features are available on every unit, which simplifies scaling. Price breaks can be negotiated for merchants in need of more than three registers.
Silver starts at $59/month for the first terminal, and $0.10/transaction for additional units (up to a maximum of $29/month). In addition to offering a solid marketing platform at a reasonable price, their flexible pricing favors growing merchants that may only occasionally use additional terminals.
Springboard Standard accounts run $79/month per selling station, though it lacks some of the more advanced features discussed above. Higher tiers offer more support in addition to more functionality — even including QuickBooks Online integration. As always with more advanced systems, you get what you pay for; it’s all a matter of earning a return on your investment to justify cost. One caveat: integrated credit processing is only available through Mercury. Owners seeking to choose their own processor will be sorely disappointed.
Square has free signup and no fees — this we know. Rates hold steady at 2.75% per swipe (3.5% + $0.15 manually keyed). Due to the nature of the Great Arcane Credit Network costs, they likely take a loss on low-ticket merchants in the sub-$10 range. This suits their purposes for driving growth, but it doesn’t earn them any money. For that, they fleece high-ticket merchants foolish enough to stick with them. On transactions above $15 or so, Square is raking in profit. Consider overall cost when choosing a solution; despite the suggestive power of this new-fangled advertising thing, no one is giving their product away.
Vend has a number of tiers that scale upward in both price and function — starting at $35/month for a single outlet with 1000 products. The most basic system is actually offered for free, albeit with only 10 products and limited to online community support. Still, it’s a great way for owners to test a system without a limited trial period. At higher tiers, multiple outlets and registers can be added as needed. And hey, bonus: if you’re small enough to get by with the free version, it’s still a versatile retail system boasting some surprising power.
Zing is a bit of a special case as well, but more so because of recent corporate changes than anything complex. When we first reviewed ZingCheckout, they offered two versions of their product: a free, cash-only register with simple functions, and a full-featured version for $49/month per location. This product scales cheaply, though high-end retailers may require more than the system can provide. Nowadays, they have relaunched a new flagship product under the truncated name Zing. Beyond added function and redesigned interface, this product has separate pricing — $49/month for a single location with full functionality, higher costs for multiple locations, and custom offerings for larger enterprises. Though Zing is a definite improvement on the original app, ZingCheckout’s site is still live for users yet searching for something more low-key (i.e. free) than the new, improved platform…
Boy. This has been a hoot and a holler, but I’m bushed. Worst of all, this is the hardest part to write: the final recommendations. I’ve probably flogged this dead horse back to life by now, but retail is a broad classification for our purposes. Look past the fact that retail sales encompasses pretty much every object you can throw money at, and you’ll see why suggesting one particular solution would be ludicrously unhelpful. Technically, there are a great many industries out there — service, hospitality, medicine, business-to-business, etc. Yet these merchants overlap into retail quite often, and sometimes there is not a dedicated app for a unique operation.
I’ve been known to recommend ShopKeep highly — and it’s fantastic for your run-of-the-mill small business. I would say the vast majority of people I’ve spoken to love the support and find all the function they need for their startup. That being said, Silver is a comparable product with a terrific marketing bent; if you adore connecting with your customers, you’ll find a lot to love. For those merchants bridging the space between small startup and growing business, Vend offers an impressive level of customization for a mid-level price; it can be a little complex compared to ShopKeep, for example, but its web-based interface is versatile and platform agnostic.
For more advanced needs, Lightspeed Retail’s kung fu is strong, and it has mastered many styles. No matter what sort of business you run, the expansive features can handle all you throw down with an impressive attention to detail. Smaller companies may blanch at the price tag, but nothing good ever comes cheap (preach!). Similarly, Bindo is making a bid to leave its stamp on modern local commerce with a more flexible approach. Bindo’s agile, techno-centric model allows them to introduce new, creative options at a decent clip. Older products are at times handcuffed by their platform, and thus slow to add fresh features demanded by users. Their adaptability should keep them relevant in a space where vanilla competitors crop up every day. Finally, because the world is replete with oddly-shaped pegs that fit no precut hole, you may eventually consider a call to Revel (regardless of potential cost). There are few providers out there these days with the ability, much less the willingness, to program a feature from scratch for a merchant in need.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this: read our reviews, test them out, and don’t be afraid to take your time. Different apps inevitably appeal to different owners. Though immensely impressive, I am but one man — at least until I master reproduction by asexual cell division. Please do me a solid and let us know what you discover on your own; feedback is our nectar and knowledge our ambrosia.
|Retail||Bindo||Lightspeed Retail||NCR Silver||Revel||Shopify POS||ShopKeep||Springboard||Square||Vend||Zing|