- Streamlined hardware
- Friendly, versatile interface
- Advanced live inventory and raw goods tracking
- Robust reporting options and customer database
- Relatively low cost for quality features
- Solid support
- Limited full-size restaurant or bar capability
- No table layout
- Raw good tracking requires users to manually set inventory costs to the total price of all raw goods
ShopKeep POS is a versatile system for small- to medium-sized business owners looking for more control over data while still maintaining an efficient, simple iPad terminal. Unlike similar systems, ShopKeep couples low cost and simplicity with strong analytic reporting and solid support. It’s ideally suited for cafes, quick service restaurants, and small boutiques — although it remains flexible enough to fit many industries. As with all systems, it has its limitations that separate it from high-end POS systems; however, ShopKeep remains a cost-effective alternative to bare-bones options such as Square and PayAnywhere without sacrificing functionality.
For starters, ShopKeep has no initial startup costs beyond hardware. Anyone with an iPad can download the app and begin a 30-day trial immediately. After that, there is a monthly fee of $49 for each terminal, although there are price breaks for multiple terminals after a certain point. There are no contracts for the service, and no extra fees for service or maintenance. ShopKeep also integrates with the Star TSP 143 receipt printer (connected via LAN) and the Posiflex cash drawer. Together, these items create a full POS solution for many small businesses. To save on costs, ShopKeep offers merchants a hardware package for $1,099, which includes: an iPad 2, stand, Star printer, APG drawer, and iDynamo card reader.
Setup is simple. Once the hardware is connected to a network, everything is ready to go. Credit card processing must be arranged through an approved provider. In general, ShopKeep can integrate with any processor that uses the T-Gate BridgePay gateway. They have a preferred processor partner, however, in Payment Revolution — which is backed by a $500 savings guarantee. As part of their partnership with ShopKeep, Payment Revolution offers totally transparent pricing: no contract and no hidden fees. The two companies work together very closely to ensure the lowest rates, smoothest integration, and most comprehensive support.
Once processing, merchants will immediately notice ShopKeep’s welcoming interface. An integrated time clock feature allows staff to track individual employee payroll and daily activity. Moreover, each employee will see a training overlay upon logging in for the first time; this thoughtful feature saves training time and cost by enabling users to absorb a quick overview before beginning. This isn’t to say the system even needs a demonstration. Rather, the interface allows users to complete a simple transaction in less than five taps of the screen.
Up to 3,000 item buttons can be displayed, but the system does allow for 10,000 individual SKUs. Scrolling through the pages can be time-consuming, so there is a search bar in the top-right that allows users to quickly call up items, along with the ability to bring up items using the barcode scanner recommended for merchants with a large inventory. ShopKeep also allows for item modifiers and special instructions, which can be sent to kitchen printers. This makes the system attractive to cafes and quick serve merchants where customers may frequently request small changes to orders on the fly — such as size, cream, sugar, and so forth. Finally, a quick return to the manager screen can close a shift with a transaction summary. The screen also contains several other options such as pay outs, cash drawer release, and an update key to sync with any back office changes.
Part of the advantage to using ShopKeep is its two-part system: web-based dashboard and cloud-based iPad terminals. The system is locally installed on the front-end so that users can still make sales even if the network crashes. The secure back-end is where management, inventory, and reporting functions can be found. All changes made there can be quickly refreshed by using the aforementioned update key in the iPad manager menu. Employees can continue to work without interruption even as managers alter item prices, for example, as long as they update their terminals with the new changes.
On that note, ShopKeep’s inventory system is a cut above other similarly priced POS products. Inventory can be tracked for reorder, even breaking down stock numbers daily or hourly. While detailed changes must be made in back office, there are some miscellaneous sales items that can be priced on the fly at the register level in a pinch. Another useful feature is the ability to group raw goods to track cluster items; management can track every product component so that when a cup of coffee is sold, the system reflects a live change in coffee, cups, lids, and sleeves. Merchants making bulk changes have the capability to export and import inventory files to cut time when updating prices and counts. With these comprehensive features, ShopKeep takes all the guesswork out of managing inventory.
Another great feature is ShopKeep’s robust reporting solution. From the home screen, a quick and dirty summary of activity can be seen at any given moment. What sets the system apart, however, is the analytic detail available to users. In addition to inventory management, sales and transaction charts illustrate helpful information such as slow days, peak daily hours, and other insights that can help merchants arrange employee schedules and maximize business opportunities. All reports can be exported for use in accounting software like QuickBooks. There is also an integrated loyalty tracking program that can be set to print discount vouchers for frequent customers upon reaching a certain purchase threshold. Additionally, merchants have the option to integrate LevelUp in order to charge customers through smartphone-based accounts and engage in heftier marketing promotions.
Users may also be pleasantly surprised by the level of support available for such a low-cost POS. For ShopKeep’s monthly fee, merchants receive unlimited live tech support via web chat, email, and phone (during office hours); the fee also includes free system upgrades when available. The programming team is always researching beneficial additions based on customer feedback. Moreover, if using their preferred processor, Payment Revolution, support is enhanced due to the close relationship between both companies; representatives are in constant communication during the day — even sharing office space in some locations — making integration seamless and easily maintained. There are some limitations to consider however, as is to be expected at low price points. Functionality for full service restaurants is still limited, with the lack of a table layout along with no course lines, hold or fire buttons etc.
Also, there is no integrated gift card program merchants can use to drive repeat business. Such programs can be tracked via the generic “Other” payment option, but must be implemented separately on standalone terminals. Finally, inventory has a slight quirk regarding raw goods tracking; merchants using the feature must remember to set the inventory item cost to the total price of all raw goods that make up the item. The reporting system only takes into account inventory item cost when considering cost of business rather than calculating it from raw goods. For instance, if an item consists of two raw goods priced at $1 each, users must set inventory cost to $2 to report properly. In this sense, the onus is on the merchant to ensure accurate accounting. Still, it’s a minor concern. Open tabs are rumored to be included in the next software update, and gift card options are being explored as well. Addressing the remaining issues above should help open ShopKeep to yet a wider range of industries.
Taken as a whole, ShopKeep POS is an attractive, cost-effective option. The interface is not only simple to use, but also easy to learn. Extensive features make it arguably the best POS available for small- to medium-sized cafes, shops, and quick serve merchants. From scratch, a reasonably priced bundle and relatively low monthly fee enable new merchants to get up and running quickly. While its limitations may exclude most bars, table-service restaurants, or large retail stores from considering it, robust reporting, security, support, overall ease-of-use, and inventory management make ShopKeep the small business POS to beat.
Review Update - May 15 2014
ShopKeep 2.0 has altered the POS design slightly, enhancing the experience in a few notable areas. Firstly, managers no longer require two separate logons to open a shift. Users will now find an expanding menu on the left side that affords management a few extra options (drops, shifts, store updates, etc.) without having to log out and back in again. Secondly, the back office has a more easily searchable transaction list to assist merchants looking to reconcile registers in real time.
Beyond those changes, it has an aesthetic update to help it match the current iOS style, and the transaction flow seems smoother -- especially with everything now on one screen, with only one logon. All in all, the process has been streamlined, improving an already winning formula. Sort of like that scene in "The Aviator" when Howard Hughes keeps demanding smoother rivets on his plane? ShopKeep is premium, pre-hermit Hughes right now, dedicated to efficiency.
In fact, the company just raised about $25 million in Series C funding while launching new West Coast and Belfast offices. While it still lacks some popular features, such as open tickets for bars and restaurants, their expansion would seem to indicate that there is more innovation on the horizon. Most importantly, pricing has remained the same while scaling up the company -- ensuring that ShopKeep remains an inexpensive yet effective option for small- to medium-sized businesses across all industries.