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Bindo has set out to carve an imposing niche into a crowded marketplace. Nifty features are a good way to separate yourself from the pack in the short term -- but true innovation seems the surest course to longevity. This retail POS takes a little from both columns A and B in its bid to bring merchant power back to the local level. By focusing on merchant-friendly inventory setup and customer-centric crowdsourcing, Bindo hopes to topple retail conglomerates.
Like most of the systems we’ve reviewed thus far, Bindo is iPad-based. Licensing depends on individual need; tablet types, quantities, and number of inventory SKUs inform actual cost, though Bindo is rather flexible depending on the merchant. Nothing unusual regarding cash drawers, printers, and scanners — so I’d really prefer to talk about something more 21st century. And who’s to stop me, when you think about it? POS Options is your benevolent-yet-omnipotent ruler so long as you read our site; sit back and enjoy the oligarchy — because Bindo aims to return power to the proletariat, and we recognize our days are numbered.
Step one of this revolution involves modern technology at the purchase level. As the October 2015 liability shift rolls around, merchants everywhere will find themselves in need of EMV readers. To make matters worse, ApplePay is putting a major bee in processor bonnets to get on the NFC train. While mobile wallet adoption isn’t exactly a pandemic, many larger retailers with NFC-ready terminals have already begun trumpeting their new-fangled payment capabilities. Yet only 220k stores (or about 2.4% of US merchants) can accept these payments at present. Couple that with the fact that it only works for iPhone 6, and ApplePay isn’t going to put you out of business if you avoid it entirely. From your perspective, nothing really changes; money is money,
Welllll.. maybe it gets a little grayer at the ground floor. Let’s consider a hypothetical nightmare scenario for any merchant: someone is set on a large purchase, and you can’t accept payment! Nowadays, with technology evolving so quickly, it behooves the savvy business to enable all options — even those rarely used. Hell, you can sign up for Amex and simply never accept it unless you need to; you can have that emergency check reader gathering dust in the corner (checks? really? c’mon); and you can enable NFC on many EMV readers without any extra hassle — just in case. Why risk turning away profit?
All this brings me back to Bindo’s development team. We’ll probably feature a separate article on ApplePay and its ilk in the near future, but in the meantime your takeaway is simple: the more options you have, the less likely you are to lose a sale over an inconvenience. While Square and Revel were sending out press releases about their “future” (see also: indeterminate) EMV launches, Bindo was already moving forward on production based on a working prototype — AND announcing NFC readers on the docket. We’ve spoken with Bindo about this early push, and their rationale is that local merchants should never lack the tools to compete with national chains. If anything, small business owners need that leg up more than their corporate brethren. Which brings us to the meat of Bindo’s merchant stew…
Company goals are twofold. On the one hand, Bindo wants to make a merchant’s job as easy as possible; on the other, they want to ensure consumer transparency (more on this in the “Features” section). See, companies like Square start out strong, but they often find it difficult to pivot quickly. Though slick compared to other basic registers, Square’s app struggles to equal the functionality of more advanced POS systems. Instead of upgrading the interface, they turn their attention to value-added options (Caviar, Square Capital, etc.) to entice more users. But to hear Bindo’s engineers tell it, this is because building on Square’s existing platform is a programming catastrophe without starting over from scratch.
Bindo specifically designed their code to avoid such issues going forward. Theoretically, Bindo should never have any difficulties adding features to the core app. They never want to relaunch an entirely new app for users to convert to — nor do they want to hit a wall when customer feedback requests a new feature. Rather, they’ve taken steps to add useful wrinkles while still leaving the door open for future changes.
At the interface level, for instance, Bindo has a number of helpful points that distinguish it from competitors. The register itself displays photos for individual inventory items. HEY. I know that’s not especially exciting — several systems do the same — but let me finish, folks. Bindo has an online database of existing inventory SKUs that automatically link with your system to provide accurate product information. Simply scan the manufacturer barcode while creating the inventory entry, and the product information will sync with Bindo’s knowledge base. Spiffy, huh?
And that’s just the beginning! For its relative ease-of-use, Bindo offers many similar functions to bigger retail names such as Lightspeed and Springboard. Invoicing, supplier data, purchase orders, customer tracking — even multiple location support — all position Bindo to compete immediately. The real question is how to take food out of the other guy’s mouth without actively poaching customers. How does Bindo add value to a retailer considering one of these other systems? Prepare to be fascinated.
OK. Here’s where they sold me, I admit. As impartial as I try to make these reviews, I’m particularly awed by this next concept. Bindo champions what they call “microwarehousing”; personally, I prefer to use the term “crowdsourcing,” but it’s their product, soooo… At any rate, anything they can do to bolster local commerce speaks to their first goal (i.e. simplifying merchant life). While behemoths like Amazon hold Raiders of the Lost Ark-style warehouses filled with every product known to man ready for shipping at a moment’s notice, local merchants are limited by overhead — forever at a disadvantage to well-funded giants. So what does all this vaguely socialist rhetoric mean for you? Well, the Bindo Marketplace links all Bindo merchants to one searchable online portal. Any customer looking for a particular item will see a map showing them not only which nearby Bindo retailers carry their item of choice, but also current availability. No more is shopping a black-&-white choice between store-hopping or online delivery. Buyers can shop local without wasting precious time visiting multiple outlets.
At first glance, this seems to favor consumers more than retailers. After all, what Bindo business wants to lose a sale to a local rival? The ability to seek out lower prices with instant local comparisons is more immediately shopper-friendly — like having hundreds of tiny independent warehouses fighting for their business. Still, if you consider the broader implications, this shared system has numerous benefits for merchants as well. Orders can be placed online and fulfilled in-store; it helps to identify local competition while reclaiming some sales from national ecommerce sites; the local focus engenders closer loyalty relationships with frequent customers; and optional shipping details allow owners dabbling in delivery to compete directly with Amazon Prime, et al. Going forward, Bindo would ideally like to find a logistics partner to provide delivery options — fully establishing it as a local Amazon killer. Finally, franchises and enterprises will definitely appreciate the ability to steer sales towards one of their own fully stocked stores whenever a particular location is sold out of an item. Local haberdashery missing your preferred bowtie pattern? Try their sister location two villages over after a quick Bindo search confirms stock. Best of all, the offering is optional, and merchants can opt not to include their inventory online.
Unfortunately, Bindo Marketplace was undergoing some changes when last I checked, but the promise it holds is unlimited. No one else in the space is attempting anything so specifically local, and thus it’s still a major pro in Bindo’s column. They’ve got a few other nice additions such as time clock, gift cards and receipt customization, though these are fairly standard offerings today. Similar to Vend, they also feature a detailed loyalty tracker with stored value that can be used as a payment method directly from the POS register. Side note: I often wonder why more POS providers do not have comparable, easy-to-use loyalty functions, as it seems like a no-brainer to me. But what do I know? I only play with these things for a living. Perhaps most indicative of their user-friendly ways is the built-in feedback form. Users with problems or suggestions can shoot a quick note to Bindo without even leaving the app’s register page.
Now this isn’t to say that Bindo is perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I know it’s supposed to be easy on users, but the interface can be a little confusing to the new user, as there are many functions to consider. It also bears noting that we only got a cursory look at the full web dashboard from our demo, and I know that certain options (e.g. loyalty) can only be modified from that portal. Therefore, we know at least some updates would require a user to log into a separate page, make changes, and then update the register. This is a relatively minor inconvenience, however, and not uncommon to many POS products. Lastly, there is pricing to consider. As I mentioned way back at the start, device licensing depends on hardware needs, but there are three service tiers based on SKUs (i.e. Bindo’s rough estimate of merchant size); the tiers run from $79 to $229, though exact pricing is arranged via Bindo’s sales staff. They service both enterprises and local mom-&-pops. Luckily, their credit processing is largely platform agnostic, preferring a gateway that enables most major payment systems; they want their users to be able to choose their own merchant account in the endless hunt for better rates.
Everything is negotiable with Bindo, depending on each individual merchant’s needs.
The Software cost used to be priced in tiers based on the number of SKUs: $79/m for the lowest tier, $149/m for the middle and $229/m on the high end.
Even the hardware costs are negotiable, despite the fact that they use all industry standard equipment. But now everything is hidden other than their flat rate processing of 2.49% for swiped transactions, 3.49% + $0.15 for manually keyed-in transactions.
Alright, so you’ve reached the bottom line, and you need me to sum up my ramblings. I should have known this day would come; you’ve grown so much since first we began. Let’s break down the major points then: – Bindo pushes for new tech advancements as a matter of service; merchants should always have the same opportunities as the biggest retail competitors, and the system is designed to accommodate this belief in the long term;
– Bindo focuses locally to drive SMB commerce, believing a rising tide lifts all boats;
– The system has detailed, if occasionally complex, retail features with a friendly aesthetic;
– Finally, relatively low national penetration limits usefulness of the Bindo Marketplace at present — but the idea looks like gold on paper.
All in all, Bindo is an impressive system that stacks up well next to its nearest competition. What really sets it apart is the (yet unrealized) potential of the online Bindo Marketplace. Someday their philosophy may reshape local commerce, but at the moment it remains more of a curiosity (and an intriguing discussion topic for POS nerds like me). Their main advantage for the time being is their willingness to continually seek improvements. Mid-to-large retailers would do themselves a disservice if they didn’t at least check it out. If you’re looking for a forward-thinking company, it’s hard to find one more determined than Bindo. As always, tell me your thoughts. It’s lonely here on the interwebs; we positively live for feedback.