Vend POS for the iPad is a hybrid web & mobile app that can be molded to fit just about any industry. Features seem more geared toward retail sales as opposed to food service, but the system is quite adaptable on the whole. Requirements are low, and pricing scales along with system size. There are also some value-added options provided for merchants in need of something a little extra. First, let’s get into the meat of the system.
When it comes to hardware, Vend has few requirements. The web-based software runs identically to the free app — and it operates on PC, Mac, or tablet. While accessing certain back office functions, the iOS app seems to load the site using a browser screen, but otherwise all functions are available regardless of the platform in question. This versatility allows Vend entry into a number of markets where other, usually iOS-based POS options may not have as much cache. Many of these systems today find footholds in hip neighborhoods or wealthier establishments with access to iPads; Vend’s interface is equally friendly toward any browser, thus working on Android & PC — a fact that surely appeals to every faction in the eternal tech holy wars, as well as the budget-conscious merchant looking to repurpose existing hardware.
Vend can also integrate with card swipers, cash drawers (requires RJ12 port), any USB printer, and barcode scanners. If using an iPad, Vend is capable of using the built-in camera as a barcode scanner — a feature seemingly unique to Vend. This ability to utilize all manner of hardware in various combinations allows Vend to scale according to a merchant’s need, even encompassing multiple locations. However. the size of the system itself affects pricing. Their most basic system is free, but function is limited & supported by community forums only. From there, pricing tiers allow for more registers, users, items, customers, & locations. Additional registers can be added to the highest tiers, and billing can occur monthly, or annually for a savings.
The paid tiers also all include email & online support. Officially, Vend’s response time is anywhere within 2 to 8 hours; support tickets can be filed online, and there is an extensive knowledge base complete with tutorial videos & discussion forums. There is complete installation, training, and phone support available, but it costs an additional $39/month (billed annually). Inexperienced owners looking for more hands-on support may prefer this option, as will some high volume businesses.
Right from the get-go, Vend is simple: colored buttons on the right, current sale on the left. Register & user logons are controlled in the upper right, as well as integrated PayPal & barcode scanning (if used). The ability to use the iPad camera as a barcode scanner is a particularly nice touch. Given the prevalence of barcodes & their ilk — coupled with the countless scanning apps available for download on tablets & smartphones — it’s rather surprising more POS systems haven’t hit on this as a money-saving feature for smaller outlets.
Customers can be added to any sale for tracking & loyalty purposes. At the bottom of the ticket, there are options to void, add notes & discounts, and “park” a sale as an open ticket to finish later. There are buttons in the top center to check the current sale, parked tickets, or close register. Any items added from the right can have quantity or price adjusted on the sale ticket. There is also the usual search bar along the top of the sale to find items in large price books. Everything is clearly labeled, clean, and fairly self-explanatory. System limits, again, are determined by pricing tier; more money will get users more SKUs & customers, as well as the potential for more registers & locations.
The real meat of the system is accessed in the upper left of the iPad app. While Vend constantly syncs with the web-based platform, it can be done manually in case of network issues. Plug-n-play printers & cash drawers can be easily accessed through the settings menu, but at the bottom you’ll find a link to the complete Vend Dashboard. If using a browser, the POS interface is located under the Sell tab; the rest of the back office functions, including Dashboard, line the top of the site. The Dashboard itself starts out with basic breakdowns & popular reports — but it can be customized with widgets and add-ons to fit individual preferences. It has a rather robust reporting system, and everything is available via web for easy tracking. Stock, purchasing, inventory, customer database, and store administration settings can be accessed anywhere at any time — and the simple layout speeds along the process. All changes immediately sync across the network as soon as the platform is updated.
Vend also features a variety of customizations available to further assist merchants. In addition to the PayPal integration mentioned above, there are also add-ons for Xero accounting software, Shopify ecommerce, and various marketing & analytic apps. Though there are additional costs for the services, some merchants may find the reporting helpful in lieu of hiring out such analysis. Foot traffic, inventory, and scheduling are just some of the functions available from Vend’s third-party partners.
That’s not to say Vend doesn’t also have its own intrinsic value. Reports & transaction history are exceedingly easy to access through the back office functions. There is also simple, effective loyalty tracking system available that accrues cash value at a ratio to overall spending that merchants can set anytime in the Setup menu (example: earn $1.00 loyalty for every $15 spent in store). For that matter, the customer database is itself extensive — allowing for as much information as owners may care to enter; all activity rung under a customer can be tracked, whether or not loyalty is in effect. There’s even an option to give a one-time loyalty bonus for signing up for the program & a custom welcome email.
Inventory & stock tracking is similarly detailed, permitting any combination of price points, item variants, and stock order alerts. Some of the actual store setup may not be the most intuitive to merchants seeking a simple solution, but Vend provides a vast online knowledge base on its site. There, merchants can file service tickets, search community forums, and seek personal enlightenment in the form of articles & tutorial videos. As always, Vend support is always available through email, and they are generally quite helpful. Tech savvy merchants may find a setup a breeze, however, provided they have time to experiment with the system options.
Unfortunately, the technophobes out there may find that initial inventory setup a little daunting. While existing businesses may benefit from exporting to CSV and importing information into Vend, new merchants run the risk of confusion as a result of the comprehensive system. Setting up a demo store, we were able to work out most functions through trial & error — but adding variants to retails items (e.g. styles, sizes, colors) proved to be a more arcane process. Thankfully, there is a helpful guide on the knowledge base that answered the question in a matter of minutes. An impatient owner trying to hit the ground running is likely to be somewhat annoyed by the need to email Vend, though, if they weren’t expecting to do online research up front. Worse yet, the added phone support cost may appear prohibitive to small merchants with high volume — such as coffee shops — that can’t afford to wait hours for a resolution to a problem. Though scalable, Vend would seem to favor medium- to large-sized outlets from a cost perspective, at least in terms of ease-of-use. Many hands-on owners with small shops will no doubt find the POS more than adequate — provided they don’t mind doing more support legwork themselves online.
Vend mostly appears geared toward retail, however, despite the numerous custom tweaks displayed on their site. Despite the ability to hold tickets open, there is no tip function. Merchants could add an open-priced item to serve as a “tip,” but that leads to another quirk: there’s no function for altering an open drawer to track petty cash or tips paid out. Likewise, there is no integrated gift card option available (though Vend does allow the creation of custom payment types). The need to track tips, drawer balance, or gift card balances can be unattractive for some.
Strangely, Vend noticeably lacks a punch clock for users to track hours. This may seem like quibbling over a minor issue — especially since merchants can create new users with various permissions to track sales according to employee — but it is a rather simple feature that is present on many of Vend’s competitors. Merchants hoping to save money by jumping on Vend’s flexible, user-friendly bandwagon might be turned off by having to seek another payroll tracking method for their hourly employees. Finally, when closing out a drawer, the system does not stand idly waiting for merchants to open a new one. Rather, the next business cycle begins immediately. This ultimately has little effect on most merchants — and indeed it is a side-effect of having a 24-hour accessible web platform built halfway around the globe in New Zealand. Still, there are those out there whose accounting skills are not quite up to the level of professional bookkeeper that may find themselves bewildered by strange opening & closing times on their reports.
Vend now offers a discounted rate for annual billing as shown below:
Medium: $59/m Annual, $69/monthly – Single outlet, 500 active products
Large: $85/m Annual, $99/monthly – Single outlet, Unlimited products
Extra Large: $169/m Annual, $199/monthly – Multiple outlets, Unlimited products
Additional registers can be added to any paid plan at any time for $35/m annually, $39/m monthly Vend+ (personal set-up assistance, ongoing training and phone support) is available on all plans for $19/m billed annually
All that aside, Vend is an extremely well-constructed POS with plenty of high-end functionality for a reasonable price. Its cost stands balanced somewhere between “cheap bare-bones” and “luxury POS” — and its tiers, add-ons, & optional features offer loads of flexibility for just about any business. Retail merchants — or at least gratuity-free environments — probably will glean the most benefit from it, but Vend is undoubtedly an all-around threat suited to keeping owners competitive in any marketplace.