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Starting to look for POS options for our upcoming chocolate shop.  I really hate most POS systems, they are not very flexible and look like they were made during the dark ages of computing.  I've had some brief recommendations to RPower and am investigating Lecere myself for using ipad's.  Do any of you have happy experiences with point-of-sales solutions?

Tags: inventory, ipad, of, point, pos, register, sale, transactions

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well, i can't blame you for not wanting to invest in something that is, at best, suboptimal. i'll be honest - i really don't make use of the bells & whistles that lightspeed offers (yet, at least), but for the wine portion of our business it does make sense. i'm guessing that when i start to sell direct-to-consumer on the web i'll make better use of the system.

 

look forward to meeting you in person soon! and good luck with your opening. what's your date???

Andy . . .

Did you ever make a choice in a POS system? We are Mac based too and find the limited choices very frustrating.

We settled on a web/cloud solution Vend. We run it on an iPad 1, when it gets busy we pull out another iPad or a computer and then have multiple "registers" ready to go. We also have a wireless printer if people want a receipt or we offer to email it to them.  

So far it's a pretty good solution. You can hook barcode readers up to it and other fanciness that I haven't had the time to integrate.  Online solutions are nice in that I can check in on the store while away or work numbers from home etc. It has an offline mode where it captures the details if your link goes down then puts it all back together when connectivity returns.  There are caveats like any solution but it all depends.

Thanks for the response . . . That is one option I had not run across yet.

i read that you found a system but was wondering if anyone was using the square register running on an ipad?

I use square as a merchant service for credit card processing and it is great for small dollar transactions because there is no swipe fee.  (swipe fees will kill you)...  they also have a register....

look HERE

I have not used the register and would be interested in any feedback, but I would recomend that all of you who process small dollar transactions use the card reader app which is free and runs on all smart phones.  I use the card reader with an iphone and it works flawlessly. 

Jeremy

Hey Jeremy, over the past few months I've been evaluating Square Register on and off.  We now have it setup as a replacement should it be necessary and once we've deployed it a full day to see how it went and it went rather well.  Their recent update allows for Discounts which was a huge missing piece seeing as we could not take gift certificates or apply a discount easily before.

Where the rub for us comes in is merchant fees.  2.5% is great for a beginning business, you have no merchant account, no record, no negotiating power.  Once you exist a while, know your ticket sales, volume, seasonality, you have some leverage.  We pay between .5% (debit cards) and 3% (amex), with a heavier slant towards Debit.  Square just averages it all away.  They also do away with a transaction cost, ours is .15c per swipe, theirs is nothing.  So on that end of square you have to run some spreadsheets on what equates more for your bottom line.

Then theres inventory control, which most of these web-pos systems do, but Square Register does not. I can live without ours, and we're thinking of going back to spreadsheets but it's one more thing on the evaluation block.

Lastly we're a part of Amex's new social discount program.  I can't be a part of that through Square since Square doesn't require any knowledge of my Amex merchant accounting.

A lot of moving parts..

I'm happy to see competition in the market, I just wish they had gone for the throat of the merchant fees instead of playing along side them.  They're a disruptive force in some sense, but since their colluding instead of really competing it's not as uprising-like as I'd have envisioned.  However, Register as a tool, for a startup is invaluable.  It can allow you to get traction, think of what is important to you and then pick perhaps better tools in the future, or just keep with their upgrade track.  Regardless, stay flexible and know that the solution today will not be the solution tomorrow so make sure all your accounting and tracking of real sales data rests on something that is more permanent (Xero, QBO, etc.)

Does anyone have any experience with the iPAD POS system from ShopKeep? A client of mine is looking into it and I'd really like to hear of any ChocolateLife members who have experience with it.

Clay, we looked into ShopKeep first since it was really one of the first to market iPad available systems. It works very similarly to the rest of the Web oriented POS systems. It's grown quite a lot as well (thank goodness for rapid development.)  They guy who owns it also owns a retail store so he knows the row you go through to do business.  At the end of the day I found the back end a bit more cumbersome than I'd have liked. I can't recall if it could handle multiple tax brackets as well.  We've got county taxes on prepared foods, but not on sourced things like bars, which is different from state.

Vend had a leg up at the time on buttons instead of search or barcode scan, which I now see buttons but I don't know if they are as flexible or paginated for multitudes of products.

Like everything, use their trials to get a feel for it. POS systems are such personal investment. Your workflow may not be the workflow they designate for you. Get a feel for day to day operations, ring a sale, how much does it cost to have 2 iPad's running? How does the backend operates, how end of day works, do you need Cash In/Out, or is a Statement better?  How do you insert and maintain products, inventory, reordering? Does it interface with anything else like your books?  Beyond that do a demo and a mock store--what we think in our heads as our wants are often different from what we actually want.  The only way to iron that out is through experimentation.

Andy, I had a chance to discuss this with Clay via email, but wanted to also post my take on it.

Disclosure: I am with Sintel Systems and we provide Point of Sale Systemsincluding ones to the Chocolate sector.

iPad POS reference generally either means a POS system that is 1) just on the iPAD, 2) on the cloud, or 3) there is actually a back-end computer/server supporting the hand held. The first one we don't recommend. The second one, many businesses are still reluctant and what happens when the Internet is down. So the third is what would make sense if someone wanted to go with an "iPAD" POS.

As for the iPAD system. We did some surveys amongst a variety of industries we serve to find out the underlying reason people ask for "iPAD" systems and found out that clients see them as convenient (specially during high volume times) and as cool. With some further research, we found that what they are looking for is not necessarily an iPAD system, but rather hand-held or tablet system that provide mobility. They tend to use the word iPAD to refer to wanting a "cool" hand held rather than actually wanting an iPAD.

Once there is a real discussion, several operational realities set it. Users realized that they would need a back-end system and naturally understood that with many types of businesses (i.e. chocolate, frozen yogurt, pizza, etc.) it is not practical to have an entire operation dependent on a single hand-held unit. The durability and stability of a POS terminal cannot be met with just an iPAD. Imagine having your entire POS system in the hands of a teenage employee running around the store. Then the owner starts thinking about all the other hardware they may need (receipt printer, scale, cash drawer, customers display pole) and the iPad becomes more of a romantic idea rather than practical.

However, to address this issue and still allow the store to add this cool feature, they get a full POS station and one hand held unit. An employee then can be walking around the store (especially busy times) and running transactions which are really being processed by the main system at the counter. So, in this case the POS station also acts as the back end. Two issues solved at once!

It comes down to this: the iPad thing is new and everyone wants it but iOS POS fall short in integration. To accommodate this trend, we have taken our POS software and placed it on a cool tablet PC (& soon with Android Tablet) and created an even better environment. Unfortunately, iOS based POS are not compatible with SQL databases, but instead (normally) run on Cloud Based Systems that store your data somewhere else. As stated above, we have also found clients hesitant to have their entire financial information just on the Cloud and most online POS have monthly fees.

As most business owners have realized, the idea of a business is more romantic than actually running a business. For now, the same is true of iPAD POS idea.

You definitely understand a lot of the problem, but I think you lack the full use cases of the spectrum of shops. In our shop we've found a nice harmony of Square/Register, Google Docs inventory, Xero for accounting and Shopify for our online presence. A wide selection of add-ons that allow even further integrations and business intelligence.  I don't need a pole that shows a number, a scale that weighs things out (pre-weighted or unit oriented), or a receipt printer (however Star's new one that supports Air-Print, costly but able.)  I have no fear of employees running off with an iPad or similar device. Even breakage has mitigation.  In my environment a tablet, a set of iPad's & iPods do a thorough job for front to mid-house tasks. 

I think the level of integration through secondary devices, bluetooth or ANT 2.4Ghz connectivity is going to be merry and rather swift compared to how long it took the industry to get here.

Yes, the hardware does not exist to take the consumer to the peniultimate of what was the last generation of hardware for POS but I don't know if that hardware was every right to begin with. Much of it is an enigma. Coming from a software background I really ponder many times efficacy of the UX/UI experience and what the real goal is. Even the marketer in me has conversion questions. Maybe it was all met out, maybe it wasn't.  Iterations are a good thing though and rarely have I ever seen that industry iterate.

Regardless, small businesses and micro-chains I think will have an easy time adopting an iPad/tablet relationship which will further the development of things to support that more and more which will then take the next line up, and the pace quickens.  If anyone's been paying attention Apple has been working with Gap replacing their system with their own, it's a beta test for them taking the entire system a part. If they find scalability in NCR territory, I'm really curious if that in itself has a huge trickle down effect.

In a nutshell, here's whats coming--Lightweight devices, cloud services with localized app storage for offline, integrated accounting, eCommerce and inventory packages all talking through API's and a host of physical devices that marry in one way or another.  I think 80% of that is already here.  Which means I can't wait to see the next 5 years play out.

I've worked with, or worked by a lot of farmers.. Now people who think they want to take up farming, not realizing how ridiculously hard it is to be a real farmer.. That's a romantic idea.  Having a few hurdles to cross with the digital divide and handheld devices. That's just a problem to be solved. ;-)

As an aside, this discussion started Nov 25, 2010, that's almost 2 years ago. What wasn't available then, has evolved at a pace unheard of which is where my current voice is. Reading the origination point of this thread though was a neat reminder of how much wasn't there and how little a hodgepodge could be made. If all that is out now, or evolved to now, was only 2 years of time, hah. It's going to be fun playing with the next 2 year round.  There is way too much money in this (POS) sector.

Some great points. What you are saying is understandable and given your software background you have a much better point of reference than most. I come from an engineering/physics background as do all our senior staff at Sintel Systems. We take a whole different approach to POS sales by aligning our goals with those of the customer and pride ourselves as "solutions providers." And this is just not a slogan. So we see it as our responsibility to continue a robust and mutually beneficial relationship with our customers way beyond the sale of a POS system. We only succeed if they succeed.

As you know, running a small business is though and that is why owners are always trying to save on start up costs (i.e. POS). So there are typically two ways of staying is business. 1. Squeeze all costs and stay small at the cost of expansion. Some customers are happy with this and that is ok. 2. Look at the bigger picture, implement cost effective measures, and look for ways to expand (sales at single location and/or multiple locations). In this case you need a strong partner in all aspects of your Chocolate Store including a POS company that brings more to the table than just some hardware and software.

Let me give you one of our many example that applies to one of your points. You mentioned that "you don't need a pole that shows a number or a receipt printer." Many see these as unnecessary cost, but closer examination brings up other factors. As your solutions provider, we will offer your various means of 1) increasing revenue, 2) decreasing shrinkage, and 3) improving brand recognition. This is simply by having a customer display (not pole) and receipt printer. The rate of return on this investment is likely greater than any other item in your store. How?


I wrote an article on this topic on my own blog last month titled: How does printing POS receipts increase revenue? [You can read it and let me know what you think.]This issue came to light and we took it up on ourselves to call every single customer and inform them. How much is that worth?

I did not write about customer display poles, but I am sure you can imagine the benefits including showing your customers products and advertising items such as gift cards.

So, Sintel Systems just has a different approach to business and the role of the POS provider. I agree with the cloud system and those of our customers who are micro/macro franchises are there with us right now. Other than the traditional reasons for franchises to be connected to a central location, we need them connected so that they can use gift cards across multiple locations.

Love your farming analogy!! I always use the "wanting as horse" analogy. Years ago, someone close to me wanted one. Took her to a stable. Just the smell was enough to change their mind:)

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