Shopify Payments Review: What Are The Pros And Cons Of Shopify’s Integrated Payment Processor?

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If you’ve spent any time on our blog, you know that Shopify (read our review) is one of our favorite shopping cart solutions, primarily because they provide an all-inclusive solution to a wide range of merchants. One monthly rate gives you access to Shopify’s hosting, security, administrative abilities, customer service features, inventory management features, web design tools, and more.

With the addition of Shopify Payments, an integrated payment processor, you can even access built-in payment processing features. Shopify Payments allows you to quickly begin accepting orders on your online store. You won’t have to worry about integrating a third-party processor, and Shopify will waive their shopping cart transaction fees.

However, despite its convenience, Shopify Payments is not a perfect solution. Customers often complain that they do not qualify to use the service. Others say that Shopify Payments has frozen their account or is holding payments.

Keep reading to learn if you qualify for Shopify Payments and if it’s right for your business.

In this article, we’ll be discussing payment service providers (PSPs). If you’re new to the world of payment processing, we’d love to help get you oriented. Download our free ebook, The Beginner’s Guide to Payment Processing, to get started.

Table of Contents

What Is Shopify Payments?

Shopify Payments is a payment processor that allows you to accept customers’ money securely on your account. Shopify is responsible for these transactions, although they are effectively processed through Stripe and Wells Fargo.

Shopify Payments is already integrated into your Shopify account, so it requires very little setup. There is no need to integrate a third-party processor or coordinate payments with a separate company. All you have to do is select Shopify Payments in your admin and add your banking information. Read Shopify’s setup instructions.

What’s more, Shopify Payments comes with a few additional features, including chargeback management and fraud prevention.

When you use Shopify Payments, Shopify will waive their usual shopping cart transaction fees. The only transaction fees you’ll need to pay are those associated with payment processing.

What Are The Rates?

Every PSP comes with its own processing rates and fees. Shopify Payments bases their rates on users’ subscription level. Users on higher Shopify plans benefit from lower rates. Take a look at the screenshot below for a breakdown of those rates.

Shopify states that they do not charge any monthly fees, hidden fees, or setup fees on their payments service.

Who Can Use Shopify Payments?

Perhaps the most obvious requirement is that you must be a Shopify customer to use Shopify Payments.

Shopify Payments is only available to merchants in the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore. Shopify Payments is not available to US territories, with the exception of Puerto Rico.

You must follow Shopify’s Acceptable Use Policy. Take a look at the extensive list of products and services Shopify does not support below:

If you do not comply with Shopify Payments’ Terms of Service, you will not be approved or the service may be revoked.

When Do I Get Paid?

Payday is on everyone’s mind. One of the most frequently-asked questions regarding Shopify Payments is how long you’ll have to wait to receive your customers’ payments.

This period — the time between when a customer places an order and when those funds are sent to your bank account — is called a pay period. You should keep in mind that this pay period does not include the amount of time it takes for your bank to process that deposit after it’s sent (typically between 24-72 hours).

Your pay period with Shopify Payments will depend on the country in which your company is based. You can view the full breakdown of pay periods in Shopify’s knowledgebase, or you can see my summary below:

  • US: 2 business days. Funds from Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are grouped and sent together as one payment.
  • Canada: 3 business days. Funds from Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are grouped and sent together as one payment.
  • Australia: 3 business days. Funds from Saturday, Sunday, and Monday are grouped and sent together as one payment.
  • New Zealand: 3 business days. Funds from Saturday, Sunday, and Monday are grouped and sent together as one payment.
  • UK & Ireland: 4 business days. Funds from Saturday, Sunday, and Monday are grouped and sent together as one payment.

Make sure you keep in mind this delay in payments as you plan your business. It might be worth setting up a business credit card so you always have funds on hand.

Pros & Positive Reviews

Customers choose Shopify Payments for a number of reasons. Here are the primary benefits of using Shopify Payments:

  • No Shopify Transaction Fees: While there will always be processing fees, when you use Shopify Payments, you’ll no longer have to pay that 1%-2% transaction fee associated with your Shopify plan. I assume Shopify instead takes their money from your payment processing. Either way, it’s savings for you.
  • Potentially Lower Processing Fees: As I’ve said before, higher-level Shopify merchants benefit from lower rates. You may find that Shopify’s rates are competitive with those of other major processors.
  • Already Integrated: You won’t need any developers to connect with Shopify Payments.
  • Integrated Fraud Prevention: Shopify Payments helps you reduce fraudulent transactions. You can choose to enable an address verification system and a card verification value upon checkout to ensure customers are real cardholders. Read more about fraud analysis.

Shopify Payments is a great solution if you meet the requirements and are looking for a processor that’s easy to integrate.

Cons & Complaints

While Shopify Payments is great for convenience, I’ve seen numerous reports blaming the service for being unreliable and difficult to contact. Here are a few of the most common complaints and disadvantages of using Shopify Payments:

  • Ineligibility: Shopify users often complain that they are not eligible for Shopify Payments. For some, this is because Shopify Payments is not available in their country. In some cases, Shopify has actually revoked payment services because, for one reason or another, their business was deemed “high-risk.” Shopify’s Terms of Service states: “We reserve the right to modify or terminate the Service for any reason, without notice at any time.”
  • Shopify Holds Funds: Merchants frequently complain of their funds being withheld for an extended period of time. Here’s what Shopify Payments’ Terms Of Service says about that: “Stripe, on behalf of Shopify and/or Wells Fargo reserves the right to change the Payout Schedule or suspend payouts to your Bank Account should we determine it is necessary due to pending disputes, excessive Chargebacks or refunds, or other suspicious activity associated with your use of the Service or it required by law or court order.”
  • Difficulties With Chargebacks: Chargebacks are an unfortunate and inevitable part of running an online business. If customers file too many chargebacks against you, Shopify may withhold your funds, further complicating the issue.

Make sure you read the Terms of Service for every solution you sign up with, including Shopify and Shopify Payments. It could save you a world of pain.

Final Thoughts

I’ve seen enough negative reports about Shopify Payments to be skeptical of the service. Many merchants have been denied payments or had the service revoked entirely.

However, without the specifics, it’s difficult to determine whether Shopify was justified or not in these actions. If merchants were not complying with Shopify Payments’ Terms of Service, Shopify was within their rights to cancel the service.

As you make your decision, read every word of Shopify Payments’ Terms of Service to ensure your business qualifies. There are some great benefits to integrated payments, and if your store follows all the rules, Shopify Payments could be the best choice for your store.

But, don’t stop your research there. Take a look at our complete review of Shopify (and the real customer comments below) to learn more about the software, and be sure to read up on Shopify Payments in their knowledgebase. Best of luck!

Liz Hull

Liz is a recent college graduate living in Washington state. As of late, she can often be found haunting eCommerce forums and waiting on hold with customer service representatives. When she’s free, Liz loves to rock climb, watch Spanish dramas, and read poorly-written young adult novels.

Liz Hull

“”

Shopify vs. Squarespace: Online Store Options Compared

Shopify vs. Squarespace – they are two of the most well-known brands in the online store / website builder industry. I’ve written a Shopify review here and Squarespace review here. But how do they compare directly to each other?

First, a bit of background. Over the past few years, online store software costs have plummeted, and the technology to get a website from idea to reality has blossomed.

Whether you’re using a text editor and uploading to the Amazon cloud, hosting your own site powered by WordPress + WooCommerce or using a drag and drop website builder, there’s never been an easier time to create an online store. It’s no longer 2002 where every storeowner had to know PHP, HTML, CSS and a bit of Javascript.

All-inclusive ecommerce builders have been particularly interesting. Companies like Squarespace, Weebly, Wix, Shopify, and BigCommerce – not to mention platforms like Etsy, eBay, and Amazon – have brought ecommerce to everyone regardless of their coding skills.

On the wide spectrum of ecommerce store building solutions, they all live on the end that is all-inclusive and provides everything you need to get started and grow your website.

That is in contrast to solutions where you buy, install, and manage all the “pieces” of your website separately. That’s not a good or bad thing. But it is something to be aware of when you’re choosing one of them as a solution since it affects your website both long and short term.

In the long-term, it affects your versatility, functionality, and, of course, your brand. In the short term, it can certainly add/take away a lot of headaches. That said, just like choosing a physical house or office, there is no such thing as an absolute “best” or “top” choice. There’s only the right choice relative to your goals, experience, and circumstances.

Using an online store builder is like leasing and customizing an apartment in a really classy development instead of buying and owning your own house. You’re still in control of decor, cleaning, and everything living-wise – but you leave the construction, plumbing, security, and infrastructure to the property owner. That point is key because there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control.

Ecommerce Real Estate Tradeoffs

Shopify, Squarespace and other options like BigCommerce and Weebly as a group compete with options like WordPress (which provides the free software to build a website that you own & control – see my WordPress setup guide here) all the way to options like typing actual HTML code into a text file.

The last preface I’ll mention is that Squarespace is an all-around website builder with ecommerce capability.

Shopify, in contrast, is strictly an ecommerce platform.

This focus puts Squarespace behind as an advanced ecommerce tool and Shopify behind as a general website builder tool. With their respective free trials, you can quickly see the differences.

Try Shopify for Free

Try Squarespace for Free

Make sense? Awesome – let’s dive into the comparison.

Side note – if you want this comparison in a BuzzFeed-style quiz, you can take my online store builder quiz here…

You can also look at my posts on –

Otherwise, we’ll look specifically at pricing, onboarding/user experience, design features, technical features, ecommerce features, marketing features, and customer support.

Disclosure – I receive referral fees from all the companies mentioned in this post. My opinions & research are based on my professional experiences as either a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pricing

Comparing pricing between Shopify and Squarespace is fairly straightforward if you have a clear idea of your needs. This comes from the fact that Shopify focuses on *only* online store owners whereas Squarespace markets to everyone.

The short version is that Shopify is more expensive. But there’s a few caveats to look at.

Shopify Pricing

Squarespace Ecommerce Pricing

The first caveat is credit card fees.

Squarespace syncs with Stripe and PayPal. Their fees are 2.9% + $.30 per transaction.

Shopify has their own payments gateway that charges lower per transaction fees. But – if you use a non-Shopify gateway, Shopify charges an additional transaction fee that Squarespace does not have.

So why is this important? If you already have a gateway (ie, Authorize.net for your physical pop-up shop) and you want to use them with Shopify – then Shopify’s transaction fee kicks in. But – if you want to use Shopify Payment’s for your online store – you can save a bit of money on transaction fees. Those fees add up. If you have revenues of $100000 – a 0.4% reduction in fees could equal $500 per month.

The second caveat is value pricing.

On front-end features alone – Squarespace is significantly cheaper than Shopify, especially on their Advanced plan, which compares almost directly with Shopify’s Standard plan.

See Shopify’s Plans here.

See Squarespace’s Plans here.

But – like I mentioned in the introduction, it’s hard to compare their pricing tables directly since they are really different products for different audiences.

It’s a bit like comparing the pricing of a motorcycle vs. an SUV.

Sure, the motorcycle is much cheaper and it gets you from A to B. It has wheels, an engine, and it drives on the road just fine. But it’s also meant for a certain type of driving.

It all really comes down to what you need for you project – two wheels that will get you where you need to go or a vehicle that has plenty of room along with lots of features. So let’s look at other differences.

Aside – if you’re curious, Shopify’s $9/mo Lite plan isn’t applicable since it’s more of an inventory/payments software than an online store builder software. You can upload products, manage them, and accept payments, but you can only sell them via other platforms such as a Facebook plugin or a button on an existing website. Same goes with Squarespace’s Business Plan. It’s meant to do a website that happens to have a couple things for sale – not really a full online store solution. I’ll set both those options to the side for the moment.

Onboarding & User Experience

No matter how intuitive and simple a piece of technology is, there’s always that moment of “what am I looking at and what do I do now?”

Onboarding is the process of guiding you past that point. In theory, a huge selling point of online website / store builders is that they have a near-zero learning curve. They have a straightforward process from website concept to website reality.

On this point, Squarespace and Shopify both do alright but in different ways.

Shopify has a quick path from free trial signup to site launch. They have guided tours and a very straightforward setup. They also have customer support outreach focused on getting you up and running quickly.

Shopify Backend

However, Shopify also has many more features, apps, and technical options available that can present a challenge. The most daunting hurdle is linking your domain name to your store. It’s not difficult but is daunting at the mention of “setting your CNAME” (in fairness, you don’t have to direct your domain if you purchase via Shopify for a bit more per year than via a 3rd party).

Since Shopify functions as a platform for payments, offline inventory and more – their website store setup is actually on the second menu of their main dashboard rather than front and center.

Squarespace has a ridiculously fast sign up to live site process. Their backend is fairly intuitive for basic websites. However, they to have a “Squarespace jargon” to get used to. They like to appeal to developers and freelance designers – so there are advanced tools that can clutter simply launching a site.

SquareSpace Onboarding

Their support emails and tours are structured well. But since their software is made for all types of websites, the ecommerce features are a bit buried (and limited) from the perspective of an online store owner.

I would not rule either provider out on onboarding/user experience. But their differences are sort of like a restaurant with a waiter (Shopify) vs. a fast casual restaurant with a menu above the cashier (Squarespace).

If you want more help and more customization, then Shopify is your choice. If you want to quickly see and order from the features, then Squarespace is less daunting.

Design Features

Part of the overall value of website builders is simple, straightforward design – no web designers necessary.

But good design is hard. And it matters – a lot. A lot of people can spot a good looking website but have a harder time figuring out how to get there. Using a template for a foundation and then customizing it is a good way to get the site you want without paying for a custom design.

Both Shopify and Squarespace use templates (aka “themes”) for design. But they are very different in customization options.

Shopify has a solid drag and drop design feature. You can create any layout element you’d like and drag it into place. You can click and edit any portion of any web page – including both content and design.

But – Shopify does not combine design and content. You have to get your design right – and then add content in a separate area (ie, it’s a template).

Since you can edit HTML/CSS with Shopify, you can build any design possible. There are few, if any, limits to any design that you see on the Internet. Additionally, Shopify has a drag and drop template editor.

Shopify Drag Drop

Squarespace has a hybrid approach. They famously have beautiful pre-built designs.

Squarespace Designs

They also have drag and drop – and pretty intuitive editing.

But – they also combine design and content with their editor. This approach has tradeoffs. On one hand, you can edit the design for specific pages. On the other hand, your design can go “off-base” pretty quickly – especially with content for hundreds of products.

The other drawback with Squarespace is that their off-the-shelf themes require *a lot* of really good imagery. If you don’t have access to high-quality photography, their themes are not going to work well. Many of Shopify’s designs are fine and functional regardless of product imagery.

They both have large marketplaces for premium designs (in addition to professional designers).

If you are a fan of raw functionality – then you’ll appreciate Shopify’s approach to design. If you want your site to look amazing off the shelf, love to edit details, and have access to good imagery – then you’ll appreciate Squarespace.

Ecommerce Features

The absolute core features of an ecommerce store are a –

  • product database
  • shopping cart
  • checkout page
  • payment processor
  • order database

That is it.

But, especially in 2017 (and 2018 and beyond), there is a *lot* more than can (and should) go into an ecommerce store. There’s everything from selling via Facebook Messenger to syncing with Amazon FBA to integrating with eBay – not to mention features for executing on marketing fundamentals.

Even for advertising products, there’s selling via Buyable Pins, Google Merchant, Twitter cards, and more. There’s remarketing and coupon codes. There’s A/B testing. There’s inventory synchronization with vendors like AliExpress. And there’s order synchronization with shippers like UPS and USPS.

And that’s all a drop in the bucket.

Obviously, not every store needs every feature. If you are trying to sell a couple T-shirts or a couple specialty products – you certainly don’t need them all. But if you want to grow and expand, you’ll need your options open.

For ecommerce features, Shopify wins hands down, though Squarespace does make it simple to sell your product. Squarespace has a few advanced features (like abandoned cart recovery), but it’s nothing like Shopify.

Shopify not only has more features directly integrated into their platform, but they also have a well-established app store that includes free and paid apps to extend your store with every feature you could possibly need.

Shopify Integrations

That said, this section is a bit unfair to Squarespace, because, again, they are a general website builder that includes ecommerce. Shopify is strictly an ecommerce platform.

If Shopify didn’t “win” on ecommerce features it would be a surprise. Technically, Squarespace competes more with the likes of Weebly and Wix or WordPress who are also website builders that provide core ecommerce features.

In short – if you need core ecommerce features integrated in a simple, straightforward way, then Squarespace is fine. If you actually need a full suite of ecommerce features to grow, then Shopify is hands-down better.

Technical Features

Technical features are all the web development best practices that don’t really “matter”…until they matter a lot. I’m talking about generating clean URLs, editable metadata, allowing page-level redirects, etc.

On this point, Shopify does very well – and not just compared to Squarespace, but compared to any hosted platform.

Traditionally, hosted platforms presented a risk for web designers, developers, and marketers who wanted to work on the technical aspects of the site.

I know that I flinch anytime a prospective client tells me they are on a hosted platform of any kind.

But Shopify and Squarespace perform well in general. Many skeptics of hosted platforms note that they actually take care of the technical features well. You still don’t have FTP access to your server, but you do have access to change things via their Liquid editor (Shopify) or Developer Mode (Squarespace).

Where they differ (especially for me) is in their potential for technical features. And again, here, Shopify’s app store is their “killer” feature. Even if a feature is not native to Shopify, a non-developer can usually add it.

On the flip side, Squarespace has a lot of native features that simply “work” – and a process of continually adding & revising existing features.

Both Squarespace and Shopify have inherent limitations as hosted platforms (ie, when you leave, you a lot of your data), but Shopify does a bit more to eliminate the weaknesses and capitalize on strengths as a hosted platform.

Marketing Features

In Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner’s character says “if you build it, they will come.” Sadly, that is not true about websites. Like any business, you have to actively promote and market your online store for anyone to show up.

Marketing features like custom metadata, open graph information, Schema markups, email signups, share buttons, landing pages, etc all make marketing your site a lot easier.

For marketing features, both Shopify and Squarespace both do really well. They support header scripts. They integrate with many products. They add meta data, product schema and open graph tags automatically.

But like design & ecommerce features, there’s the same catch. For an ecommerce store owner, Shopify has many more (and higher quality) built-in features plus a better, more developed app store.

Squarespace has core marketing features built-in, but with more limits.

Support & Service

Customer support and service are difficult to judge. Like I’ve said in most of my reviews, a single customer can never really know if they happened upon a disgruntled rookie or if the company is really that bad.

That said, there are ways to look at a company’s investment in both customer services and support.

For Shopify vs. Squarespace, I think the clear “winner” is Shopify. Shopify not only provides more channels for customer service (phone, chat, email, forums, social media, etc), they also have an incredibly extensive help center.

The help center not only tackles technical issues, it also tackles customer success issues (aka problems with making money).

Squarespace has email support, and limited chat support – but no phone. Their knowledgebase does not have the attention or the depth that Shopify has.

Comparison Conclusion

So Shopify vs. Squarespace – which one is a better fit for your project?

If you plan on running a growing online store and want all the features possible, then you should go try Shopify.

Go try Shopify for free here.

If you want a simple store – or a general site with a beautiful look, then Squarespace might be a good fit for you.

Also – bookmark my post on creating an ecommerce marketing strategy here.

Good luck!

“”

Small Business Sales Tax Guide

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Before you started your small business, you probably only thought of sales tax as a pesky total on the bottom of your receipts—the thing that changed your nice round price into something bizarre. (The Dollar Store doesn’t really work when it’s the $1.07 Store.) But now that you’re a small business owner, understanding sales tax is necessarily a lot more complicated.

In this article, we’ll explain the basics of small business sales tax and what you need to do to get your company legally set up to collect sales tax. By using this article as a starting point, you’ll understand the confusing concept of small business sales tax in no time.

Table of Contents

Understanding The Basics

Before we discuss how to set your company up to collect sales tax legally, we wanted to cover a couple of important basics and some common FAQs about sales tax. If you’ve ever had questions about sales tax, you’ve come to the right place.

What Is Sales Tax?

Sales tax is a government tax on the sale of goods and services.

In Which State(s) Do I Have to Collect Sales Tax?

You must collect a sales tax in any state where you have a nexus.

What Is A Nexus?

We’re glad you asked. In the original sense of the word, a nexus is a connection. When talking about sales tax, a nexus is a legal term that means you’ve created a sufficient physical presence in a state. Once a nexus is established, you are required to pay sales tax on any items sold in or shipped to that state (with the exception of Oregon, Alaska, Delaware, Montana, and New Hampshire, which do not impose a sales tax).

How Is A Nexus Created?

You may have a sales tax nexus in states where:

  • You have an office or other property
  • You have a storefront
  • You have employees (including salespeople and remote workers)
  • You have a warehouse
  • You attend a tradeshow (or other events)
  • You use drop shipping

For example, let’s say my company is headquartered in California, but I also have an inventory warehouse in Washington. That means I would have a nexus in both California and Washington and must collect and pay sales tax in both states.

Each state has slightly different rules about what constitutes a sales tax nexus, so be sure to contact a state’s sales tax authority directly if you think you may have a nexus there.

If you’re still confused about what constitutes a nexus, you can read about it in more detail in the Tackling Taxes section of our Beginner’s Guide to Starting an Online Store ebook.

How Do I Determine Which Sales Tax Rate To Charge My Customers?

Sales tax rates vary by state, county, and even city. And some states—Oregon, Alaska, New Hampshire, Delaware, and Montana—don’t even have sales tax. So how do you know which rate to use?

First, you have to determine the address on which to base the sales tax rate.

If you are selling items from a storefront, your sales tax rate will be based on your store’s address. If you are shipping items, the sales tax rate will be based on the address you’re shipping the items to (not the address you ship goods from).

As we mentioned above, you only have to charge sales to customers when you are selling items in or shipping items to a state where you have a sales tax nexus. So if you are shipping items to a state where you don’t have a sales tax nexus, then you don’t have to worry about sales tax.

Once you’ve determined the proper address to use, all you need to do is consult the state’s sales tax agency to find the sales tax rate for that state, county, and city. (Most states offer a tool that allows you to look up sales tax rate by address online.)

Here is a list of all 50 states’ tax agencies. For most states, the appropriate tax agency will be the Department of Revenue. If you operate out of California, you’ll want to go to the Board of Equalization.

How Much Sales Tax Should I Charge My Customers?

Once you’ve determined the proper sales tax rate (as explained in the section above), you can use this formula to calculate your actual sales tax:

Total Cost x Sales Tax Rate = Sales Tax Total

Let’s do an example. My customer spent $49.95 at my store in California. The sales tax rate is 7.5%. How much sales tax do I charge?

I’ll put the total cost and sales tax rate into our formula.

$49.95 x 7.5% = ?

Since we’re working with a percentage, we have to move the decimal to the left two spaces. So we’re calculating:

$49.95 x .075 = ?

Multiply.

$49.95 x .075 = $3.746

Round to the nearest ten. Now you should have $3.75 as your sales tax amount. Simply add this amount to your total cost (in this case $49.95) and voila! You have the correct price to charge your customer.

$49.95 + $3.75 = $53.70

Luckily for you, you don’t need to manually calculate sales tax. While knowing the principles of sales tax calculation is important, almost all POS and accounting programs do the math for you, and there are plenty of tax software options that can help too. We’ll cover these in more detail later.

What If I Sell Products Online?

Things get trickier when it comes to online sales tax. The sales tax laws for each state were originally created with the brick and mortar store in mind, so figuring out the correct procedures for online sales tax can be a bit difficult.

Luckily, there are plenty of resources available to make this easier. In our eBook The Beginner’s Guide to Starting an Online Store, we devoted a whole section to the basics of eCommerce sales tax. We also recommend TaxJar’s complete Sales Tax Guide for eCommerce Sellers to online sellers who want to learn the nitty-gritty details of online sales tax.

Preparing Your Company To Collect Sales Tax

A lot more goes into charging sales tax than just figuring out the appropriate sales tax rate. You’ll need to take the proper legal measures to ensure your small business is set up to collect and pay sales tax.

Here are four simple steps you’ll need to follow before you can legally charge sales tax:

Step 1: Learn Your State’s Sales Tax Rules

Above all else, be sure to learn the sales tax rules of every state in which you have a nexus. Each state has different laws, which makes this research imperative. Go directly to your state’s official sales tax agency for the most accurate information.

Again, here is a list of all 50 states’ tax agencies. As I mentioned above, for most states, the appropriate tax agency will be the Department of Revenue. If you operate out of California, you’ll want to go to the Board of Equalization.

Take note of the state sales tax rate, county sales tax rates, city sales tax rates, and sales tax exemptions. Check and see if your state offers an online “lookup sales tax by address” tool. And don’t forget to make sure you’re up-to-date on your state’s specific sales tax laws.

Many of these cites will also have small business learning resources about sales tax. Be sure to take advantage of the resources offered by each state.

Step 2: Register For A Sales Tax Permit

You’ll need to register for a sales tax permit everywhere you have a business nexus. To register for a sales tax permit, go to the appropriate tax agency.

Some states may charge a fee for a sales tax permit. Read this post, Which States Charge A Fee to Register for a Sales Tax Permit?, to get an idea of how much you’ll be expected to pay.

If you need additional help, TaxJar has a comprehensive How to Register for a Sales Tax Permit post where they break down the registration process state by state. The post covers how to apply, the information you’ll need to apply, the cost of the application, the state’s sales tax permit renewal policy, and more.

Step 3: Collect & Record Sales Tax

Once you’re officially registered to collect sales tax in a state, you can start collecting and recording sales tax. We recommend talking to your accountant about using accounting software to keep track of your sales tax records.

Accounting software can help you:

  • Keep good records
  • Charge sales tax to customers
  • Automatically calculate sales tax totals on invoices
  • Provide important sales tax reports

Many accounting software programs also integrate with key tax software players like Avalara and TaxJar.

If you need help deciding on an accounting software, check out the top-rated accounting software programs in our accounting comparison chart or visit our comprehensive accounting software reviews for more details.

Step 4: Pay Your Sales Tax

Depending on the state(s) in which you’re registered to collect sales tax, you may be paying your sales tax monthly, quarterly, or yearly. After you complete your Sales Tax Permit registration, you should receive information about when sales tax payments are due and where to go to make these payments.

If you are unsure, contact your state’s sales tax agency directly.

Final Thoughts

We know that was a lot of information, but sales tax is one topic you don’t want to play fast and loose with. That’s why, when it comes to sales tax, we recommend that you consult your accountant.

While online resources and accounting programs can help point you in the right direction, your professional accountant is the ultimate authority on sales tax. Your accountant knows how to properly prepare your small business to collect sales tax and will ensure that you’re charging the appropriate rate.

We hope this overview gives you a basic understanding of sales tax and a clear idea of how to get started collecting it. Best of luck and happy selling!

Chelsea Krause

Chelsea Krause is a writer, avid reader, and researcher. In addition to loving writing, she became interested in accounting software because of her constant desire to learn something new and understand how things work. When she’s not working or daydreaming about her newest story, she can be found drinking obscene amounts of coffee, reading anything written by C.S. Lewis or Ray Bradbury, kayaking and hiking, or watching The X-Files with her husband.

Chelsea Krause

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8 Alternative Crowdfunders To Fund Your Business

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alternative crowdfunders

When we survey the socio-economic landscape for entrepreneurs, two seemingly incongruous things stick out. First, recent economic data indicates that the rate of startup business creation in the US is near its 40-year low. Second, over this past decade — the very decade that has seen a nadir in entrepreneurship — young companies have raised billions of dollars from (mostly) ordinary people through crowdfunding campaigns. In fact, Kickstarter (the biggest rewards crowdfunding platform) has facilitated the raising of $3.4 billion since its birth in 2009.

From these facts, we can deduce that entrepreneurship is widely popular among Americans in 2017, if only as a spectator sport and not a participatory one. What also becomes clear is that people can be readily persuaded to financially support new businesses if they stand to benefit from that support!

If you’re building a new business at this moment in history, you may well be considering giving crowdfunding a go. You’ve probably heard of the “big three” crowdfunding giants: Kickstarter (see our review), Indiegogo (see our review), and GoFundMe (see our review). However, there are plenty of reasons why you might want to seek out an alternative crowdfunder. Maybe you’ve read accounts of how the process of crowdfunding on Kickstarter has become unduly influenced by investor-backed campaigns and crowdfunding agencies. Or perhaps you want to be able to offer rewards to your backers in a different way than the Big Three allow. Maybe you want to give people rewards on a continuing basis and not just once. Maybe you want to give donors equity in your company instead of a mere gadget or trinket.

The point is, there’s no one right way to do crowdfunding. Different crowdfunding platforms may have more to offer you than others, depending on your particular business type. The following alternative crowdfunders may help you tap the coffers of The Crowd in a different manner than the more established platforms.

Table of Contents

patreon

Perhaps it’s a bit of a stretch to refer to Patreon (see our review) as an “alternative” crowdfunder, considering their rising popularity and outsized public profile in the creative industries. However, their approach to crowdfunding still stands as unique. Patreon was founded in 2013 by a musician who was frustrated by the lack of ways for up-and-coming artists to effectively monetize their work. He saw his friends set up Kickstarter campaigns for support with one artistic project, then struggle to come up with a rationale to launch a second Kickstarter campaign for their next endeavor. Seeing an opportunity to offer a more rational crowdfunding model for creatives who release content continuously, he started Patreon.

Unlike Kickstarter and just about every other rewards crowdfunding platform, Patreon operates almost like a subscription service for artists and other content creators. People who like your work can sign up to financially support you on either a per-month or per-creation basis. In exchange, they get access to exclusive content that you make available only to your paying followers, whether it be an LP, drawings, videos, podcast episodes, or just about anything else under the sun.

Patreon takes 5% of the money you raise in fees, which is pretty much the standard rate in rewards crowdfunding. Unfortunately, an additional ~5% goes to the payment processor, which is more than Kickstarter’s payment processing fee rate of approximately 3%. For most creatives on the site, however, the convenience of not having to launch a whole new campaign for their every endeavor makes Patreon quite the cost-efficient prospect nonetheless. What’s more, Patreon is more relaxed than many crowdfunders when it comes to permitted content, allowing for a wider spectrum of expression than the competition. From the political irreverence of Chapo Trap House to the various hentai artists using the platform (not gonna include any links here, sorry), Patreon supports content creators other crowdfunders might shy away from.

Read my Patreon review if the idea of long-term crowdfunding sounds appealing.

fundrazr

You may not have heard of Fundrazr (see our review), but, as it happens, it is Canada’s largest crowdfunding platform. It might not have the name recognition of some of its larger competitors south of the 49th parallel, but this rewards crowdfunder has some distinct advantages for certain kinds of businesses.

First off, FundRazr doesn’t pre-screen campaigns before allowing them to fundraise, nor does it limit the duration of your campaigns. It also permits you to keep whatever you raise even if you don’t reach your funding goal. These are three things Kickstarter doesn’t allow. What’s more, FundRazr’s fees match those of most of the crowdfunding industry (5% to the platform with an additional ~3% for the payment processor), so you’re not paying extra for this flexibility.

Another unique feature offered by FundRazr is Crowdfunding As A Service. If you choose to use this, you can host funding campaigns on your own website, under your brand, not that of FundRazr. Essentially, this turns FundRazr into a white label crowdfunder. Hosting crowdfunding campaigns for people in your community under your business’s name can provide your brand with a nice image boost.

Check out our FundRazr review to see if what’s good enough for Canada is good enough for your business.

kiva logo

What if there were a way to get crowdfunded support for your business in the form of a loan instead of a gift premised on future rewards? What if I were to tell you that these loans come with 0% interest? Does this sound too good to be true? Well, Kiva U.S. (see our review) shows that this concept is indeed a reality.

Kiva U.S. is a nonprofit P2P (peer-to-peer) small business microlender whose funding campaigns resemble those of other crowdfunding sites, except in this case, your backers are lenders who chip in to offer you a loan. Kiva U.S. operates on the principle of “social underwriting,” meaning that your loan-worthiness depends not on your credit score (Kiva U.S. doesn’t even check your credit score) but on the trust of the community. The hope is that you’ll be motivated to stay in the good graces of the community, which is especially important if you decide to seek a second loan from said community!

Of course, you’re getting a loan, not a gift, so you’ll have to pay the money back if you don’t want Kiva telling the business credit agencies of your misdeeds. However, these loans carry no interest whatsoever. Neither are there any origination fees. You are only responsible for paying back the principal. You can raise as little as $25 to as much as $10K. For the right type of business, it’s a remarkable funding deal.

Read our Kiva U.S. review if the idea of interest-free loans for your business appeals to you.

crowdfunder

With the most generic name in the crowdfunding industry, Crowdfunder (see our review) is far from a generic crowdfunder. In fact, Crowdfunder is a pioneer in the field of equity crowdfunding. Equity crowdfunding is a form of investment in which your backers are investors who fund you in exchange for equity in your company, not gadgets or other exclusive content. Equity crowdfunding has only recently become legal thanks to the passage of the JOBS Act in 2012.

Crowdfunder lets you raise money from accredited investors (this term refers to people with high incomes and/or significant wealth and doesn’t necessarily denote any particular skill in investing). This is a crowd that likes to keep a pulse on the next big thing, so if your new business is one of the rare startups with exponential growth potential, Crowdfunder’s investors may well want to get in on the action.

Crowdfunder is unique in other ways as well. Crowdfunder doesn’t collect the funds pledged to your venture — you have to collect the funds offline from the investors themselves. Accordingly, neither Crowdfunder nor any payment processor takes a cut of what you raise. However, you will need to purchase a subscription package in order to fundraise on the platform. Crowdfunder’s monthly subscription packages start at $449 per month.

It’s not for everybody, but Crowdfunder’s unique flavor of equity crowdfunding holds great potential for the right kind of business. Read our Crowdfunder review for more information.

Ulele bills itself as the “the 1st European crowdfunding site” though they host campaigns from North America and Australia as well. Ulele strives to lend a human touch to rewards crowdfunding, offering personalized coaching to all Ulele project creators, which (according to Ulele) has produced a 68% funding success rate for projects on the site. Ulele claims that this is a “record rate among international mainstream crowdfunding platforms.”

Ulele maintains a consistently bright and cheerful feel throughout the site, and its focus is on fashion, design, games, music, and art. Ulele is worth considering as a crowdfunding platform if you have items of value to offer as rewards that might have a particular appeal to the European market, as Ulele is more of a known entity there. As for fees, Ulele charges 6.67% of all funds received by credit card and 4.17% of all funds collected via check or PayPal.

fundable

Fundable (see our review) is a hybrid crowdfunding platform in that its hosts both rewards- and equity-based crowdfunding campaigns. Not just anyone can start a campaign on this site — as with Kickstarter, Fundable pre-screens all campaigns to determine their suitability for crowdfunding. Another trait it shares with Kickstarter is the fact that the funding campaigns are all-or-nothing. If you don’t reach your funding goal, you collect $0, and you do not pass Go.

Instead of charging a platform fee on what you raise, Fundable charges a flat monthly fee of $179. Unfortunately, this means that you can end up in the red if your campaign doesn’t hit its marks. And while Fundable charges a fee of about 3.5% for payment processing for rewards campaigns, it does not do so for equity campaigns, because all payments are made offline from the investor to the campaigner in a Fundable equity campaign.

There’s something of an air of exclusivity around Fundable, but certain businesses may stand to benefit from this unique platform. For instance, you can start off with a Fundable rewards campaign, and if you’re successful, you can use your success to demonstrate the appeal of your product to investors and pivot to an Equity campaign without having to go to another service.

Check out our Fundable review if you’re intrigued.

wefunder

The other equity crowdfunding platforms I’ve covered thus far have been for accredited investors (i.e. rich investors) only. Wefunder (see our review) is different. It is, by a significant margin, the largest equity crowdfunding platform that lets non-accredited investors (everyone) invest in your business. Sometimes referred to as Regulation Crowdfunding, Wefunder is the one company that has figured out how to do it right.

Regulation Crowdfunding has only existed since May 2016, when the provision of the JOBS Act authorizing it finally took effect. It’s fair to say that the kinks are still being worked out. However, if you want to get in on this new field and feel like a pioneer, Wefunder is the platform to go with. It does charge $195 to launch your campaign, however. Wefunder also takes 7% of what you raise in fees. However, all payment processing fees are paid by the investors.

Read our Wefunder review if you want to get in on Regulation Crowdfunding.

kickfurther

So far, we’ve covered rewards crowdfunders, debt crowdfunders, and equity crowdfunders. However, Kickfurther (see our review) is difficult to even classify! Truly an alternative crowdfunder, Kickfurther is entirely unique in that instead of raising money in exchange for rewards or equity shares, you offer your backers the chance to purchase inventory on consignment. Your backers also get their own Kickfurther-branded online store in which they can sell your products.

It’s an odd arrangement, so I’ll try to explain it using an example. Perhaps the most prominent project on Kickfurther was the Vaportini, a weird alcohol vaporizing system. If you backed the project, you were offered a 16% return on your investment in the event that 88% of the inventory is sold. To be sure, it’s an odd system, but if you like the idea of having your backers help finance your inventory purchases and having some of them sell your product online, you might want to look into Kickfurther.

One caveat for backers: Kickfurther doesn’t appear to do a good enough job ensuring that backers get paid what they’re due. In fact, a comment was left on my review from one of the backers of the Vaportini, claiming that the company took their money and defaulted on the payback “with no enforcement, follow up, or communication from Kickfurther.” I found other reports from backers of Kickfurther projects with similar stories. Bottom line: Kickfurther may be an interesting prospect for businesses with unique products to sell, but backers have ample reason to be wary of the platform.

Read our Kickfurther review if you’re interested in crowdfunded inventory purchases and/or alcohol vaporizers.

Final Thoughts

I wanted to take you beyond the Kickstarters and Indiegogos of the crowdfunding world to show you some of the innovative — and sometimes downright bizarre — crowdfunders out there doing it their own way. There’s no “right” way to conduct a crowdfunding campaign. It all depends on the type of business you own and the sort of product, service or experience you have to offer. Know your options, then dive in and give it a shot!

Jason Vissers

Jason Vissers is a writer, cereal chef and Netflix aficionado from San Diego. A native Californian who enjoys the beach, Jason nonetheless prefers to do his surfing on the World Wide Web, the raddest wave of them all. Jason can’t eat raisins.

Jason Vissers

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Best PayPal Alternatives

PayPal alternatives for merchants

Thanks to its long-standing relationship with eBay, PayPal has become one of the most recognizable names in payments. And with over 165 million users, it’s got consumer trust. You don’t have to be an eBay seller to accept payments through PayPal — you can set up your own online store, open up a brick-and-mortar location, and even take payments on the go.

But should you? There are several advantage to PayPal, including the ease of setup and its accessibility. Unfortunately, it’s also known for placing holds on accounts if it gets even the slightest suspicion that not everything is hunky-dory. And its rates, while competitive among similar services, are not the lowest in the industry.

Are you a small merchant looking to get started quickly? Are you tired of your current processor and looking to switch to one that has fewer hoops to jump through?

Whether this is your first foray into merchant payments or you’re shopping around for PayPal alternatives, we’ve got you covered. Take a look at how PayPal stacks up against some of our other top-rated payment options, including other pay-as-you-go processors and some traditional merchant accounts, and see which one is best for you.

Don’t forget to check out the full reviews for each of these PayPal alternatives. Need help choosing a payments provider? We can help! Contact us here.

PayPal

Paypal-Logo-2015In our 2015 review of PayPal, we gave it 4 stars. We like PayPal. It’s convenient, trusted, and easy to use. However, we have a hard time endorsing PayPal as anyone’s standalone, sole payment option.

Pricing

There are no monthly charges or hidden fees with PayPal — you pay just 2.9% + $0.30 per swipe. Since there are no contracts, there’s no early termination fees. You also don’t pay any PCI compliance fees. If you use the PayPal Here mobile processor, you pay just 2.7% per swipe (excluding keyed/scanned transactions).

You can get volume discounts, too: At $3,000 per month, rates drop to 2.5% + $0.30; at $10,000 it falls to 2.2% + $0.30. If you process more than $100,000, you get to call 1-855-787-1012 and ask for special pricing.

If you need features beyond credit card processing (such as a virtual terminal to accept mail and fax orders), you can upgrade to a Pro account for $30 a month. However, those orders will process for a higher (and undisclosed) fee.

We like this setup — a lot. However, the flat fee still isn’t as transparent as an interchange-plus setup, nor as low.

Without a doubt, one of the most attractive features of PayPal is how quickly you have access to your money — it’s almost instantaneous. And if you have the PayPal debit card, you can spend that money anywhere you can swipe a card.

Customer Support: Fair

When it comes to any sort of payment processing, you need to know that there’s someone standing by who can help you when trouble arises. PayPal’s customer service can be spotty, but overall, we’d rate it fair.

The problem is in PayPal’s phone support. Sometimes your representative is competent, sometimes…not so much. The good news is that in a lot of cases, PayPal’s other resources, including its Quick Questions, Community Help Forum, and @AskPayPal Twitter account, can get you the answers you need, so you may not ever need to pick up the phone.

Reliability: Fair

PayPal lets just about anyone open up a merchant account and get approval very quickly. That makes it great for new businesses. It’s also a great solution when you don’t have the sort of volume that merits a traditional account. However, this “we welcome anyone” approach results in greater risk, and therefore a very active risk department dedicated to finding and stomping out fraud.

Paypal’s tendency to put holds on accounts or even terminate them isn’t as bad as some of the other pay-as-you-go processors (we’re looking at you, Stripe and Square), but it’s enough to earn just a “Fair” rating in the reliability department.

That said, PayPal is a spectacular backup, especially if you want to take payments on the go and your merchant account’s offering is a bit lacking. No monthly fees mean you aren’t losing money on a service you only use sporadically.

Integration & Implementation Options

With the basic PayPal account, you get your standard payment buttons and a variety of shopping cart integrations, including an in-house solution. However, your site will redirect your visitors to PayPal to complete the transaction. You can upgrade to the Pro account to get a hosted payment page on your own site along with PayPal’s virtual terminal for orders by mail, fax, and phone.

PayPal also offers one-touch checkout for in-app and web purchases.

We like that you can set up secondary accounts and set permissions. PayPal also equips you for recurring billing and handles customer information storage for you.

There’s also a substantial list of partners and integrations for you to choose from. You can check out the full list of PayPal partners here.

Other Features

We’ve already mentioned PayPal’s mobile reader, PayPal Here. You pay just 2.7% per swipe (or 3.5% for keyed-in transactions). The reader is free if you order it from PayPal; you can also buy it at a store and PayPal will reimburse you. We’re still waiting on details about PayPal’s EMV reader, but we’ll keep you updated before the big liability shift on October 1, 2015. We do know it’ll accept chip-and-pin cards as well as contactless payments (such as Apple Pay and Android Pay).

You can send invoices from PayPal — and you don’t pay until you get paid. Invoices run you 2.9% + $0.30. You can even send invoices from within the mobile app.

PayPal also offers special nonprofit pricing, at 2.2% + $0.30 per swipe and no monthly fee.

Payline Data

payline-data-logoPayline Data earned a perfect 5-star rating from us for its fair pricing on merchant accounts, and great  customer service — but on top of all that, we love its commitment to charitable giving. Payline donates 10% of its profits from your account to a nonprofit partner of your choosing.

Pricing

Payline Data uses an interchange-plus format on top of monthly fees. For small-volume processors, there’s the Simple plan; for higher volumes, the Pro plan.

Simple (Under $5,000 per month)

  • $5 monthly fee
  • Interchange + 0.50%
  • $0.10 per transaction

Pro (Over $5,000 per month)

  • $20 monthly fee
  • Interchange + 0.20%
  • $0.10 per transaction

The nice thing is, the $5,000 mark is the break-even point for both plans, so you’d pay exactly the same. If you come in under that $5k mark more often than not, go with the simple plan. If you go beyond the $5k regularly, go with the Pro plan.

We like that Payline makes your funds accessible within 24 hours. Next-day funding is the fastest you’re going to get apart from PayPal, so you really can’t do better if you need a merchant account.

Customer Support: Excellent

You can reach the Payline team by phone and email, but there’s also a substantial knowledge base if you’re more prone to solving the problem yourself. Overall, the team has really great reviews, as befitting a 5-star processor.

Reliability: Excellent

The complaints against Payline Data are virtually nonexistent, which is great to see. We have full confidence in the company’s ability to handle your business fairly, with minimal risk for a potential hold or freeze. (We hope you understand, no processor is immune to risk — and no merchant immune to a hold. However, traditional merchant accounts are less susceptible to risk than pay-as-you-go providers.)

Integration & Implementation Options

Payline makes it very easy for you to set up recurring billing for your clients. We also really like Payline Shop Professional ($79/month), which includes your merchant account, as well as a shopping cart, gateway, web hosting, a domain name and SSL security. As far as comprehensive eCommerce solutions go, this is spot-on. Comparable services through shopping carts will run you the same, or higher, and may not include everything that Payline does.

On its own, the Payline gateway is $10 per month. It supports a customer information vault as well as invoicing. There’s a virtual terminal, too. The virtual terminal allows you to use a USB swiper, although no USB chip card reader is currently available.

In addition, you’ll find payment buttons, tools for recurring billing, customer info storage, and fairly good support for third-party shopping cards as well as Payline’s in-house option. The one thing that’s lacking is a hosted payment page.

Other Features

If you need mobile processing, Payline again has two solutions. If you process less than $5,000 per month on the app, you get a Flint account. Flint uses your device’s camera to scan credit cards rather than swiping — there’s no reader required. Debit rates are just 1.95%; credit cards 2.95%. Above that $5k threshold, you should use the ROAMpay X Mobile app with Payline, which will support EMV when the switchover happens in October.

For retail shops, there’s an iPad POS through Vantiv Mobile Checkout as well, and that will run you $69 per month. You can accept Apple Pay transactions in store with a future-proof terminal (supporting EMV and NFC) and also integrate Apple Pay for in-app payments.

Payline stands out from the rest of the options in this list in part because it also offers high-risk processing. Merchants who operate in an industry that’s deemed high risk (such as antiques, how-to programs, and even selling on eBay), typically make merchant account providers — and pay-as-you-go solutions — skittish. A high-risk account means you pay more, but you’re far less likely to encounter those dreaded holds and freezes…or worse, an account termination.

In addition to allowing merchants to donate to a charitable partner, nonprofit organizations can set up accounts with Payline and get discounted rates. There’s also a Payline Commercial Co-Venture program: In essence, you refer clients to Payline, Payline will create a solution for them, and you get recurring donations to your organization.

CDGCommerce

cdgcommerce-logoWe like CDGCommerce, a traditional merchant account provider, quite a lot — enough to give it a perfect 5-star rating. However, the service is only available in the U.S., for merchants who sell primarily in the U.S.

Pricing

Head to the CDG site and you’ll find an advertised rate of 1.7% + $0.25 for payment processing (1.95% + $0.30 for online processing). However, if you visit the site through this link, you’ll also find a special rate offer for our readers: interchange plus 0.30% + $0.15. There’s no monthly minimum processing, and no ETF. (If you do ever want to cancel, you’ll have to follow the steps to provide proper notice of cancellation).

Beyond that, the only other fee you must pay is the $10 statement fee. There’s no PCI compliance, and the CDGcommerce gateway is free to use.  You can get volume discounts, but they’re not advertised. You’ll have to negotiate with CDG directly if you think you qualify.

Merchants will typically have funds deposited in their account within two days. That’s not as fast as PayPal, and slower than some other merchant account providers, as well.

Customer Support: Excellent

On top of the spectacular rates, CDGcommerce excels in the customer service department. You can get live chat, email, and phone support 24/7. The volume of BBB complaints against CDG is incredibly low, but what really sets this company apart is the fact that the CEO has actually responded to user complaints found on the Internet. The level of dedication to customers is outstanding.

Reliability: Excellent

As we’ve said, complaints against CDG are incredibly low. Every processor will occasionally face a situation where it must put a hold on a company’s account. However, everything we’ve seen indicates that CDG is careful to minimize these instances.

Integration & Implementation Options

CDG offers its customers a USB-based card reader. That means you don’t need a traditional credit card terminal, which is actually quite convenient. The USB readers do not support EMV, but we were told that the upgrade, when available, will be optional. (Go here to learn about EMV and your liability for processing cards when the new rules take effect October 1, 2015.)

And while we have repeatedly and vocally spoken out against terminal leases, here we have probably the best rental terms you can get: just pay $79 annually for insurance and return the device when you no longer need it. The terminal is EMV-ready and compatible with NFC payments, so unless you have a really good reason for sticking with USB, you should consider upgrading.

You can also have the company reprogram your existing terminals…for free.

CDGcommerce offers extensive reporting options, which we like to see. There’s also an optional  security service for $15 monthly, which includes $100,000 of data breach insurance —  a worthwhile investment.

With this provider you also get a virtual terminal to use with the Quantum gateway. There’s no payment buttons or in-house shopping cart. What’s interesting is that Quantum has a feature that lets it emulate an Authorize.net gateway, which ultimately increases your options for third-party shopping carts.

Other Features

For mobile processing, you get a free reader, which runs on CDG’s ProcessNow mobile app (available for Apple devices running iOS 7.0 and higher and Android devices running OS 4.0 and higher). Swipe rates for mobile are 1.70% + $0.25 per transaction (2.9% + $0.30 for keyed and other nonqualified transactions).

There’s no nonprofit pricing here. If you want to accept Apple Pay and other contactless payment methods, you’ll need the future-proof terminal.

We like that CDGcommerce helps merchant reduce the headaches that  come with dealing with chargebacks thanks to its Chargeback Defender, which lets you know about chargebacks pending — even before the fees are debited from your account. The platform also helps you rebut it and has a built-in tool to detect previously issued refunds, so that the funds aren’t deducted twice. It’s not something we see so openly advertised, and it’s a very useful tool.

PayJunction

PayJunction-logo-squarePayJunction is a 5-star processor for its customer service and reliability, but we also really like that it makes it easy for merchants to go paperless. It’s not just environmentally friendly; it’s easier for merchants to securely manage their records.

Pricing

We really like that PayJunction is another month-to-month service provider with interchange plus. There’s no ETF, no PCI compliance fees, and no charges for the gateway. However, if you process under $10,000 monthly, you can expect a $35 monthly fee. The gateway also includes check (ACH) processing at 0.75%.

For new processors, PayJunction offers interchange plus 0.75% — but established merchants may be able to get lower rates, as the company offers match or beat your existing rates. This isn’t uncommon in the industry, but most processors don’t meet our high standards for quality of service, too.

Admittedly, the 0.75% markup is high — but there’s no per-transaction fee, which could be a major benefit to small-ticket merchants.

Something else we definitely like: next-day deposits.

Customer Support: Excellent

You don’t get to be a 5-star processor without great service. PayJunction’s support options include its knowledge base, phone, and email. Something we haven’t seen here before is the option for remote support. Basically, it means that someone at PayJunction will remotely access your computer to either walk you through a process and show you what to do, or handle it for you. It’s actually a really useful tool.

Reliability: Excellent

Complaints about PayJunction are few and far between — and the ones you will find have been thoroughly addressed by a company representative. We like that. We can’t say that you won’t ever have an issue with PayJunction, but if you do, you can expect it to be handled quickly, fairly, and in-house.

Integration & Implementation Options

Among the many features available, PayJunction provides a hosted shopping cart for free, and it has good third-party integrations as well. We’ve already mentioned the free payment gateway/virtual terminal. You can also expect features for recurring billing info storage. Combined with the paperless feature and you really do have everything you need in a single browser-based interface. All that’s missing are payment buttons and a hosted payment page.

Other Features

A couple of noteworthy additional features: PayJunction’s customer management system, which serves as a directory for your clients and their information. It also lets you create groups of clients and account numbers.

PayJunction will also set you up with digital signature collection — by providing a signature capture device, the company really does allow you to go paperless. No reason to bother with signed receipts, ever again. For eCommerce and other card-not-present transactions, there’s email signature capture, where customers sign using their computer cursors.

PayJunction also lets merchants create teams and set permissions, which is always a handy feature to have.

If you need mobile processing, you can opt for PayJunction’s partner company, iPay. You’ll have to set up your gateway, and the app is only available for iOS devices — but it’s better than nothing. The mobile reader doesn’t support EMV.

You can get free equipment if you provide two months of billing statements — so in other words, this offer applies only to established merchants.

For EMV, you’ll need a traditional credit card terminal, but PayJunction stresses that for low-risk merchants, this upgrade is optional. The site actually has a very detailed explanation of EMV and how it affects merchants, which you can find here.

There’s no additional nonprofit pricing, but there is a feature you can set up on your site to accept donations.

Braintree

Braintree-payments-logoBraintree is actually a wholly owned subsidy of PayPal, picked up in 2013. For that reason, you’ll see a couple of similarities, as well as some noteworthy differences. While PayPal hovers at a 4-star rating, we wholeheartedly endorse Braintree with a perfect 5-star rating. This is another option that’s very developer-friendly, with a comprehensive suite of tools that make it easy to get started.

Pricing

This should come as no surprise (it’s a PayPal company), but Braintree’s fees are just 2.9% + $0.30. There are no fees, no contracts, nothing. If you process over $80K per month, you will likely qualify for a discounted rate. While not advertised, Braintree also offers interchange-plus pricing for some high-volume merchants.

Interesting to note, Braintree has an offer of $50k in free payment processing. There’s no contract, no deadlines, no monthly minimums. Seriously. Learn more here.

It bears mentioning that Braintree deposits take 2-4 business days (2 days for most cards; 4 days for American Express). That’s a bit longer than most of the other options here..

Customer Support: Great

Whereas PayPal’s customer service can be spotty, especially over the phone, Braintree has an outstanding reputation. The low volume of complaints against Braintree is astounding considering its size and its parent company. There’s a good knowledge base, but also solid phone support — and even a 24/7 emergency line. However, you won’t get as much personalized attention as the merchant account providers in this list.

Reliability: Excellent

The number of incidents we found of Braintree freezing accounts was exactly zero. The company also has a list of noteworthy clients and some pretty amazing customer case studies.

Integration & Implementation Options

Braintree offers an impressive array of features at no extra cost, including a marketplace solution, and a simple checkout option (PayPal actually built its One Touch feature on Braintree’s original offering).

Something else we really like is the fact that you can take your customer data with you if you ever decide to leave Braintree, which means your recurring billing won’t be interrupted.

What you won’t find are a virtual terminal, an in-house shopping cart, a hosted payment page, or payment buttons. However, Braintree does offer an impressive list of integrations for a variety of services, including shopping carts.

Other Features

Braintree’s v.zero SDK (software development kit) has Bitcoin and Apple Pay integration, both of which we like. You can also incorporate native in-app payments as well as a “check out with PayPal” option. However, Braintree doesn’t offer nonprofit pricing right now.

You’ll also have to look elsewhere for mobile processing — if you’d like to keep all the transactions in a single account, Inner Fence is your best option. Just provide a code to Inner Fence to link it with your Braintree account.

We gave Inner Fence 3.5 stars on our last review, mostly because we felt it under-delivered in some areas while over-delivering in others, creating an interesting dichotomy, to say the least. We also took issue with the pricing model. In addition to the fees you pay to Braintree, Inner Fence charges you a percentage of each transaction plus a monthly fee. A “Professional” account will run you $79 a month with a 0.9% transaction fee. That includes support for up to 10 terminals…but you get only one free card reader. With Braintree’s free $50k in processing we can almost say the cost might be worth it for low-volume merchants, but not really.

If you’re willing to forgo the convenience of all your funds going to the same account for the sake of better rates, here’s a great opportunity to try Braintree’s parent company offering, PayPal Here — or our top-rated mobile processor, Flint.

Stripe

Stripe-logoWe had high hopes for Stripe in our 2015 review update. However, what we found was enough to downgrade Stripe’s rating to 3.5 stars, so please bear that in mind. Whereas PayPal is a good option for anyone, Stripe is particularly suited to developers, with easy implementation for all sorts of eCommerce and Internet operations.

Pricing

Stripe’s pricing is on par with PayPal, at 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. There’s no monthly fees, there’s no ETF, no PCI compliance. The suite of tools Stripe offers — at no additional charge — is actually a huge value, especially for low-volume merchants.

You can get volume discounts (undisclosed rates) but to do so you need to process at least $80,000 per month.

As far as payment schedules are concerned, Stripe takes two days to deposit your funds in your account for US-based merchants. Canadian and Australian merchants have to wait four to seven days, and all other countries will be on a seven-day delay. Still, this is a major improvement over Stripe’s former deposit schedule, which was seven days across the board.

Customer Support: Poor

One of the sources of Stripe’s review score was its poor customer support. There were numerous complaints on our site and elsewhere from customers about their awful experiences. Stripe doesn’t offer any sort of phone support, just a knowledge base and a Freenode-based chat support (#Stripe).

Reliability: Poor

The other reason we downgraded Stripe’s rating was the reliability factor. The number of complaints about held funds (something we admit is common with this type of payment processor) rose dramatically. Access to your money is critical to a business, and nothing to mess around with.

Integration & Implementation Options

Stripe’s poor support is such a letdown because of how many other great features it offers — which we’ve said before are actually a solid value for the cost. Stripe gives you a hosted payment page through Stripe Checkout, as well as payment buttons, in-app payments, the ability to set teams and permissions, and even marketplace solutions. Checkout, as far as industry offerings go, is actually one of the best payment flow options out there.

There’s no virtual terminal, in-house shopping cart or payment buttons, but the third-party shopping cart integrations are great. Get the full list of integrations here.

Other Features

Stripe supports in-app Apple Pay integration, as well as BitCoin, both of which we like. There’s no nonprofit pricing right now, and no mobile processing.

If you want mobile processing, however, you’ll have to look at Inner Fence, and link your Stripe account. If you want to incorporate mobile payments and don’t want to deal with Inner Fence, allow us to point you at Flint, our 5-star rated option for mobile. You can also consider some of our other mobile options.

Quick Comparison

Paypal PaylineData CDGCommerce PayJunction Braintree Stripe
Monthly Fee $0 $20 $10 $0 $0 $0
Pricing 2.9% + $0.30 0.20% + $0.10 + interchange 0.30% + $0.15 + interchange 0.75% + interchange 2.9% + $0.30 2.9% + $0.30
Customer Service Fair Excellent Excellent Excellent Great Poor
Reliability Fair Excellent Excellent Excellent Excellent Poor
Gateway Payflow Payline Data Quantum PayJunction Braintree Stripe
Features
Virtual Terminal X X X X
Included Shopping Cart X X X
Hosted Payment Pages X X X X
Payment Buttons X X
Recurring Billing X X X X X X
Info Storage X X X X X X
Shopping Cart Compatibility Excellent Good Good Good Excellent Excellent
Availability
US X X X X X X
Canada X X X X
Mexico X X X
UK X X X
Europe X X X
Other X X X

Want More PayPal Alternatives?

PayPal has such great recognition and a solid suite of tools for newbie merchants that in some cases, it seems the obvious choice. However, if you’re like most merchants, you will eventually reach a point where you experience some major growing pains — or you might encounter the dreaded account hold. At that point, it’s time to start looking for a provider that can deliver what you want, and more importantly, what you need.

The list of PayPal alternatives doesn’t end with those mentioned in this blog post, of course. Even if they aren’t direct PayPal competitors, there are plenty of merchant account providers to choose from when your business is ready to graduate from a third-party payment processor like PayPal. Check out this handy chart of top-rated merchant account providers. Don’t forget to also look at our mobile processing options!

Need help deciding? Want to get the lowest rates? Contact us and we’ll help you sort out your options!

The post Best PayPal Alternatives appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Very Best POS Systems for Liquor Stores

liquor store pos

Bust out the lager, tepache, and plum wine—you’re opening a liquor store!

Discontent using the cheap beer and weak spirits of local supermarkets, you’ve finally made the decision enough is sufficient. Should you don’t bring some truly select fair for your town soon, surely the economy will collapse!

Okay, so perhaps I’m hamming up a little, but whether you’ve been swigging sake or downing daiquiris because the tender chronilogical age of twenty-one (or earlier—I won’t tell), you’re ready to become purveyor of nature’s nicest nectar and open a wine shop or liquor store. You’ve signed the lease, plastered within the holes within the wall, as well as built a countertop from wine casks to own place that charming, rustic feel. Now you just need your products and you’re all set, right?

No! You didn’t remember the most crucial element: an incredible reason for purchase system which will keep the store raking within the revenue lengthy enough to pass through across the family business for your great-grand son, little Jack Daniels.

Obviously, you can always fluked it and pick whichever POS system has got the lovliest name. I’ve always found ERPLY fun to state, and it’s an excellent software program, but it’s most likely not the best choice for the specific industry. Within my research, Revel Systems may be the only POS that goes far above for wine and spirits retailers. But I’m getting in front of myself.

First, If only to increase a disclaimer to my ever-mindful audience. The next details are relevant to individuals companies that sell alcohol among other products, however is not always written particularly on their behalf. I mean , that although systems like Revel and ShopKeep may be ideal for a bar, liquor store, wine shop, or perhaps a winery, they’re not guaranteed is the right fit for say a supermarket or perhaps a complete dine-in restaurant. But basically just ruled your company out, you’ve managed to get to this point. You may as well keep studying and get a couple of pointers.

That Which You&#8217ll Need

Nugget of Understanding 1: Naturally, using the consuming age set at twenty-one (criminal, I understand), you’re gonna need to make sure to verify a person’s age before you sell them all of your fine fair. Bloodstream exams are costly and just accurate within nine many years of the person’s actual age so you’re most likely likely to desire a POS system that prompts your cashier to determine the customer’s ID before finishing the transaction. Revel Systems provides the only software I possibly could find with this particular feature. Certainly one of their sales representatives even explained their next software update includes the opportunity to scan ID cards to make certain they’re authentic. Which means you can finally eliminate the alley behind your store from the hoodlums selling fake IDs from the back of the van.

Nugget of Understanding 2: Fortunately, America is really a democracy, and that’s great. Regrettably, democracies sex laws and regulations, and you will find numerous rules managing the distribution of alcohol. For instance, you need to be in a position to track and report all the alcohol based drinks that get to your store, together with where they originated from. As well as, if some college kid is tossing the greatest party because the finish of prohibition and buys twenty wine gallons or even more previously, you need to record the date of purchase, the kid’s address and name, how and what much he bought, and also the serial figures associated with a full installments of distilled spirits. So therefore it may need robust reporting functions and ideally, a way to trace your clients as well as their purchases. This can require good accounting programs, preferably integrated into the POS. Again, Revel’s got all you need here: excellent reporting and inventory management functions, integrations with QuickBooks and Xero, as well as an integration with ShipCompliant—a compliance keeper that enables you to maintain on all of the industry-specific shipping rules.

Nugget of Understanding 3: Though I’m unwilling to compare your relationship together with your employees to that particular from the U.S. and Soviet Russia, the Russian/Reagan proverb “trust, but verify” works pretty much here. Sure, you’d prefer to believe the employees will be honest and ethical when they walk-through the doorway and don their multi-colored aprons (or whatever your store uniform winds up being), but this isn’t always the situation. Fortunately, most POS systems (including Revel) come outfitted having the ability to assign unique pins or swipable cards to employees. With this particular feature, you are able to track individual employees’ voided transactions, refunds, exchanges, comps, or other questionable actions. Obviously, you could designate permissions for the employees, only letting them perform certain functions inside the system. Like a bonus, Revel also enables integrations with DTT video surveillance to be able to compare questionable transaction records using the live video feed. Simply to make certain little Jack isn’t getting greedy.

Nugget of Understanding 4: I’d be darned basically didn’t mention this last nugget, though it’s not specific to simply liquor stores and wine shops. More essential than other things is selecting an excellent POS that functions well throughout. Yes, Revel is impressive using its fancy sales tracking and handy-dandy customer stalking abilities, however it has additionally been vetted and well accepted by a large number of users. I’ll admit that it’s got a bit of issues with customer care, which is actually a huge a part of any software company, but no product will probably be perfect. Overall, it’s among the best systems you’ll find for the particular kind of company. But if it’s wrong for you personally, ShopKeep and Bindo are a few high-ranking systems too. Sure, they don’t have as numerous features, but ShopKeep has won awards because of its customer support and Bindo has probably the most advanced inventory systems I’ve seen. So heck, be picky. In the end, the client is definitely right which time, you’re the client.

What We Should&#8217ve Learned

It’s time to locate a POS that can take the job from working. Let Revel help remind you to definitely make sure that college kid&#8217s ID which help you keep an eye on all individuals nitty-gritty details. Like I stated, our democracy loves documents and thus do great POS systems. Revel&#8217s excellent reporting functions, software integrations, and customer tracking features will make certain that you can maintain all individuals distribution and shipping rules. But your greatest priority is to locate a system that&#8217s best for you, even when it isn&#8217t Revel, ShopKeep, or Bindo.

Look for a system which will expand your market achieve with online store integrations. Bring your advertising campaign one stage further with advanced customer tracking and CRM software. Offer coupons, gift certificates, and niche discounts. Decide on a company which will try everything they are able to to make certain little Jack Daniels will get the opportunity to run his great-grandpappy’s store at some point.

If you’ve found an excellent system, share it around inside a comment below. Otherwise, tell us, and our experts can help you get the best POS for the business. In almost any situation, decide to open shop As soon as possible.

The publish The Very Best POS Systems for Liquor Stores made an appearance first on Merchant Maverick.

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POS 101: Customer Engagement

customer engagement

Like a merchant, you&#8217ve had a tough job. I certainly don&#8217t envy because you not just manage the employees, upkeep your inventory, in some way understand profits data, settle the bills, and make certain your establishment doesn&#8217t burn down, but additionally convince prospective customers to complete their shopping at the store before competing companies can perform it first. It&#8217s a constant fight, also it&#8217s definitely not one you ought to be trying to defend myself against alone. Obviously, you&#8217ve got staff there to assist you with a few things, but it’s also wise to understand that your POS system can help. With the proper software, you won&#8217t just have the ability to process sales, you&#8217ll have the ability to engage your clients inside a significant and financially advantageous way.

Below would be the primary ways your reason for purchase solution can be just like advantageous towards the customer engagement process because the face-to-face interactions you&#8217ll have together.

Centralization

Getting a POS with customer engagement features means that you&#8217ve taken a measure nearer to an exciting-in-one POS solution. An growing quantity of solutions are including CRM abilities and there are many great integrations for general CRM management, or&#8211more particularly&#8211email marketing and loyalty rewards programs. That&#8217s really what we should&#8217re targeting here, right? The opportunity to perform all your business functions from one system. Because of latest technological advances, customers now anticipate an efficient and seamless purchasing process, usually by means of personalized rewards programs, targeted upselling, and mix-selling. The very best way of streamlining the purchasing process is as simple as keeping detailed records of past purchases. Getting these details nearby enables sales associates to create suggestions on upgrades and extra products according to customer&#8217s buying history. This sort of targeted up- and mix-selling is most frequently seen when customers are making purchases online. You take in it constantly on sites like Amazon . com with &#8220Customers also bought&#8230&#8221 and &#8220Similar products&#8230&#8221 written alongside a particular listing of items that would be the probably to attract the person buyer.

The purpose of all of this is that if you&#8217re attempting to patch together the information from multiple different systems (i.e in case your POS and customer management program aren&#8217t integrated), you&#8217re not going to achieve the real-time data essential to provide the stream-lined, personalized experience customers have started to expect. Retail reason for purchase systems like Quetzal perform a particularly good job of leveraging data, with modules that evaluate a person&#8217s purchase background and create word clouds to visually represent which products the client buys regularly (and which products are infrequently purchased). Which means that for those who have an affiliate around the sales floor by having an iPad, all they require is really a customer&#8217s name plus they&#8217ll know precisely what will sell without all of the speculation. With personalized email promotions, even when they display the particular promotions that will attract a particular customer group, you’ll still finish up getting to coax people into the store as you don&#8217t possess the real-time data while they’re physically sitting on profits floor. Centralization of the data, therefore, is a vital part of the customer engagement process, which makes it even more crucial that your CRM module is either integrated together with your POS or built into the software.

The Cloud

To profit fully in the ease of an exciting-in-one POS, you&#8217ll most likely need to get confident with the thought of housing your computer data around the cloud.

The type of ease of access and mobility that enables you to definitely most effectively target your clients includes cloud-based instead of in your area-installed POS solutions. Thinking about constantly, space, and cash you need to sacrifice purchasing and looking after bulky hardware, a legacy system simply isn&#8217t worthwhile. You can on the advantages of a cloud system here, however the primary point, especially when it comes to customer engagement, is the fact that if you wish to remain competitive and purchase a forward-thinking POS with easy ease of access to sales and customer information, you&#8217re likely to want to consider a cloud-based system.

Tracking Purchases

It might appear just like a pretty fundamental feature, although not all POS solutions are in the stage where they are able to track a person&#8217s buying habits. You&#8217re likely to want to consider an answer which goes beyond just demonstrating which products sell probably the most. You can uncover that certain you will find the information essential to point your clients within the right direction, the inventory that doesn&#8217t be as good at this time turn into a wellspring of revenue. It just takes some targeted selling and a few proper promotions.

I&#8217ve already covered the truth that knowing an individual&#8217s purchase history creates more possibilities for mix-selling and upselling, however, you&#8217ve also reached make sure to reward individuals extra purchases with loyalty programs. I understand when I&#8217m searching for any good meal and I’ve got a whole choice of restaurants decide from, I&#8217m going to choose the one which thanks me for arriving with a few points on my small rewards card. (And when I&#8217ve got individuals points on my small card, you realize I&#8217m going to return in order to rely on them on my small next meal.) It&#8217s fairly fundamental psychology, but surprisingly couple of establishments are benefiting from the idea&#8211especially small companies, who may benefit probably the most. Possibly it&#8217s because retailers think that a loyalty rewards program is really a luxury for individuals with costly, high-finish POS solutions. Well, that&#8217s simply not the situation. Many of the greatest-ranking POS systems we&#8217ve reviewed&#8211including individuals targeted at promising small to mid-sized companies&#8211include CRM abilities and some type of reward program. Really, the toughest part of the process is deciding which of those many great systems works good for you.

eCommerce

Another element to think about whenever you&#8217re searching into customer engagement is if you need to offer some type of online store or online ordering system. eCommerce is becoming more and more necessary due to the quantity of ease of access and personalization that consumers have become accustom. Furthermore people require that you offer the opportunity to browse your whole inventory and process purchases without departing their houses, they also require that you cause them to these products they didn&#8217t know they wanted. I designed a reference above to how Amazon . com accomplishes this task, but another site which has even more effectively capitalized about this trend is YouTube. People can spend hrs lost within the greatest, darkest areas of YouTube, in the dark about the way they arrived, due to the listing of related videos enticingly displayed directly near the primary display. With each and every click on the consumer states, &#8220I didn&#8217t know I needed to look at this, however I actually do.&#8221 With every click, YouTube reels in additional cash. The entire point would be to engage your customer in a manner that&#8217s going to ensure that they’re in your site as lengthy as you possibly can, going through these products they are likely to purchase. But to do this, you need to produce a tempting online store, so it seems sensible to consider a POS that accommodates some type of eCommerce integration.

Digital Receipts

Digital receipts have grown to be an more and more popular option, and they’re yet another means of engaging your clients inside a potentially rewarding way. When that evidence of purchase turns up inside a customer&#8217s inbox, you&#8217ve got another chance to coax them into returning with some type of coupon or promotion, or perhaps direct them aimed at your website to make use of what exactly they simply earned to buy another thing.

Despite a printed receipt, there&#8217s lots of space to incorporate a plug for something new or perhaps a Springbreak promotion. The only real caveat is you be sure that your POS really enables you to definitely personalize your receipts in this manner. Most systems enables you to personalize your receipts in certain capacity, however, you&#8217ll wish to make certain to inquire about not only &#8220Can I personalize my receipts?&#8221 whenever you&#8217re searching to buy a brand new reason for purchase. Because as the answer might be &#8220Yes,&#8221 that doesn&#8217t let you know regardless of whether you can really determine what to incorporate, or you&#8217re only permitted to place your emblem at the very top.

Hardware

Selecting the kind of hardware you’ll need inside your store may appear pretty unrelated to customer engagement, but there’s a couple ways in which getting the best hardware might help your customer retention. Probably the most subtle ways the peripherals you select can impact the way in which your clients feel is by general appearance. Should you&#8217re a sleek, new-agey tech store in New You are able to, however, you&#8217re sporting a bulky system that can take up half your counter and it has a tangle of wires protruding in the back, you&#8217re less inclined to have as numerous customers even achieve the register. Exchange that monstrous PC for any tablet by having an stand made to hide the wires connecting for your charge card readers and funds drawer, and also you&#8217ll be amazed the amount of a positive change you will notice. You could also would like to try purchasing a stand that swivels so that you can turn your screen around when the client must sign for any purchase.

Really, customer-facing checkout screens are recognized to reduce to transaction mistakes and may therefore help eliminate annoying returns and exchanges. You can even give a kiosk so customers can check themselves out (as if you see in certain supermarkets). Or you own some type of appointment-based business, you can generate a kiosk that enables people to sign in for appointments (or possibly book future ones).

Should you&#8217re running an restaurant, digital menu boards may be something to think about. They create it simpler to change rapidly between breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus, especially since they may be automated which means you don&#8217t need to make the modification by hand. You&#8217ll wish to be careful when making them, though, since i&#8217ve seen some menus because of so many moving parts they finish up being more distracting than useful.

Integrations

Like I pointed out before, CRM and e-mail marketing integrations are essential to think about since they will supply you with a whole slew of features along with a way of reaching your clientele that the POS system might not be outfitted to provide. An growing quantity of systems are providing rewards, e-mail marketing, customer profile management, as well as social networking integrations, however the primary purpose of a POS continues to be to process transactions. You&#8217ll want to understand what your POS solution can and may&#8217t do with regards to customer engagement, and understand which you may require an extra integration to make certain you engage as numerous current and prospective customers as you possibly can.

Final Ideas

That last factor I&#8217ll give you is one thing I came across from studying Forbe&#8217s article on driving customer engagement. Basically, one area of the article details how negative customer comments isn&#8217t always a poor factor. I understand that the couple bad reviews on Yelp can definitely hinder a great business, also it&#8217s tempting either to retaliate by having an equally scathing response or slink away bitterly and hope Yelp goes bankrupt, but this isn’t the easiest method to cope with negative feedback. Actually, one business made the decision to embrace the negative reviews they received and found their most loyal customers switched to be individuals who’d problems the company labored to solve.

The simple fact is the fact that customer support is among the most direct types of customer engagement and it is frequently one way your organization&#8217s brand is fleshed out. Are you currently somebody that is grateful that attention has been attracted to problems and works positively to solve them, or are you currently interested in retaining those who you never need to communicate with? Turn individuals negative Yelp comments right into a way of garnering a bigger and much more loyal clientele base.

Even though you&#8217re doing that, make certain you think about all of the facets of customer engagement whenever you&#8217re picking out a POS system. Your ideal solution will be able to not just track the data you should know regarding your customers, but in addition helps you really engage them within the purchasing process. Should you&#8217re unsure how to pull off look for a system that does the thing you need it to complete, tell us. We&#8217re willing to lend you our expertise.

The publish POS 101: Customer Engagement made an appearance first on Merchant Maverick.

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Shopify vs Square

shopify-vs-square
Square is probably the most comprehensive free mPOS app out there. It was really the first company to make card processing widely available to everyone using just a free card reader and a smartphone.

Shopify launched in 2006 as e-commerce software. Like Square and mobile payments, Shopify has made selling online much easier for merchants, especially those who are just starting out with their business.

Not only that, both companies have since branched out considerably. Square now offers a comprehensive suite of business products for merchants who want to sell in store, online, and on-the-go. And Shopify has branched out from e-commerce with a powerful POS system and its own payments service, so merchants don’t need to have a merchant account.

The result is that two services that started off catering to very different audiences now have very similar offerings. Square and Shopify both have powerful POS apps targeted for iPads, a mobile solution, and multiple e-commerce options. Both give you tools you need to run a brick-and-mortar shop beyond just a POS app. 

Their card processing rates are also identical, with a couple of important caveats. The first of these is that Square and its POS app, Square Register, are completely free, while Shopify will charge you a baseline monthly fee, plus the credit card fees, plus additional fees for add-ons. The second of these caveats is that if you opt for higher-priced packages, you can also get lower processing rates.

Square is still the better option for merchants who only process credit card payments sporadically (such as artists who vend at conventions and art shows), because there’s no monthly fee. If your e-commerce site only gets a little traffic and your sales are infrequent, you’re better off using Square as well. But if your online sales are good enough to justify the added cost, Shopify has some very nice features and stunning themes for your store.

So what if you sell online and in-store, or on the go? The answer isn’t quite as clear-cut.

As a merchant, which one should you choose? Which service is the better value? Which has the best features? That depends largely on your own particular situation. Read on for a detailed comparison and find out which service comes out on top in the Shopify vs. Square debate.

Products and Services:

Winner: Shopify

Bear with me, but there’s a LOT to discuss here. Let’s look at each of the core offerings — POS app, payment processing, and e-Commerce, and see how they stack up individually.

POS App

Shopify’s POS used to be strictly for iOS, but as of January 2016, the app is now available for Android smartphones and tablets, too. Square, too, supports your choice of Android and iOS devices. However, to make the best use of either app, you need an iPad, as many of the best features are only available there. You’ll also find that you can use the app on any number of devices without needing to pay for additional license fees (but you won’t be able to differentiate among employees without paying for that feature).

Shopify POS Features:

  • Accept all forms of payment: Credit card, debit card, cash, check, and other customized payment methods — even Bitcoin.*
  • Split tender: This is useful and you can actually accept more than just 2 payment forms on a transaction.
  • Discounts: Apply discounts on individual items or on the whole order, by percentage or dollar amount.
  • Store credit: The only fault with the store credit option is that there’s really no accountability in it. You can simply mark a payment as paid via store credit, with no need for proof of it at all. Still, this is a useful feature.
  • Reporting: Track sales, compare how products are selling, monitor traffic to your store, customer data, and more. With the higher-tiered plans you can even built custom reports. Data can be exported to CSV, as well.
  • Item limits: The limit on the number of items you can include in Shopify POS depends on which device you’re running the app from. Also note that you can choose to hide or delete items depending on what you need. However, your Shopify store can have unlimited items and you don’t need to sync them all with your POS unless you want to. (It’s worth noting that you can’t actually make updates to items in Shopify POS, only through the browser interface.)
  • Item variants: Set different colors/styles/pricing for your various items.
  • Syncing: Shopify automatically syncs inventory and product information across all your sales channels.
  • Email/print receipts: Send digital receipts, or if you have an iPad and Shopify’s retail package, print them out.
  • Inventory: Shopify’s inventory features are pretty impressive. In addition to tracking your stock levels across every channel where you sell, you can print barcodes, manage products you order from suppliers and automatically update inventory counts, and more. You won’t get low-stock alerts without an add-on, though.
  • Employee accounts: In a retail setup, knowing who is ringing up sales is especially important. With Shopify’s retail package, you can assign individual staff PINs, track register shifts and sales, and more.
  • Invoicing: Shopify actually has a simple form you can fill out to auto-generate an invoice. You can email it to customers, save it, or print it out.
  • Full/partial refunds: Issue a refund or issue store credit.
  • Gift cards (iPad only): You can only get gift cards if you opt for the Standard plan or higher. However, you can sell physical and digital gift cards.
  • Offline capabilities: You can’t log in during an outage, but if you are already logged in you can still accept payments other than credit cards. This is very limited functionality, but it could get you through an outage mostly fine.
  • Auth-capture: You can pre-authorize a transaction for 7 days in Shopify, which isn’t the longest period of time we’ve seen, but absolutely workable if you need this feature.
  • Tax rate calculation: Shopify will auto-detect your tax rate based on your store’s location (if using the POS), or based on your shipping zones for eCommerce. Shopify doesn’t calculate tax for international orders. However, Shopify does generate tax reports for you if you have Shopify Standard or higher. You can also set up tax overrides for entire collections of products or individual products (or product variants, such as digital books vs print editions). Just remember to confirm that Shopify’s tax rate is correct when you get started.
  • Loyalty programs: This is not a native feature to Shopify. If you want a loyalty program, you’ll have to start looking at apps in the Shopify ecosystem and find one that works for you. There’s at least 1 free program, but the more advanced systems will cost you more.

*Shopify POS lets you connect external terminals and third-party payment providers, which may cost you more. 

Square Register Features: 

  • Accept credit card payments: You can also log cash and check transactions, but this feature isn’t nearly as robust as Shopify’s.
  • Split Tender: Accept cash and card, or cash and check, or check and card.
  • Discounts: Apply discounts on individual items or on the whole order, by percentage or dollar amount.
  • Reporting: Square’s reporting features are pretty solid, but they’re not quite on the same level as Shopify’s. Still, Square’s reporting will cover all the basics and does have some advanced filters so you can customize the data.
  • Item variants: Set different colors/styles/pricing for your various items.Square prefers to call these “price points” and you can track them in inventory. You can also add item modifiers, which are add-ons that don’t affect your inventory counts, though restaurants are far more likely to use this feature than retail shops.
  • Syncing: Square’s inventory feature will automatically sync across your online store and Square Register, and you can view it in the online dashboard.
  • Low-stock alerts: Square will send you daily email alerts for low- or out-of-stock products. Being able to get a daily alert is very useful for busy merchants, especially because Square lets you set the threshold for low-stock alerts.
  • Email/SMS/print receipts: Send digital receipts via email or SMS, or if you have an iPad, print them.
  • Inventory: Square has a solid free inventory management system, but you can also integrate with Stitch Labs and other inventory services.
  • Employee accounts:You can use Square on any number of devices, but if you want employee accounts, multiple permissions, and timekeeping, you’ll need to sign up for Square’s employee management ($5 per employee per month)
  • Invoicing: Send invoices from within Square Register or online.
  • Full/partial refunds: Pretty self explanatory here.
  • Gift cards: No subscription required, no redemption fees. Just pay the cost of the cards themselves, and load them up on demand. Note these are physical cards only, but you can use them online.
  • Offline capabilities: Square’s Offline Mode is actually one of the most powerful I’ve seen. You can still process credit cards during an outage, and they’ll go through so long as you connect to the Internet within 72 hours. The caveat, of course, is that you’re assuming responsibility for any transactions that don’t go through.
  • Tax features: You can disable or enable tax collection with Square, and set price to include tax, or have it added on separately. As with Shopify, you can enable or disable tax on specific items. However, there’s no auto-detect feature, so you need to manually look up your applicable tax rates.
  • Loyalty programs: For $25/month you can add a punch-based customer loyalty program. All consumers have to do is opt for a digital receipt. You can set the purchase requirements to earn a reward (Which could be a free item or a discount). It’s not the most advanced system, but it’s still pretty flexible.

Square also has a host of features/subscription services targeting restaurants and other service-based companies, none of which you’ll find in Shopify. This includes kitchen ticket printing, adding tip (by percentage or dollar amount), appointment booking, delivery services, and much more.

All in all, though, the two POS systems are about evenly matched. Shopify is more robust in most areas, such as its support for many payment methods and store credit, whereas Square shines with the simple things, like supporting SMS receipts as well as email, low-stock alerts, and its offline mode.

Card Processing

Shopify and Square are both aggregators — that means, when you sign up to process payments through either of them, you don’t get your own merchant account; your transactions are simply lumped in with everyone else’s. Shopify actually processes through Stripe Payments.

Aggregating is what has lead to the common complaints you get about Square holding funds or terminating accounts at random. Shopify generally appears to be more stable, which is good given that Stripe also has a reputation for funding holds and account terminations. However, I was still able to find a few complaints about account holds — I wouldn’t say Shopify is immune, but it does a lot better on the stability front. Most of those holds happen when merchants suddenly fall within Shopify’s requirements for 1099-K reporting.

We’ll look at specific processing rates later on, but for now, here’s what you need to know:

Shopify will let you use its Payments service at no extra charge beyond your swipe fees and monthly service charges. If you choose to use a third-party gateway (PayPal, Braintree, your own merchant account, etc.), you’ll be charged an extra 0.5-2% transaction fee. Note that you get a choice of more than 70 gateways, which is quite impressive. There’s no charge at all for accepting cash, check, or alternative payment methods (such as Bitcoin) using the POS app.

Square will lock you into using its service for payments. You’ll pay standard rates for credit card processing, and nothing for accepting cash and check. However, you can’t set up any other alternative payment methods and log them using Square (unless you want to mark them as cash/check).

Shopify has the advantage in terms of sheer versatility. I like that you can process through a third party and even connect terminals and PIN pads (allowing you to get interchange rates for debit, if your processor offers them), but a 2% transaction fee is high, especially for a small merchant. However, if you don’t need all the bells and whistles, Square is a solid option for payments. You’re covered for all the basics and you know exactly what you’re going to pay for each transaction, every time.

Both Shopify and Square now have APIs that allow you to build payment processing into your own apps as well.

eCommerce

Shopify started as an eCommerce product, and it’s stayed true to that idea with robust shopping cart software and an easy-to-use design that even newbies to selling online can handle. Features include:

  • Hosted site: Shopify provides hosting for your site with unlimited bandwidth and unlimited products.
  • Domains: Use your shopify hosted domain only, purchase a domain through Shopify and set up a redirect, use an existing domain with a redirect, or buy your own domain and set up the redirect. There are a lot of options.
  • Buy buttons: Even if you don’t have shopping cart software set up on a site, you can use Shopify’s buy buttons to enable purchases on the web, or in an app, or via email with the Buy Button feature.
  • Sell on social media: With Shopify you can set up a store directly on Facebook, and also sell on Twitter and Pinterest.
  • Abandoned cart recovery: Millennials are especially guilty of cart abandonment but with this feature, you can win them back. Only available for Shopify Standard and up.
  • Store migration: Making a switch? Use one of Shopify’s third-party add-ons to migrate your store from eBay, Amazon, and Magento without having to manually upload all of your products.
  • Import/export via CSV: Add your products to your store using Shopify’s CSV template.
  • Automatic data sync: Inventory is automatically updated and synced across all your sales channels, including your POS and social media.
  • Reporting: We’ve mentioned this already, but it bears repeating that you get some solid reporting features and can separate data by sales channel.
  • Order management: Shopify has some comprehensive order management tools that work in the app as well as through the dashboard. You can also get integrations to help with it.
  • Third-party integrations: There are a LOT of integrations out there for Shopify (just check out the app store). Some are free, some will cost you. But in addition to your standard accounting, inventory, and order management integrations, you can opt for a Fulfillment by Amazon integration and recurring billing/layaway services.
  • Discounted postage rates: Postage can be one of the biggest expenses for online shop owners, but if you print your postage through Shopify, you can get a discount. The higher-tiered packages give bigger discounts.
  • Many themes: Design-wise, Shopify gives you a huge selection of store themes and you can even customize them further if you have programming knowledge.

Square’s eCommerce support initially felt more like an after-thought. It was very limited, but lately the company has really expanded its offerings, which makes me happy.

  • Hosted site: Square will give you a webstore on its own domain. This feature is pretty limited, but it’s a great starter site and there’s no monthly cost.
  • Domains: You can also integrate your store with Weebly, Bigcommerce, or Ecwid. 
  • Import/export via CSV: Get your online store loaded up quickly, or update your inventory counts en masse. Also helpful for migrating stores.
  • Automatic data sync: Inventory is automatically updated and synced across your online store and the Register POS.
  • Reporting: All of your data is available and can be downloaded from the Square dashboard.
  • Third-party integrations: Square’s list of integrations includes some robust inventory and order management tools. There’s a custom API you can use to create your own.
  • Order management: You can manage your orders through Square’s online dashboard, but not in the app. Integrations can extend the functionality.

Shopify offers far more eCommerce features, but it’ll be interesting to see what Square does in the future. It’s also worth mentioning that if you opt to integrate your existing site with Square, you’re going to get the benefits of whatever shopping cart software you choose, so even if Square lacks a feature you need, you might be able to get it another way.

Compatible Hardware:

Winner: Shopify

Both Square and Shopify offer a range of hardware options, from free credit card readers to full-fledged retail kits with everything you need for a conventional register setup.

At the very least, you’re going to need a card reader to use with your smartphone or tablet. You have a couple different options there:

Shopify Card Reader Options:

  • Magstripe reader: Free
  • EMV/NFC reader: $129 (retail: $149)
  • Lightning magstripe reader: $99 (includes charging capabilities)
  • Third party terminals and PIN pads: $199 and up

Square Card Reader Options: 

  • Magstripe reader: Free
  • EMV/Magstripe reader: $29
  • EMV/NFC reader: $49 (includes free magstripe reader)
  • EMV/NFC reader with PIN pad: $129 (iOS only)

That’s just for the basic setup for smartphones or tablet. If you happen to have an iPad, you can take advantage of both services’ more advanced features (such as receipt printing), but you’ll need more hardware. Both provide ready-to-go retail bundles that you can use to set up your register.

Shopify Retail Kit

A bundled, ready-to-go retail kit from (excluding your tablet) costs $779. That includes:

  • iPad stand (retail price $129)
  • Bluetooth receipt printer ($399)
  • 16-inch cash drawer ($139)
  • EMV/NFC card reader ($139).

You can also purchase each piece of hard hardware separately, but buying the bundle will save you about $25. Other available hardware includes:

  • Barcode reader ($229/$399)
  • Barcode dock ($79)
  • Barcode printer ($119)
  • EMV/NFC reader dock ($39)
  • Cash drawers ($139-$349)

Square Retail Kit 

Square offers a few options for retail kits that range from $486 to $659, depending on your tablet (it even offers kits for select Android tablets. The iPad Air kit, which is $659, includes the following:

  • Square stand ($99)
  • USB receipt printer ($299)
  • Bundle of receipt paper ($49)
  • 16-inch cash drawer ($229).

Note that doesn’t include an EMV-compliant card reader (the Square Stand has a basic built-in magstripe reader), which will add $29 to $129 to the cost, depending on which EMV reader you want. You can add an iPad Air for $399, as well.

Something worth noting is that Square does not officially support bar code printers, whereas Shopify does. Some Square users have had luck with a Dymo printer, but there’s absolutely no guarantee.

Other available hardware includes:

  • Barcode scanner ($199)
  • EMV/NFC reader dock ($29)

Square actually offers a selection of both wireless and Ethernet-based receipt printers, as well as a kitchen receipt printer, and multiple cash drawers. With Shopify, there’s only one receipt printer but you do get multiple cash drawers.

It really comes down to your person needs. I like that Shopify’s kit includes an EMV card reader by default, because it is very important for businesses to transition over to accepting the new chip cards. It’s a nice thought that Square includes receipt paper, but I think an EMV reader is a lot more important.

Fees and Rates:

Winner: Square

At first glance, Shopify and Square appear to have identical pricing: 2.7% for swiped transactions and 2.9% + $0.15 for online transactions. Simple, right?

However, that doesn’t account for Shopify’s monthly fee or its retail add-on package, or the transaction fees if you choose another payment processor. Depending on which features you need, the cost of Shopify can really start to add up over time, especially with add-ons. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you should look closely at your budget and projected sales to see if you can justify the expense.

Square Fees

Square will charge you $0 in monthly fees, PCI compliance, etc. You will pay nothing beyond the credit card transaction fees unless you opt for one of the add-on services (appointment booking, email marketing, employee time management/payroll). It really, really is that simple.

  • Credit card fees: 2.7% swiped, 3.5% + $0.15?? keyed, 2.9% + $0.30 eCommerce.

Shopify Fees

There are four Shopify plans. As you can expect, with higher-tiered plans, you get a greater number of features. Check out the Shopify pricing page for a full breakdown of features:

Shopify Lite ($9/month) 

  • Facebook store
  • Buy buttons
  • Shopify POS
  • Invoicing
  • 24/7 support
  • Credit card rates: 2..7% swiped, 2.9% + $0.30 eCommerce

Shopify Basic ($29/month)

  • 2 staff accounts
  • 24/7 support
  • Online store + blog
  • Discount codes
  • Fraud analysis
  • Sell on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest
  • Credit card rates: 2..7% swiped, 2.9% + $0.30 eCommerce

Shopify Standard ($79/month)

  • Everything in Shopify Basic
  • 5 staff accounts
  • Professional reports
  • Gift cards
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Credit card rates: 2.6% + $0.30 per online and 2.4% for swiped transactions,

Shopify Advanced: $299/month

  • Everything in Shopify Standard
  • 15 staff accounts
  • Advanced report builder
  • Real-time carrier shipping
  • Credit card rates: 2.4% + $0.30 for online/2.2% swiped.

The plan I really want to draw your attention to is Shopify Lite. If you are just starting out, this is the most affordable option, and you can still sell online via Facebook or your own site (or even Tumblr). If you find that Shopify is right for you, you can upgrade to the Basic or Standard plans. If that’s still too much of an expense, or you want a hosted eCommerce site without paying for it, you’re better off with Square.

For large businesses, there’s Shopify Plus, which is the company’s enterprise solution with custom pricing based on your volume and features.

Shopify Retail Package 

If you want to track staff shifts and run a proper register setup with receipt printers and other hardware on your Shopify POS, it won’t come cheap. You need the Retail Package, which will give you individual PINs for your staffers and allow you to use hardware and integrations for $40/month.

This is where it’s worth doing the math. Square doesn’t charge you for using add-on hardware. But it will charge you for employee management (timekeeping and staff IDs). That’s $5/employee monthly, so if you have more than 8 employees, Shopify winds up being the better value, if we’re just counting the retail package, not the monthly fee.

Shopify Transaction Fees

We’ve already covered what you’ll pay if you use Shopify payments to process credit cards. (Note: there’s no fee at all for cash, check, or alternative payment methods). But what if you already have a credit card processor and just need an eCommerce solution and mobile processing? Shopify will let you do that!

It’ll just cost you.

Let’s say you’ve got a great interchange-plus plan where you’re actually getting the very low debit interchange rates. You’ve got a PIN pad so your customers can process cards as debit.

First of all, you need to have the Retail package — so that’s $40 plus whatever Shopify plan you have. You’ll pay your credit card processor whatever they normally charge, and then an additional percentage to Shopify.

  • Shopify Basic: 2%
  • Shopify Standard: 1%
  • Shopify Advanced: 0.5%

So that’s a lot to consider. I highly encourage you to do the math and figure out where the best deal lies for you!

Contract Length and Early Termination Fee:

Winner: Tie

Square has no contracts what so ever. Everything is pay-as-you-go, with all of its add-ons on a monthly subscription. You can even try each service out for 30 days, no charge.

Shopify is a monthly service. You can pay for an annual package and save some money per-month, but otherwise there are no contracts or obligations. You can get a 14-day trial, no credit card required.

Either way, there’s no long-term commitment, which is a serious advantage.

Sales and Advertising Transparency:

Winner: Tie

Overall, Square and Shopify are both very transparent as far as their sales and advertising go. There’s no hidden fees, no contracts, no sneaky auto-renewal clauses. I like the resources that both companies put out — blog posts on topics that merchants should be aware of, and tips for helping their businesses thrive. This is important, especially when serving small businesses. We live in the information age, and yes, content is king. You should absolutely expect this out of any service you use — especially in the payments space. Educated merchants make for better customers.

Both are doing very well on the social media front as well, with active Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages, as well as dedicated Twitter support channels (@SqSupport and @ShopifySupport, respectively).

This is exactly what we like to see. You know exactly what you’re paying for, you know all of the terms, and you know what you’re getting. Best of all, you can move on whenever you’re ready.

Customer Service and Technical Support:

Winner: Shopify

Shopify is the clear winner in this category. No matter what Shopify plan you have, you get 24/7 access to the support team, which is astounding. Not only that, but the support team’s overall reputation is quite good, with timely responses and helpful answers. I also like that Shopify’s knowledge base is incredibly detailed. You should be able to get answers to a lot of the questions you’ll have without having to get anyone on the line. You can also get email, live chat, and phone support. There’s a community forum, and Shopify will even help pair you with experts who will help you complete your project. This is a convenient way to get up and running if you have more capital but not a lot of time or know-how — expect to pay for these experts’ time and insights.

Square…well, if you check out our Square review, you’ll see what others have said. While the company has made major strides to improve, it’s far from perfect. That said, Square’s knowledgebase is astounding. As with Shopify, unless you’re dealing with a complex, account-specific problem, you’ll be able to find an answer without having to contact one. You can get phone support, but you’ll have to get a code first. Otherwise, it’s email only to contact Square directly. It’s also interesting to note that Square just added a user forum where merchants can connect. I expect to see this feature take off soon.

Negative Reviews and Complaints:

Winner: Shopify

Square’s complaints fall into two categories, mostly: account holds/terminations and bad customer support. The issues are related, too: merchants find out their accounts have been shut down or funds are being held until additional verification is required, and run into a brick wall when it comes to support and getting the matter resolved. We’ve seen an overall improvement on this front, but these are no minor concerns. (Another concern we’ve seen a lot of recently is faulty EMV hardware, but Square is generally good about replacing it.)

The complaints about Shopify are far different. One of the biggest complaints is that you can’t get a hosted payment page — any time customers complete a purchase they’re directed to checkout.shopify.com, which may drive off some potential buyers, who are understandably wary. Another common complaint is the difficulty of learning Shopify’s programming language, Liquid. If you want to make code-level tweaks to your site you are much better off hiring a Shopify expert. Something else that comes up quite often is that many of the apps and integrations available through Shopify aren’t free. This isn’t surprising, but it can be understandably frustrating for merchants, especially those who are just starting out.

We have found a few complaints about Shopify holding merchants funds, but nowhere near on the scale of Square or even Stripe, through which Shopify processes payments.

Positive Reviews and Testimonials:

Winner: Shopify

Most of the positive chatter you will find about Square comes from the Reviews page, or big news publications (linked to on said page). From general user chatter, merchants love how easy it is to get started, the fact that all of the core features are free, and the overall ease of use. The fact that it offers an EMV reader for just $29 is amazing when most hardware runs upward of $100 is nice, especially for merchants who are just starting out, and the offline mode can be very useful.

With Shopify, people also rave about the ease of use. The fact that you have so many gorgeous themes to choose from with your online store is a major advantage. The rates are competitive (especially if you use Shopify Payments), and with the higher-tiered plans you get some really great features especially. But even the basic plans have everything you need.

Final Verdict:

Winner: Shopify

It’s difficult to say unequivocally that Shopify or Square is better than the other. Shopify does have many more advantages than Square — more robust POS app and eCommerce features, round-the-clock customer service, and less of a reputation for holds. But that doesn’t mean that Square isn’t a good choice for some merchants. Especially for new merchants, Square makes a LOT of sense.

Let’s look at a few key factors that will influence your decision:

Cost: Square is by far the less expensive service, especially if you are just starting out. If your online sales or in-person credit card payments are infrequent, Square’s pay-as-you-go plan with no monthly fee is ideal. As your cash flow improves, and business steadies, it makes more sense to invest the cash in tools that will make managing your business easier (and less time-consuming!).

Features: Square Register is easily the most robust free mPOS app out there. But that’s among free apps. Shopify isn’t free, and when you look at the feature sets, it’s pretty clear why. You’ll get more features suited to growing eCommerce and retail businesses than you would with Square. If you are doing steady business, you should absolutely consider upgrading if the features work for you.

Add-Ons and Integrations: How do you run your business? Do you print barcodes for every product? If not, the fact that Shopify supports barcode printers and scanners is probably irrelevant to you. But what other services do you use for your business? Both Shopify and Square offer a custom API that you can use to integrate if you have the technical know-how, but if you don’t, which one has a greater selection of ready-to-go integrations that suit your business? Keep in mind that Shopify’s app store is full of a huge selection of free and paid integrations that can do everything from help you migrate your inventory from eBay to Shopify to setting up layaway plans.

Level of Support: Hands-down, you will get better customer support from Shopify than Square. You can contact them 24/7 by email, phone, and live chat, whereas Square only offers email and phone (during limited hours and only with a code). Both have community forums and pretty respectable knowledge bases, so most of the basic technical questions may not ever require contacting a support person. It also bears mentioning that Shopify allows you to connect with experts who can get you set up, or take your business to the next level. If having someone you can reach at any time with questions is of the utmost importance to you, then Shopify is the obvious solution. If you’re the go-it-alone type, Square should do you just fine.

I hope this has helped you understand some of the big differences between Shopify and Square! They look quite similar at first glance, but when you scratch beneath the surface you’ll find they both have so much to offer. You absolutely need to consider costs when making the choice, but keep in mind your long-term goals and the features you are most interested in pursuing.

Have experience with either or both of these services? We’d love to hear from you, too! Leave a comment! And as always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us!

The post Shopify vs Square appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The 6 Best Shopping Carts For Books And Video Games

Books On Wooden Bookcases

Books and video games: the source of so much quality entertainment for adults and children alike. Who among us doesn’t relish a good read, or enjoy a bout of Tetris every once and a while? However, while books and video games themselves have nearly universal appeal, if either of these is the focus of your store, you’re bound to have some specific needs for your shopping cart.

First off, when choosing an eCommerce software provider, you’ll want to keep an eye out for themes and sample stores that match your needs and vision. Does the platform offer options specifically for vendors of books or video games? Does it showcase clients who sell those things? Do those options and galleries look similar to how you want your online store to look?

It’s also important to check out each shopping cart’s shipping options. This is especially relevant to bookstores, which are more likely to deal with book rates and special shipping costs. However, both types of stores should be aware of shipping zones, payment options, pickup options, etc. The pickup options are especially relevant to bookstores, which have an even more clear online vs brick and mortar dynamic.

Next, look for what types of discounts are available. There are many types of coupon codes out there, along with group discounts, promotional codes, and much more. A big thing to watch out for is product bundling, which allows vendors to combine related products for a slightly reduced cost. This is a great way to combine the individual items in a book series or game controller system.

Customizations are another crucial thing to watch. From variants in product type or color to product bundling to checkout options, these can change the game for many stores.

Finally, it’s crucial to check whether digital products are supported. This is an obvious choice for bookstores selling ebooks, but video game stores should also make sure that downloads for specific games or software are available.

With all those key points in mind, let’s dive into the best shopping carts for books and video games!

IndieCommerce

indiecommerce-logo

IndieCommerce is significantly different from its eCommerce compatriots in quite a few ways. Most importantly, it is geared entirely toward bookstores. In fact, only registered members of the American Booksellers Association are eligible to use IndieCommerce as their shopping cart. The good news is, stores can be either online only or brick and mortar, so worry not about limitations for yours!

Because IndieCommerce specifically works with bookstores, the available features read like a laundry list of necessary functions for booksellers. But never fear, video game vendors, I haven’t forgotten about you. You may not be able to use IndieCommerce, but if you want to read ahead you’ll get a glimpse of some of the benefits that come with such a focused platform. We’ll get to you next.

Themes and Sample Stores

IndieCommerce’s themes are supported by Drupal 7. They are organized in list format rather than a more visually appealing image-based format, but are nonetheless easy to browse (if less easy to understand). The site provides links to the themes and their examples, so exploration is just one extra click away.

Although browsing through IndieCommerce’s themes is a difficult and dry process, their collection of live sample stores is more similar to the collections provided by other shopping carts. The themes allow stores to list locations, provide calendars of events, feature books by their cover and author, and much more.

best shopping carts for books and video games

Shipping 

IndieCommerce works directly with Ingram as its wholesaler, which speeds up the process of shipping. In its page about fulfilling orders, IndieCommerce explains the different shipping options available. Vendors can choose whether customers pay through PayPal, credit card, or at a store.

Additionally, they can choose whether the order is shipped exactly as is, within four weeks, or sometime after four weeks if the product availability is pending. These shipping and payment options are great for bookstores that have either a brick-and-mortar location or an online store or both.

Coupons and Sales

As every good bookstore platform should, IndieCommerce makes it easy to provide coupons and other promotional codes. Everyone loves a book discount, after all! At IndieCommerce, vendors can use coupon codes to entice potential customers with cheap prices and online gift codes to send to literary friends who are inclined toward book buying.

If promotional codes are an excellent way to draw in customers, product bundles are an even better way to encourage them to make more purchases. Vendors can create product bundles by adding automatic coupon to buying certain products together — voila! It’s a great deal for the customer and brings in more revenue for the store.

One of IndieCommerce’s special features is the ability to add holiday catalogs to a navigation menu. The ABA connection really comes in useful here because it means IndieCommerce comes with a ready-made list of regional catalogs. As a vendor, you’ll be able to take advantage of working in these outside deals and discounts in a way that other platforms do not support as easily.

Customizations

Bookstores often sell more than books (think: T-shirts, tote bags, assorted paraphernalia); consequently, book vendors need more ways to customize products than one might think. Thankfully, IndieCommerce allows custom products, specifically recommending that vendors set up a separate product class for different products and then controlling attributes for each product.

IndieCommerce gives the example of a T-shirt for its explanation of custom products, but the attributes can be adjusted specifically for books as well. There’s even a setting specifically for managing author information, which larger companies are not likely to have.

Since (as discussed above) there are often so many shipping options for book buyers, custom checkout messages come in handy as a way to clarify the method of delivery to customers. Plus, if there are special instructions for special products (like signed books or pre-order pickups), the custom checkout messages allow you to put in a note to explain the process to customers. You can be as clever as you want — you’ll be dealing with bookworms after all!

indiecommerce-checkout-customization

Digital Products

As a bookstore platform, IndieCommerce well understands the need for eBook support. To make eBooks and digital downloads more accessible, the American Booksellers Association has partnered with Kobo. The Kobo eReading Program is separate from the IndieCommerce platform but serves as an added related benefit for IndieCommerce customers who wish to expand their eReading options.

Shopify

Shopify POS

Shopify is one of the biggest and popular shopping cart platforms out there, and for good reason. Its scope means that stores of any sort are welcome and provided for, but it also offers services that are specifically accommodating to sellers of books and video games.

Themes and Sample Stores

While Shopify doesn’t offer themes geared toward books or video games, its theme store nonetheless presents a variety of templates that can work well for any type of store. Bookstores may want to look to the examples at IndieCommerce to get a sense of what they want in a shopping cart. Video game vendors may choose to keep an eye out for image-heavy themes that are visually appealing and communicate the sense of action or adventure that video game stores so often go for.

Unlike its themes, Shopify’s sample stores do provide examples of book-specific sample stores. However, the books are grouped in with crafts, and there is no equivalent for video games. These two categories may not be Shopify’s priority, but the stores and themes are still worth perusing.

Shipping

Even before getting into shipping options, I’d be remiss not to acknowledge Shopify’s excellent Point of Sale system, which allows vendors to manage payments across sale sites, whether online or in person. No matter where the sale takes place, the POS system syncs inventory so you’ll never have to worry about losing track of what’s available to ship.

Ready to tackle the actual shipping aspect of your store? Shopify Shipping is here to help. It allows you to set up shipping zones, manage shipping rates, create the best possible customer experience on the shipping page, and much more.

The variety of options available in Shopify Shipping, while not necessarily explicitly geared toward bookstores or video game stores, make it easy for merchants in these fields to select the best option for their store’s purpose. For example, booksellers can adjust shipping costs to reflect book rates. The flexibility here is a great sell.

Coupons and Sales

Shopify offers gift cards that can be used in two ways. They can be purchased and sent to the recipient of the customer’s choice, or they can be issued as part of a rewards system. For bookstores and video game stores both, Shopify’s gift card availability appeals to regular customers or friends and family of regular customers, who might seek the perfect gift.

For those vendors who wish to offer discount options to all customers (not just the regulars), Shopify’s discount codes are a great draw. Discounts can bring in new customers as well as those who generally only purchase when they see a good deal or especially cheap product.

Some notes: Shopify does not allow stacked discounts, vendors can choose to limit discounts per customer if desired, expiration dates are available and always expire at 11:59:59 PM, and vendors can create customer groups and offer discount codes to those select groups. The options are bountiful!

Although Shopify does not offer product bundling as a standard feature, a product bundling app is available in Shopify’s App Store. For $15.99/month, merchants can purchase the ability to bundle items together into one discounted product. This way bookstores can sell an entire series or author’s works all at once for a discounted price, and video game stores can sell games along with consoles. Give it a look; it might be worth the extra dough.

shopify-product-bundles

Customizations

Shopify allows vendors to create product variants for products that fall into the same category but differ slightly. As mentioned before, the most probably use would be for store merchandise like T-shirts and tote bags. However, these variants can also come in handy for books or games that may be the same except for one differentiating category — for example, a book that is available in both hardcover and paperback or a controller that is available in different colors.

Digital Products

Digital products are supported by Shopify but require downloading a free app. Once you’ve got the app, you can set it up so that purchasing either sends customers directly to a download link or sends them a download link in an email.

While Shopify has given the green light to digital products, its system may not be the most supportive of eBooks. especially since most books are already published through a third-party platform (think: Amazon.) Nonetheless, it is a strong option for bookstores. Video game stores may also opt for digital distribution, but it’s a process that may be too complicated for the Shopify app. Regardless, give the app a look and see if it meets your needs.

BigCommerce

BigCommerce-logo-dark

Like Shopify, BigCommerce is a large shopping cart platform with a huge range of options for all sorts of stores. As a result, there are many features available that might be excellent for sellers of books or video games, while other aspects of the platform might be less appealing. Let’s take a look.

Themes and Sample Stores

BigCommerce features a small selection of themes for bookstores. For video game vendors, the closest match is probably in their electronics and computers section, which has a few designs that are visually explosive. (There is a category for toys and games, but do not be deceived! That’s mainly for kids’ toys, not video games.)

Sadly, BigCommerce’s showcase of sample clients does not include any stores in the categories of books and video games. The stores are still worth a peek, but you’ll have to look elsewhere (Shopify, perhaps?) for industry-specific options.

Shipping

BigCommerce has curated an excellent selection of help documents relating to shipments and shipping processes. The most helpful of these articles is probably the one about shipping options, which lists off the different settings, rates, pickup options, and resources when considering which method of shipping is best.

The help doc goes into considerable details about the pros and cons for real-time shipping quotes vs. flat rates vs. free shipping. This is definitely a discussion to delve into as a vendor of books or video games. Since postal services often provide discounted book rates, bookstores will want to keep that in consideration when determining the best shipping option for them.

BigCommerce also offers the option for local or in-store pickup. For stores that maintain both an online presence and a brick-and-mortar location, this can be an excellent way to establish a strong presence both online and locally. Plus, it gives customers the option to save on shipping.

As a final plus to its already fantastic shipping options, BigCommerce boasts an even more helpful app, ShipperHQ. With ShipperHQ, vendors can manage shipping much more easily, use different carriers, improve customer relations, and more. Prices start at $50/month.

Coupons and Sales

Gift certificates are available for any BigCommerce store. Customers can purchase gift certificates as they would any other product and send to the recipient of their choice in an email that will contain the gift code. BigCommerce clearly lays out the steps needed for purchasing, redeeming, and tracking gift certificates.

BigCommerce offers product bundles under the name “product lists.” The process of bundling items is more complicated and a few more steps than it is under some of the other platforms. Still, it’s offered, which is excellent for bookstores and video game stores.

Customizations

BigCommerce has some of the best-explained product options out there. Fair warning: many of the descriptions and explanations are better suited for clothing stores. Nevertheless, the ability to differentiate between related products is a handy one, especially with BigCommerce’s help guide by your side.

Digital Products

Much like Shopify, BigCommerce offers digital downloads as a type of product. BigCommerce specifies a few additional options. For example, vendors can choose to add a time limit after which customers can no longer download their purchased item. A maximum can also be placed on downloads for each purchase.

bigcommerce-digital

The issues here are much the same as with Shopify. While it is certainly possible to upload eBooks and digital games or software, the process can quickly become more complex than it would be for, say, image or audio downloads. Again, the decision about what is easiest and most feasible is up to you, the merchant. The important thing is that BigCommerce offers this capability that is crucial to many modern stores.

3dcart

3dcart

While not at the expansive level of BigCommerce or Shopify, 3dcart is a full-fledged eCommerce platform that manages to hit many resonate notes for vendors of books or video games. Here are some of the features that might be especially useful for those particular merchants.

Themes and Sample Stores

3dcart does not sort themes by categories or type of store. Browsing for themes that are ideal for the sale of books or video games is therefore a tad more challenging than it is in other shopping cart platforms. Searching for “book” yields only one result. Likewise, I could only find one result when searching for video games.

The lack of easy-to-find relevant themes is unfortunate but does not mean that you are limited only to those two options. Browse away to find something that works for you. Just make sure you’re aware of whether your favorites fall into the category of free or premium themes; don’t be caught by surprise by a heavy price tag.

3dcart has a solid selection of sample clients, this time sorted into categories. No luck to video game and book sellers though; there’s no category that these products easily fall into.

Shipping

3dcart has a variety of shipping settings and options, possibly the widest range and most clearly explained of all the platforms in this article. Free shipping is not only available but can be set on specified conditions — for example, if a customer purchases a certain dollar amount, they can receive free shipping.

Merchants can monitor everything from shipping methods to the ability to preview shipping costs and methods depending on location to weight specifications. Another convenient feature: Real Time Shipping Location, which will display the location of the product as it is shipping from the origin point to the customer.

Coupons and Sales

3dcart has plenty of options for promotions and sales for vendors. Its Promotions Manager accommodates a couple different types of promotions, whether automatic application or coupon code.The amount of each promotion can be determined by dollar amount or by percentage.

If your store is working with other companies to present a special discount, 3dcart’s group certificates allow you to create coupon codes that can be used for a group campaign. This is an excellent option if, for example, you have a bookstore that wants to offer special sales for schools.

Product bundling is available using 3dcart’s product option figure. There are several steps to the process of setting up a product bundle, but 3dcart’s excellent Knowledge Base covers those steps in depth.

3d-cart-product-bundle

Customizations

3dcart provides 10 different product option types that allow vendors to customize products. Whether presented in matrix form or using a simple text box, these product option types give you the ability to add different colors, sizes, or materials of your product. The customizations extend so far as to allow customers to upload a file for specific requests or pay a one-time fee as part of their order.

Digital Products

For your eBook and digital software download needs, 3dcart presents its handy eProduct feature. Vendors first need to enable 3dcart’s eProduct module in the Store Manager. Since books and videogame-related products are the category of choice here, it’s likely that you’ll need to log in to 3dcart’s File Transfer Protocol, or FTP in order to upload non-image or non-PDF files.

Once the eProduct is set up, customers can purchase as they would any other product. They will then receive an email receipt that includes a link to their download. You’ll have the option to set the number of days the link will be active; it’s actually one of the first things you can do when you enable the module in the first place.

WooCommerce

woocommerce-logo

WooCommerce is not, in fact, a full-on platform on its own. It’s a free WordPress plugin that allows WordPress users to add a store to their pre-existing site with very little difficulty. Although some of the features are more basic as a result, there are still quite a few highlights for the potential bookstore or video games store. And did I mention it’s free?

Themes and Sample Stores

WooCommerce offers special WooThemes as part of the extension. The Storefront theme, the standard platform, is free while the rest of the themes can be purchased individually or in a package — all 34 themes together cost $399.

The selling point for the WooThemes, especially the Storefront theme, is the automatic WordPress integration. Beyond that, it’s still an excellent selection with a variety of clean styles and responsive designs. Searching for themes specifically related to books or video games is a little tricky because there are no related categories. Nonetheless, the themes are still solid and may work very well for your purposes.

Unlike its theme section, WooCommerce’s store showcase is indeed searchable. Even better, there’s a special showcase for book-related stores! The sample clients shown include bookstores, authors, editors, book clubs, and more.

There’s sadly no showcase category for video games. The closest match is the digital and software category, which does include video game stores. The electronics section may also be worth a look. The examples are there; just do some searching.

Shipping

WooCommerce has Shipping Zones so that vendors can have control over shipping costs depending on location. There are also a few different shipping methods that customers can select, all of which work very well for the types of stores in question here. WooCommerce offers local pickup, flat-rate shipping, and free shipping.

woocommerce-shipping-zones

Coupons and Sales

Many types of discounts and coupons are available through WooCommerce; however, in accordance with the style of WordPress, most require some sort of plugin or extension.

The most all-encompassing option is the Smart Coupons plugin. With this plugin, users can set up coupon codes, gift certificates, and a variety of discounts. Additionally, it’s easy to manage settings. You’ll easily be able to set the dollar or percentage amount of the coupon, link any number of coupons to a given product, send a gift certificate to customers who purchase a certain amount, set expiry dates, reduce coupon balance automatically, and use with other WooCommerce features such as Chained Products and Subscriptions.

WooCommerce also offers a plugin that provides free gift coupons. The free coupons work exactly the same as the other coupon options in terms of how the customer redeems them, but it takes a little extra setup.

Group coupons are available for members of specific groups or people with specific roles. Restricting coupons by role is easy; no additional extensions or plugins required. You simply select the type of WordPress user (Administrator, Editor, Contributor, etc.) to whom you’d like to grant coupon access, and it’s done! This is one way to provide discounts for your own employees.

The group aspect works as long as you have the group plugin activated. With that plugin, it becomes possible to create groups of customers to whom you can then send specialized coupons. This works well if, for example, you are a bookstore and have a discount you’d like to offer to educators.

Customizations

In its section on managing products, WooCommerce lays out the different types of products and the ways in which those products can be added and managed. One especially relevant point: Products can be listed as simple products (e.g. a single book or game) or grouped together in a collection.

The simple product vs. group product point is different from product bundling, which is another feature WooCommerce offers via extension and which is a popular feature of other platforms. This handy chart helps differentiate between the different ways to sell multiple products together — other options include chained products, force sells, composite products, and mix ‘n match products.

Using the product bundle extension, merchants can group products together in a defined bundle that limits which quantities and attributes customers can select. It allows users to offer the grouped products at a discounted price.

Since WooCommerce has so many options for multiple product sales, it’s best to read through all the options before automatically heading over to product bundles.

Digital Products

Digital downloads are available through WooCommerce. Once the digital product is added, vendors can choose the path to downloading and can set a limit to the number of downloads available.

Volusion

volusion-logo

Like BigCommerce and Shopify, Volusion is a large company that provides services for many different types of stores, including some pretty big names. There are many reasons to choose Volusion, but here are some of the features that stores selling books or video games might look for.

Themes and Sample Stores

As might be expected for a large platform, Volusion has a fairly large selection of themes available for its customers – 75 templates in total. Unfortunately, the themes are not easily searchable by anything other than price, and no results turn up when searching for books or video games.

Volusion’s client gallery is more easily searchable. However, there are again no immediately relevant categories. The closest sample stores shown might be found in the Hobbies or Electronics categories.

Shipping

In its support center, Volusion offers extensive information on the topic of shipping. The information is laid out in a very straightforward way, which stands in contrast to some of the other platforms.

Like the other platforms discussed here, Volusion offers quite a few features that would appeal to bookstores and video game stores: free shipping, flat rate shipping, fixed rate shipping, in-store pickup, and more!

In case you, like me, are initially confused by the difference between flat rate shipping and fixed rate shipping, here’s the breakdown: With flat rate shipping, vendors can set a specific cost for an order, generally determined by a minimum or maximum weight. Fixed rate shipping, on the other hand, allows for a set shipping cost for a specific product.

Coupons and Sales

Many types of coupons and discounts are available through Volusion. The most traditional coupon/discount option has the benefit of being pretty customizable. Vendors can control the number of available uses, update the category of coupon, set a time limit, define quantity requirements, and identify the type of discount.

Volusion also offers other types of coupons, including coupon codes, free shipping coupons, and site-wide discounts. Any of these are excellent options to a store that wants to offer specific sales or discounts on books or video games.

volusion-coupons-discounts

Customizations

Like most other platforms, Volusion offers product bundles as a way to package together specific products. As part of the process of bundling products, Volusion allows vendors to include free accessories, which might be an extra perk for some bookstores and video game stores to offer.

Digital Products

Volusion’s digital products instructions give specific steps on how to upload the file in question as well as options for how customers can download. Unlike other platforms, which allow a little more flexibility, Volusion’s digital products can only have one downloadable file each. Downloads themselves can be limited to any amount, as with most other platforms.

Another downside is that each download affects the vendor’s data transfer allotment. Since Volusion prices its hosting plans based on bandwidth, this can potentially be a big deal for some vendors.

Once the download option is set up, an email with the download link is sent to the customer. The “Order Finished” page that customers received is customizable, so feel free to add any sort of store-specific or product-specific thanks or messages!

Conclusion

Which platform you choose depends, as usual, on the type of store you have. IndieCommerce is an excellent choice for bookstores with ABA membership — it may not be your typical platform, but it comes with built-in communities and resources specifically for bookstores. Meanwhile, WordPress users may be drawn to WooCommerce because it is free and easy to add to a pre-existing site, especially with the many available plugins for different features.

That said, if your bookstore or video game store needs something on a grander scale, you might want to go with one of the larger shopping carts. If you sell through more than one channel — online and in a brick and mortar environment — Shopify might be the best bet thanks to its all-encompassing POS system.

For those vendors who most value excellent product customization options, BigCommerce could be the way to go. If in-depth explanations of discount types are a must, 3dcart has your back. And if you’d like to have your shipping options explicitly laid out, Volusion is a fantastic choice for you.

All in all, there are many excellent shopping carts for books and video games. No matter your mission, you should be able to find a cart that works for you. Hopefully the info and tips here will help you make the best decision for your business.

The post The 6 Best Shopping Carts For Books And Video Games appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Square VS Vend

Square-vs-Vend
Finding a robust POS app that is also affordable is basically like ordering a really delicious cupcake with just the right amount of icing. Finding one that has mobile support and an integrated eCommerce store? Well, that’s akin to the holy grail for new and small business owners.

Vend is something a bit unconventional in the POS space. Its POS app is entirely browser-based, powered by HTML. That means you can run it on both Windows and Mac computers — as well as iPads! Everything is stored in the cloud, meaning you can access your information everywhere. There’s also an integrated eCommerce store, and integrated payments.

Square is best known for its mobile payments app, which lets anyone accept credit card payments with just a smartphone and card reader. But the real advantage to Square is a powerful, completely free POS app — and an entire ecosystem of business products that can help entrepreneurs exceed. Everything is stored in the cloud, as well. And did we mention you can sell on Square’s marketplace or through pretty much any other shopping cart software, too?

All of this sounds great, right? Good.

Vend will charge you a monthly fee for its POS. There are multiple subscriptions depending on what features you need. You have a limited selection of payment processors (at least for retail setups) with no transaction fees, and a simple, but functional, eCommerce setup (if you opt for the mid-tier plan).

Square is entirely pay-as-you-go. The POS is free — you pay only the processing fees, plus a monthly fee for whatever a la carte services you choose to add on. eCommerce support is entirely free beyond processing fees — you can use Square’s hosted solution or integrate with something else.

Both services have all three core offerings: a retail setup with a solid POS, mobile capabilities, and eCommerce setups. But as you’ll see, both have different core strengths. I highly encourage you to think about where most of your business comes from and evaluate which features are most important. Then crunch the numbers and look for the most cost-effective strategy.

Read on to see how Square and Vend match up on core features, extra services, cost, support, and more!

Products and Services:

Winner: Tie

Square and Vend are both omni-channel commerce solutions. They’re integrated so well that you can sell pretty much anywhere and keep all of your sales data and inventory in one centralized dashboard. Let’s take a look at how each of the 3 sides of Square’s products (the POS app, payments, and eCommerce solutions) match up. We’ll also take a look at the integrations and extra services available.

POS App

Sometimes I am genuinely shocked that Square doesn’t charge at all for its POS app (and a bit disappointed that it won’t let you use the app with a different payment gateway). It is without question the most robust free mobile POS (mPOS) out there. While it’s definitely friendly to both iPhones and Android devices, you get the most functionality out of an iPad. This is especially important in a retail setup.

Vend’s core offering is its POS — it’s taken the easy path toward integrating payments and eCommerce as well. So its app really is the biggest draw. Here’s the thing, though: I have a hard time really calling Vend “mobile friendly.” Since the POS is primarily browser-based, it runs on Windows and Mac computers. There is also an iPad-exclusive POS app — no Android, not even iPhone. That said, you can absolutely make do with an iPad as your mobile solution for pop-up shops or booths at events. I just don’t think Vend is really designed with mobile as a priority.

Square POS App Features:

  • Unlimited registers and up to 75 locations: Note: if you want to track individual employees, you’ll need to add the employee management subscription. But if you don’t need that individual data, this feature is free.
  • User permissions: This is fully customizable — you determine the role and what features they can use. But you have to be using Square’s Employee Management system. Otherwise, it’s all default.
  • Credit card payments: Accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express at 1 flat rate.
  • Transaction records: Record cash and check as well as accepting cards. This still allows you to take advantage of the customer database and loyalty program features.
  • Split tender: Accept cash and card in one transaction.
  • Inventory: Square’s inventory feature is basic, but it does allow you to keep track of stock levels in-store and online. Square will send you low-stock alerts and let you set your own threshold for them. Square also integrates with Stitch Labs for more comprehensive inventory support.
  • Import/Export via CSV: Populate your online and retail stores with products in one go.
  • Product Variants and Add-Ons: Technically, Square calls variants “price points” — but the point is the app supports them. You can also add item modifiers, which are essentially add-ons.
  • Email/SMS/print receipts: Your choice (and your customers’, too).
  • Full and partial refunds: Self-explanatory.
  • Gift cards: Order your own custom designs. There’s no redemption fees or activation fees. You only pay processing fees if the gift card is purchased on a card.
  • Offline mode: Square’s offline mode is pretty unique. Most “offline” functions for POS apps allow you to accept cash only — no cards. But with Square you can swipe a card as normal, and as long as you reconnect to the net within 72 hours, the transaction will go through. The caveat is that you eat the cost of any declined transactions.
  • Sales tax and tip: Square’s sales tax feature is basic, but very functional. Toggle sales tax collection on or off and set multiple rates as necessary, if you are selling in multiple locations or move around. You can also enable tips, which is something Vend does not support.
  • Loyalty program: Square’s loyalty program (add-on for $25/month per location) works by giving either free items or percentage discounts. The system is tied to the customer’s mobile number.
  • Reporting: Square won’t give you the advanced reporting of a full-scale POS but it does pretty well in this category.
  • Customer-facing display: This is a beta feature, but one that puts Square closer to full-fledged POS systems.
  • Customer database: Square’s customer database isn’t quite as advanced as you’ll find with more expensive CRM software, but it’s definitely worth looking into, and it’s improving all the time. In addition to the loyalty program, there’s a feedback feature and custom segmentation, and it links directly with Square’s email marketing service (starts at $15/month).
  • Special Offers: Send automated email campaigns linked from your customer database if you use Square’s email marketing.

Vend POS App Features:

  • Sell through one or multiple outlets: While multi-outlet support will cost you more (a point we’ll come back to), you can get a boatload of features that will make managing each location easier.
  • User Permissions: You can choose from pre-set roles with limited customization, but this is an entirely free service.
  • Accept Credit Card Payments: Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express through one of Vend’s partners. You can also use non-integrated solutions through another payment processor if you choose.
  • Record cash payments: No check support, though.
  • Split tender: Accept cash and card.
  • Inventory: Vend has options to help you manage your stock orders in the dashboard as well.
  • Import/Export via CSV: Vend allows barcode printing, too.
  • Product variants: The POS technically supports 3 types of products: Standard, Variant, and Composite. Standard products are individual items with no other versions. Variants are products such as clothing, which come in different colors and sizes. Vend’s system allows you to create 3 modifiers per item. Composite products are those assembled from your inventory into a grouping — such as gift baskets. You cannot have separate inventory for composite products; it’s based on inventory for your other products.
  • Parked sales: This lets you save ticket in the POS and pull it up later, which is useful.
  • Price Books: You can create different price books for different stores, or for promotions, or for loyalty customers, or for whatever other reason you want. In Square, the best way to accomplish this is by setting individual item modifiers, so Vend is definitely far more functional.
  • Full and partial refunds: Self-explanatory. You can also do exchanges, a feature not available with Square.
  • Email or customizable print receipts: Your choice.
  • Store credit: This is a new feature, still in beta, but I would expect to see it roll out to everyone soon. Unlike Shopify, which lets you issue store credit but doesn’t have a proper way to track it, Vend’s store credit feature lets you keep track of it in your customer database. Currently this feature integrates with Xero, but not QuickBooks Online.
  • Gift cards: Gift cards work in store and online, but you can’t order them from Vend the way you can with many others (including Square).
  • Offline mode: Vend has an offline feature — but like Shopify and many other POS systems, it really only lets you accept cash payments and record sales. No credit card sales. In addition, you have to be signed in before the outage, and in offline mode has limited features. That said, it will get you through an outage mostly OK if you can survive on cash alone.
  • Sales tax: There’s no tip feature in Vend at all. However, its sales tax features are pretty advanced. You can set a single tax rate for everything, or create groups of tax rates. You can also set tax by location. The one flaw I see in the system is that creating tax rates doesn’t apply them to any existing products in your store. If you’ve already loaded products into your store, you’ll need to open up those products and modify the tax settings.
  • Loyalty program: Vend’s loyalty program is very simple, based on a dollars-for-dollars system. Spend so much and earn so many dollars to spend.
  • Reporting: Vend has some pretty advanced reporting — you can generate pre-populated reports or create your own custom ones.
  • Layaway program: This is included at no charge, with no integration required.
  • Customer-facing screen: A useful feature available at no-extra charge. You can only have one register linked to a display, but you can link multiple displays to one register.
  • Customer database: Obviously the database is good for having a loyalty program, With Vend, it’s possible to segment databases by groups and even create different price books for them (such as rewarding particularly loyal customers with special offers). Vend’s API can link it to another CRM if you want. Note that Vend doesn’t have its own email marketing service; you have to integrate with another.

While Square’s app is incredibly robust for an mPOS, it’s still not quite quite on par with a full-fledged POS like Vend. You’ll get an incredible array of features, but if you are looking for some highly advanced, retail-specific capabilities — like store credit and layaway, you should look more toward Vend. Of course, Square also supports more service-based companies with many of its features, notably restaurants. And you get a lot of integrated services in a single place (email marketing, loyalty program, even timekeeping and payroll). They’ll cost you more than just the processing fees, obviously, but the convenience of everything being consolidated in one place, with a single log-in and no need to bother with importing/exporting data, certainly can’t be overlooked.

eCommerce

As my fellow writer, Jordan, noted in her review, Vend’s eCommerce offering is basic. It was something added later, and so it’s not as refined as the POS system. You get everything you need to run a web store in tandem with your retail setup, but it’s not feature rich by any stretch. Here’s what you get:

  • Free hosting
  • Free domain (or bring your own)
  • Multiple responsive themes to choose from
  • HTML and CSS support
  • Integrate with Shopify’s eCommerce store for greater functionality (and higher cost)
  • Inventory sync across retail and online stores
  • Customer accounts (can be linked to customer profiles in database)
  • Sales and promotions through Vend price books
  • Social media integrations
  • Integrated reporting features
  • Flexible shipping
  • Customizable tax settings
  • Pay Later (to support ACH or in-store cash payments)

There are some drawbacks, however. The eCommerce system isn’t particularly friendly to dropshipping, and there’s no integrated blogging system or email marketing (but you can get email CRM with an integration). You can’t support individual promo codes, either. Inventory is based on a single outlet, and you can’t change the outlet later. The system also doesn’t support partial payments using gift cards — the entire balance must be paid using the gift card.

But honestly? Square’s eCommerce feature isn’t amazingly complex, either. Unless you choose to integrate another shopping cart), you sell through Square’s marketplace (which gives you a hosted domain and URL, and not much else). The store designs you can choose from are responsive but there isn’t a lot of customizability. Square’s features include:

  • Free hosting
  • Free domain (or bring your own)
  • Multiple responsive themes to choose from
  • Choice of responsive templates
  • Support for digital and physical products (this is one of the biggest differentiators from Square)
  • In-store pickup available
  • Integrated reporting
  • Customizable tax settings

If you want more advanced features, or even just your own domain, you can integrate with Weebly, BigCommerce, or Ecwid or play around with Square’s API for a custom solution — but that’s only if you’re comfortable playing around with such things. Again, there’s no blog at all, and shipping options are somewhat limited — but you can enhance the options using an add-on such as ShipStation.

I think it’s important to remember that unlike a service such as Shopify, which was always meant to help people sell online, both Vend and Square started off serving different markets — Vend is a POS system for retailers, while Square’s core feature has always been mobile payments. It’s not surprising that both of these are lacking in eCommerce options. However, I look forward to seeing what both of these services introduce next as omni-channel commerce becomes more important.

Payments

I appreciate the simplicity of Square’s payments system. But no matter what kind of volume you do, you pay the same flat rate — 2.75% for swiped cards, 2.9% + $0.30 for eCommerce. There’s no reduction in fees until you hit a very high volume — much higher than would qualify most merchants for a solid interchange-plus plan. The good news is you don’t have to deal with any sort of tiered pricing or qualified cards, all of which can be frustrating for merchants. You even process American Express at 2.75%. You can’t use any other payment processor with the app. But at the same time, it’s worth noting that you don’t pay for the POS at all — and you don’t have to pay for a more advanced eCommerce option unless you want to.

Vend decided, rather than try to implement its own branded solution like Shopify or ShopKeep, to simply partner with some other payments providers. Vend is an international product, and so there are other solutions available in other countries, but in the U.S., if you want an integrated processing solution in-store, your options are PayPal and Vantiv Integrated Payments (formerly Mercury).

The biggest problem with this is that PayPal is about the same price as Square (2.7% per swipe, 2.9% + $0.30 for eCommerce), on top of Vend’s monthly fee. And Mercury/Vantiv Integrated, while not the worst company out there, has a record of spotty customer service and hidden fees and expensive contracts, and Vantiv tends to have a liquidated damages provision in its contracts.

However, there is a silver lining,of sorts. You can choose a non-integrated processing solution and use whatever merchant service provider you want. The one draw back to this is you’ll have to enter the transaction amount in your terminal and process it, then complete the transaction in Vend separately. It adds an extra step that not everyone wants to deal with. However, that said, it could easily be worth the trouble if you opt for a processor like Helcim, which will give you interchange-plus AND debit card rates for processing.

You can also choose from a variety of gateways (including Authorize.net) and connect your account to process eCommerce transactions. It’s a bit sad that Vend has disabled Authorize.net as a gateway option for the POS, but you can at least use it online so you can use virtually any payment processor.

None of these options is a terrible choice. When you want mobile processing, Square’s rates are absolutely competitive — as I’ve said, PayPal is very similar, and so are many other mobile options. I like that Vend will also give you special discounts once you clear $10,000 a month with PayPal. I also like that Vend doesn’t charge you any sort of transaction fees for using a non-integrated solution. Plus, with PayPal will let you start processing almost right away.

All I can say is, run the numbers. If you’re leaning toward Vend, talk to some of our top-rated processors and request a quote from Mercury. Don’t overlook PayPal, either. It might not be interchange plus, but there are some benefits: an affordable EMV reader, instant access to funds, and even a truly mobile option (PayPal Here) if you absolutely need to be able to use smartphones to process cards, not tablets. Plus, with the PayPal debit card, you can access your funds anywhere without needing to transfer them to your bank.

If you’re leaning toward Square, you have an advantage in that you pay no monthly fees, just card processing rates, That is, unless you opt for a monthly add-on service (like Employee Management). You can also get set up pretty much right away.

Compatible Hardware:

Winner: Tie

If you’re going to process credit cards, you need some sort of register setup, right? I like that both Vend and Square give you some flexibility in that department.

Vend Hardware

With Vend, you have a few choices for what platform to run your POS on:

  • Windows Computer: Requires Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10 or Microsoft Surface Pro and Google Chrome.
  • Mac Computer: Requires Mac OSX Mountain Lion, Mavericks, Yosemite, or El Capitan and Google Chrome
  • iPad: Requires iOS 8 or later. Download the app from the iTunes store.

All the hardware is sold via POSportal.com, which doesn’t offer any laptops but does have iPads available.

Vend’s hardware kit consists of the bare bones: a cash drawer and a USB receipt printer, plus a cable. If you opt for the tablet package, you also get a tablet stand and an upgrade to an Ethernet receipt printer.

The upside to this is that Vend’s hardware kits are fairly affordable (starting at just over $300 for Mac or PC, for $500 for the tablet version). You can also pick and choose your own hardware and build a custom package that includes a thermal label printer, a barcode reader and dock, and more. In all, that’s not too bad.

You’re probably noticing there’s one big thing missing: card readers. That’s because it entirely depends on who you choose for processing. PayPal has just a single EMV-compatible reader (chip and PIN) available for $149, that also supports NFC. Mercury offers a choice of EMV-compatible wired and wireless terminals, as will any non-integrated processing service you choose. Costs will vary, so be sure to shop around.

And if you already have some hardware, it might be compatible with Vend, no new purchase required! You can check whether your hardware is compatible here.

Square Hardware 

Square is far more flexible as far as hardware is concerned. While it can’t run from desktops or laptops at all, you do have a large range of mobile devices and tablets to choose from:

  • Android: Works with tablets and phones. System requirements vary, check the list of devices with known issues.
  • iOS: Works with iPad, iPhone, iPod. Requires iOS 8 or later, but some hardware may not be compatible with iOS 9, only 9.1.

It’s worth mentioning again that a handful of Square’s features are iPad-only. You can also check the compatibility between your device and specific hardware here.

Square also offers an assortment of hardware bundles, all of which fall in the $500 to $700 range. These include a tablet stand, a receipt printer, and a cash drawer, as well as receipt paper and a free magstripe reader.

That means the EMV-compatible card readers are sold separately. However,you do have a few options:

  • EMV and magstripe reader: $29
  • EMV/NFC (chip and sig): $49 (includes a free magstripe reader)
  • EMV/NFC (chip and PIN): $129 (Note: This isn’t a branded Square reader, but a Miura m010, which supports iOS only).

The Square Stand ($99 or included in some kits) also has a free magstripe reader built in. You can get a dock for your EMV/NFC readers, as well as a bar code scanner. Square doesn’t officially support a label printer, but it says many customers have used a Dymo printer in their setup.

Both Vend and Square give you some very flexible options as far as hardware goes. You have multiple cash drawers and receipt printers, and even card readers. It really depends on what you need. Frankly, though, the low cost of Square’s EMV readers is a big draw — they are the the lowest prices I’ve seen anywhere.

Fees and Rates:

Winner: Square

It’s absolutely essential that your business find a POS and payment solution that fits your budget. There’s no sense in paying for more than you need, or letting yourself be conned into paying much higher credit card processing rates than you have to.

In that sense, Square has the advantage. You don’t pay for the POS, just card transactions. Here’s the basic transaction fees:

  • Swiped transactions: 2.75%
  • Invoice transactions: 2.75%
  • Keyed-in transactions: 3.5% + $0.15
  • eCommerce transactions: 2.9% + $0.30

If you want some of the additional services, here’s what you’ll pay:

  • Gift cards: Per-card cost (starting at $2 per card and dropping as you order more)
  • Appointments: $30 for one person, $50 for 2-5 staff, $90 for unlimited staff.
  • Payroll: $20 monthly subscription + $5 per employee paid (available in limited states)
  • Employee management: $5 per employee
  • Email marketing: $15 per month and up, depending on package

With Vend, you can choose from multiple packages:

Free Plan ($0/month)

  • 10 active products
  • Customers: 1,000
  • Users: 1
  • Community forum support only

Starter Plan ($59/month on yearly plan, $69 billed monthly)

  • Single-outlet support
  • Active products: 500
  • Customers: Unlimited
  • Users: Unlimited
  • Live chat and email support

Advanced ($85/month on yearly plan, $99 billed monthly)

  • Single-outlet support
  • Active products: Unlimited
  • Customers: Unlimited
  • Users: Unlimited
  • eCommerce store
  • Live chat and email support

Multi-Outlet ($169/month on yearly plan, $199 billed monthly)

  • Multiple-outlet support
  • Active products: Unlimited
  • Customers: Unlimited
  • Users: Unlimited
  • eCommerce store
  • Live chat and email support
  • 24/7 phone support

Remember that this is on top of any processing fees you pay. On the one hand, $60-$70/month sounds expensive because Square is free, and Shopify’s basic plan is $29. If you want an eCommerce store, that costs even more.

But that kind of thinking overlooks the fact that Vend gives you unlimited users and hardware integration for free. Shopify will charge you $40/month for those capabilities, and Square will charge you $5 per employee per month.

I like that Vend won’t charge you any transaction fees if you choose a non-integrated solution. If you use Shopify, you can wind up paying an additional 2% per transaction on top of your processor’s fees. And Square won’t let you use anyone else for payment processing at all.

If you use a different eCommerce gateway with Vend, you could wind up paying an additional charge for that. And if you choose an add-on (such as Shopify’s eCommerce integration), you’ll pay more for that, too. The same applies if you choose to integrate Square with another eCommerce provider, like BigCommerce.

This is really a matter of what you can afford vs. what you need. Since Square is entirely pay-as-you-go, it’s a good starting place if this is your first foray into retail. If you definitely need Vend’s capabilities, be sure to shop around and find the most affordable and convenient solution for card processing. Remember that you can use the import/export features both Vend and Square provide to move your data over if you ever decide to switch providers.

Contract Length and Early Termination Fee:

Winner: Square

With Square, there’s no contracts, no monthly fees. You can stop using Square whenever you want with absolutely no penalty. That is a significant advantage. You can also try the add-on services for 30 days completely free.

Vend gives you the option to save some money by paying for a full year in advance. Otherwise, you can go month-to-month and pay more for each package. That’s pretty common for most SaaS (Software as a Service) providers. I recommend starting with the month-to-month plan and see how it works before you invest in Vend for a whole year. There’s a 30-day trial where you can decide if Vend is right for you. You can also try the free plan, although it has very limited offerings.

The other thing you need to consider, though, is who you choose as a processor with Vend. PayPal is entirely pay-as-you-go, so if you stop using Vend, you can stop using PayPal, too, with zero penalties.

The problem is if you choose Vantiv Integrated/Mercury. While if you look at the Vend site, it says that Vantiv offers no-term contracts, that’s not the case across the board. The company does lock some of its vendors into multi-year contracts with ETFs. So even if you can stop using Vend whenever you want, you may still be stuck with a Mercury contract that could be potentially difficult to get out of.

Sales and Advertising Transparency:

Winner: Tie

Square has always been well known for its transparency. Clear, flat-rate processing, not hidden fees. There’s no pushy sales people, shady gimmicks or to-good-to-be-true promises. There’s a detailed knowledge base you can search without even needing an account, plus a solid blog with helpful resources for businesses, and social media (Twitter: @Square or @SqSupport, Facebook, LinkedIn).

I like what Square is doing in this department — though there is one niggling issue: account holds and freezes. Square isn’t exactly forthcoming about what causes them, and plenty of merchants are understandably upset. We’ll come back to this point in just a bit, though.

I also like how transparent Vend is. You know exactly what you’re getting and what the fees are. Again, there’s nothing that stinks of too-good-to-be-true. There is a sales force — you can request a consultation and Vend will send someone out to meet with you. However, I can’t find any evidence of Vend’s sales team using sketchy practices or hard selling techniques, which is good news indeed.

You can search Vend’s knowledge base before you sign up, and the blog is also full of great resource for merchants. Vend has a Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, as well as a YouTube and even a Pinterest.

The problem of course, is that payments aren’t integrated. PayPal is generally fair and transparent — flat-rate pricing, no shady gimmicks for businesses. You’ll see, if you dig into PayPal user reviews, that it still has an issue with holds and account terminations, but I can’t find any evidence that Vend users are affected by this.

The only “gimmick” I can find that Vend offers is a deal with PayPal that will give you a 50% discount on Vend when you sign up for both. The half-off deal lasts for three months. And if you process more than $10,000 monthly, you also get discounted PayPal rates.

Vantiv Integrated also has its own flaws with transparency (namely disclosure of that ETF). Quite a few complaints about Vantiv, especially recently, focus on merchants being overcharged for processing, which is understandably upsetting.

Customer Service and Technical Support:

Winner: Vend

Square and Vend have both managed to keep their prices down by looking for cost-effective support…which meant neither company offered phone support at all initially. Fortunately, that’s changed, but I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say either company is completely rocking it in terms of customer service.

Check out any user reviews of Square, and the lack of customer service — especially decent phone support — is one of the most common issues. Square’s knowledge base is extremely detailed so you can solve most problems yourself. There’s also email support, and a new community forum. But to get on the phone, you need a customer code, which some users have had trouble getting (and something people with frozen or terminated accounts can’t get at all). There’s also a dedicated Twitter customer service channel, @SqSupport, and you can reach Square on Facebook as well.

Vend’s free plan doesn’t give you customer support at all — just access to the community forum. For the Basic and Advanced plans, you get access to a very detailed knowledge base, as well as email and live chat support — which is good. I like to see live chat as an option because honestly, waiting on hold and dealing with automated systems really sucks. However, if you really do prefer to talk to an actual person, Vend’s 24/7 phone support is only included in the multi-outlet plan. If you have one of the other paid plans, you can add phone support for $20/month. I don’t like merchants having to pay for customer support at all, but at least you get email and live chat at no added cost.

I do like that both companies have a service that will let you know whether the system is fully operational or whether it has issues. You can check out Vend’s status here, and Square’s here.

Something else worth mentioning is that if you need it, Vend has a lot of other resources to help. There’s Vend U, which is included at no charge with any paid subscription, and gives you a wealth of lessons and resources. If you’d rather pay an expert for their time, you can find Vend’s official list of partners here and look for someone in your area.

Negative Reviews and Complaints:

Winner: Vend

There are two very consistent complaints with Square:

  1. Its tendency to hold or terminate accounts with no warning and very little room for appeal
  2. Dubious customer support, especially after having your account frozen or terminated.

As far as holds and freezes go, that’s an unfortunate side effect of Square’s business model: it aggregates payments rather than opening individual merchant accounts for every single user. On the one hand, this means you can start processing much sooner, but on the other it means you may find yourself shut down with no warning. Square seems to be doing much better at mitigating the risk over all, and it’s definitely taking strides to improve its customer service, as well. However, if you are in a high-risk industry, I highly encourage you to avoid both Square and PayPal as your processors.

Vend’s complaints are a bit less focused. Some of the issues that come up most often include lack of various features, including limited cash management, or glitches in accounting integrations. Vend is constantly adding new features and rolling out improvements, though. There are also a handful of complaints about the quality of customer support — but these are very, very few and far between.

Positive Reviews and Testimonials:

Winner: Tie

It shouldn’t be so surprising that Vend and Square have a lot over overlap in the “Good Things” categories — namely, customers like how easy-to-use and intuitive both POS systems are. They are easy to set up and get running. Because everything is stored in the cloud you can access your data everywhere. Just grab your iPad and open up the app to run your reports and check on sales. Beyond that, here’s what else what people like about each:

Square

  • Easy to set up: You can start processing through Square pretty much right away.
  • Truly mobile: Unlike Vend, Square is truly mobile friendly. While the iPad gives you the most functionality, you can still run the system from a smartphone and have all your data in one place.
  • Offline mode: Square’s offline mode is the best one out there. It’s the only one that I know that will still let you process credit cards during an outage. Yes, you accept the risk yourself, but depending on your business it could be a nonissue.
  • Inexpensive: With a free website/shopping cart, a free POS, flat-rate processing and everything else, it’s hard to argue with the value that Square offers. When you throw in all the affordable monthly add-ons… it might not be the most advanced system, but Square has everything most businesses need at a very attractive cost.

Vend

  • Customer Service: You will see the few odd complaints about Vend’s customer service but overall, users really seem to appreciate it. You can get phone support if you want, but otherwise, live chat, email, and the knowledge base should see you through just fine.
  • Affordability: Vend sounds more expensive than Square, but compared to many other cloud solutions or full-fledged POS systems it is very affordable.
  • Feature set: Vend doesn’t have everything everyone could ever want — but it certainly has everything you need, and then some. Even better, the company is always introducing new, more advanced features. Overall many people are happy with everything Vend offers.

Final Verdict:

Winner: Tie 

In this case, it is honestly difficult to point out a clear winner. While Square and Vend have similar offerings, comparing them isn’t a perfect apples-to-apples comparison. Vend is a cloud POS that happens to work on an iPad; Square is a mobile payments app that happens to have a very effective POS that also works on an iPad.

As always, the issue ultimately boils down to what features you need and what you can afford. Vend is a great option for retail environments, but it requires a monthly or yearly subscription, plus you pay processing rates. Square is an excellent mobile solution, and it has everything you need to run a retail register setup as well. You pay only processing rates and the monthly subscription fee for any add-on services you want.

You get comparable options for hardware. Square gives you an online store at no additional cost, while Vend offers one in its mid-tier subscription plan. Both also give you inventory management and a choice of add-ons and integrations to expand the functionality.

If you’re unsure of your budget, you don’t need as many advanced features, or mobile is a genuine concern, Square is a viable option. You only pay per transaction, which is great if you’re just starting out. Just know that Square’s aggregating model isn’t quite as stable as a traditional merchant account.

If you can afford Vend and need the more advanced features it offers (exchanges, store credit, etc.), by all means go for it. You’ll certainly get better customer support, but for the most part everything is so intuitive you should not need much guidance. Make sure you shop around for the best processing option, and consider a non-integrated solution from one of our top-rated merchant account providers if you want the lowest rates and best service. .

I hope this helps you make a decision! Be sure to check out our other iPad POS options as well as our mobile processors.

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