Why Square Is A Great Free POS For Markets And Grocery Stores

As a small business owner who is launching a new shop or exploring your payment processing options, finding the right POS to accept payments is not a decision to be made lightly. You probably already know that the grocery industry has its own unique rewards and challenges. Keeping up with supply and demand, getting your name out there, competing with the bigger brands, and strengthening your own brand recognition takes time, energy, and a lot of know-how. Fortunately, Square offers a fantastic POS option for markets and grocery stores that goes way beyond just the swipe.

Read on to find out how Square payment processing tools can benefit your business whether you are opening a pop-up shop, have a brick-and-mortar store, or take your culinary delights on the go to farmer’s markets and trade shows.

Square’s Free Point-Of-Sale Reader & App

Square is best known for the free Square Point of Sale app and the free Square Reader. Square’s iconic white reader plugs into a smartphone or tablet to make mobile payments possible. The Square Point of Sale app allows you to “swipe, dip, or tap payments” whether or not you have an internet signal. If you run into a spotty WiFi connection or have a service interruption, you don’t have to worry about a line bottleneck because the app can securely save data offline.

For the smaller to mid-size shop, the Square Point of Sale app has everything you will need and then some. We dive into all of these features below, so keep reading for a closer look at how Square gives you better control over more parts of your business, from inventory management to sales, employees, and even more.

We’ll also take a look at how Square can also help you completely run or supplement your marketing campaigns with an all-in-one solution that can integrate a loyalty program and private customer feedback. Most of these perks (except for the loyalty program option) are all “in-the-box” features that you won’t pay anything more to use with your free POS Square reader.  Let’s dig in!

Reader eCommerce Retail Food Service
Free App & Reader Square eCommerce Square for Retail Square for Restaurants
Get Started Get Started Get Started Get Started
Free, general-purpose POS software and reader for iOS and Android Easy integration with popular platforms plus API for customization Specialized software for more complex retail stores Specialized software for full-service restaurants
$0/month $0/month $60/month $60/month
Always Free Always Free Free Trial Free Trial

Track Inventory

One thing will never change — people love to eat. However, keeping your supply up-to-date can be a challenge when it comes to balancing the ebb and flow of demand. Your customers come in for a specific product or ingredient; making sure it’s always there for them builds loyalty and trust. Managing inventory can be tricky if you don’t have the right tools.

Thankfully, Square builds inventory management right into their product, so you don’t ever have to think twice about shopping around for a suite of tools. It’s easy to set up your inventory — you can bulk import all of your products with a CSV spreadsheet and make any adjustments to name, prices, or quantities as needed. Once your inventory is saved, you can also set low-stock alerts so that Square will let you know if you’re running low on a product. The best part is that you can determine what constitutes “low stock,” whether that’s six of an item, or 100! You’ll also always be able to take a peek in real time at what — and how much — of your products are selling.

Square’s inventory also supports variants and modifiers. Variants are helpful if you carry a product that comes in different flavors or sizes — you can keep the item listing centralized, but still track quantities of each flavor or size and see which ones are most popular. You can even set different pricing for each variant, as appropriate. Modifiers are more applicable to restaurants and cafes, but if you run a small boutique store and want to upsell customers on special bundles or extra discounted products, you could add them as modifiers.

Square’s inventory system allows you to upload photos for each product, and on a tablet you can configure the layout of products. However, if you don’t like browsing for the right item, you can also attach a barcode scanner. While the free Point of Sale App doesn’t have native label printing, you can find several viable workarounds.

Also, if you sell products in bulk, it’s important to know that Square doesn’t currently support tracking partial increments of a product, or selling by weight. Again, you can find workarounds for this, one of them being the variable price point feature. With the variable price point, you can create an item and track sales, but the POS app will prompt you to enter an amount for the sale when you select the item.

Finally, if you have more than one shop, you can take advantage of the free multi-location inventory management tools. Square allows you to set up individual preferences for each location, including taxes. You can build your inventory from Square’s centralized item catalog and adjust pricing and availability as appropriate. Plus, you can run reports to see sales by location, POS device, or even by individual employee (you’ll need an Employee Management subscription for that last report.) 

The best part is that you can control all of this — every location, all of your inventory, all of your devices — from your Square Dashboard, which is a free web portal. Below we also cover a little bit more about the dashboard — including how it helps you keep track of employee sales, tips, peak sales times, and more.

Square Dashboard

The Square dashboard gives you an integrated look at many aspects of your store — and these reporting and analytics features are all free. You can view your stats in real time and see what is going on in your store — or stores — simply by visiting the Sales tab in the dashboard. Whether you want to dig into the data or you just want a quick visual representation of sales, you can find what you need, fast. You can access reports, view all types of transactions, and keep track of deposits all by quickly scanning the three tabs at the top of your dashboard.

The reports tab breaks all of your data down into simple graphs and data to view aspects of your shop, including:

  • Sales Summary: Your sales summary report is updated in real time and can be viewed by day, month, or year.
  • Sales Trends: See your sales performance in daily, weekly, or yearly views.
  • Payments Methods: This report displays how your customers pay and any fees associated with the transaction.
  • Item Sales: Allows you to find out how well any individual product is selling.
  • Category Sales: Get a quick pie-chart view of which categories are bringing in the most sales such as appetizers, side dishes, or drinks, for example.
  • Employee Sales: This report breaks down tips, hours worked, and when an employee’s sales peaked for the day. (Note: You need to subscribe to Square’s Employee Management to access these features)
  • Discounts: Running a promotion? This report tells you how often your customers use a discount, coupon, or another offer when they buy. (More about loyalty programs through Square later in the post.)
  • Taxes: This report breaks all of your tax information down by the type, amount, and records any non-taxable sales in one spot.

Square also allows you to create your own custom reports, so if you want to see certain pieces of information together, you can tell Square to compile that report for you, and even how often to send it.

Don’t forget that the Dashboard is also the centralized management hub for all of your other Square services, including invoicing, employee management or payroll, and any other tools you might be using.

Built-In Marketing Engagement

One of the interesting aspects of Square’s platform is its customer engagement tools, the foundation of which is the customer directory. With Square POS, you can keep a record of all your customers, with their name, phone number, email, purchase history, and even card details, if you prefer (and your customers agree to store the card on file). You don’t need to have Square’s loyalty program to activate this feature, and it comes at no charge. It’s a great way to keep notes on regular customers and their preferences, to see who your most loyal customers are and who spends the most money in your store. 

If you’d like to build marketing campaigns to reach out to your regulars, your new customers, or even lapsed customers, Square has the tools built right in, plus all of the data right at your fingertips. Square’s marketing services start at $15/month, which is a pretty reasonable price. The price will scale with your use of the marketing services.

With the marketing tools, you can segment your customer list and target people automatically with offers to get them in the door. So whether you are welcoming a new customer or re-engaging a customer you haven’t seen in a while with a with a special discount, Square lets you tailor your marketing message to people at different spots in the buying journey.

The email tools are simple — you don’t have to understand how to set up multiple campaigns because Square streamlines the creation process for you through prompts. They give you a lot of template designs to choose from and even have some holiday and special occasion suggestions. You can send out a one-time email for a birthday or set up recurring email campaigns that encourage more interaction and more opportunities to buy from you — it all depends on how you want to run your business. 

Finally, when it’s time to review the success of your email campaigns, Square reports show you how many opens and clicks you get, as well as how many people redeem your offer.

Receive & Manage Feedback Privately

The Feedback feature can be helpful if you want a way to take charge of the customer experience and try to eliminate the troubles they encounter. It allows you to personally engage your customers — while keeping everything private. When you enable feedback management, customers who receive digital receipts also receive an invite to provide private feedback about their experience.

You can then resolve any issues between just you and your customer and hopefully make them happier and engaged. The idea behind this is that it is much easier to respond to private feedback than having to keep track of and respond to negative public feedback. Most customers appreciate being acknowledged whether the experience was good or bad, and if you do have an unhappy customer, you can make it right with a full/partial refund or a coupon for a discount on their next purchase. You can check the customer database to see what their purchase history is like and make a determination of the best offer to send. 

Best of all, the feedback management feature is totally free to use!

Square Loyalty Program

Square encourages customer engagement and sales in yet another way — a loyalty program. The pricing structure of Square’s loyalty program is based on the number of loyalty visits, starting at $25/month. Costs automatically adjust with the participation of your customers, and you can always track the success of any program at your dashboard to see if you’re getting your money’s worth.

Square’s loyalty program is very flexible and allows you to tailor rewards to your business and your branding. You can opt for something as simple as a digital punch card, where customers earn a reward after so many purchases, or you can structure a more advanced reward system that allows your customers to collect points and cash in their rewards when they want. You can even let them choose from multiple tiers — they could opt for two lower-tier rewards, or spend all their points on a single higher-tiered reward. 

However you choose to structure your rewards program, you can track the performance on your dashboard. You can see how many customers enroll, how often customers redeem rewards, and how many subsequent repeat visits you’re getting. 

According to Square, customers who join their loyalty programs spend 37% more after they join it. Across the board, loyalty programs continue to work for businesses of every size to encourage repeat business, and we think that it’s definitely worth giving it a try for a while and seeing if it works for your business.

Fully PCI Compliant & Secure

When dealing with credit card processing companies, one of the biggest questions most business owners have has to do with safety and security. You want to know that your data is secure and your customer’s payment information isn’t going to be compromised, because when it all boils down, the burden is on you to make sure that you are PCI compliant. “PCI” is shorthand for the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (also sometimes called PCI DSS). No matter how big or small your business is, if you accept credit cards, you have to follow the best practices of the industry when it comes to security — and you can face penalties if you don’t.

To remain secure and compliant for each credit card you take, you have to follow the security guidelines when you swipe, key in, store, or transmit their card data. For starters, data must be encrypted properly at each stage of processing and storage, and each year the standards change.

The whole security and compliance issue can be expensive for the smaller to midsize business, and for some, the issue is intimidating enough that they avoid credit card payments altogether.

The great news is that when Square offers you their product or service, they are taking the burden of PCI compliance on themselves when it comes to their hardware and app. Square is an industry leader in security and compliance. Their team participates on the PCI board itself and has an inside view into the ever-changing world of data security. What that means for you is that when you use Square, you don’t have to jump through any other security hoops — Square maintains PCI compliance and does the work for you. You won’t even need to pay any PCI compliance fees. 

Cost Per Swipe & Getting Started With Square

Getting started with the Square POS app and the reader you will use to swipe your customer’s cards is entirely free. Square continues to remain a favorite among small business owners because they don’t charge sign-on or monthly fees for their free POS reader or app — and they don’t make you sign contracts and punish you with charges if you decide it’s not for you.

If you bring your own smartphone or tablet and combine it with one of Square’s mobile card readers, you’ll pay 2.75% for each swiped, dipped, or tapped transaction. If you opt for one of Square’s all-in-one hardware systems, such as Square Terminal or Square Register, you’ll pay slightly different rates. With Square Terminal, swiped, dipped, or tapped transactions process at 2.6% + $0.10 per transaction.  If you want to know more about all of Square’s different card readers and hardware, check out A Guide to Square’s Credit Card Readers and POS Bundles.

Considering that these are pretty low rates to begin with, and there are so many additional built-in features like dashboard analytics, invoicing, the customer database, and inventory management, we think that is a pretty sweet deal for any grocery store looking to expand.

If you are curious and want to dig even deeper, check out our Square review or visit the Square Point of Sale page and sign up for free to see how it all works for yourself!

Reader eCommerce Retail Food Service
Free App & Reader Square eCommerce Square for Retail Square for Restaurants
Get Started Get Started Get Started Get Started
Free, general-purpose POS software and reader for iOS and Android Easy integration with popular platforms plus API for customization Specialized software for more complex retail stores Specialized software for full-service restaurants
$0/month $0/month $60/month $60/month
Always Free Always Free Free Trial Free Trial

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