Why We Like Square’s Online Dashboard and Analytics App

Many business owners know and love Square for its free mobile point of sale app and free credit card readers, but some don’t realize that Square automatically provides some pretty powerful reporting and analytics features with their processing service.

Even if you’re primarily using Square to accept payments. Square dashboard feature is worth a closer look. Now more than ever, understanding data is critical to making smart business decisions every day, no matter what industry you’re in.

Read on for a look at some of the most notable features and benefits of the Square dashboard.

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Square’s Online Dashboard Features

The Square Dashboard makes it easy to understand both simple and complex aspects of your business. Best of all, it’s completely free with all Square accounts, and you can check it out from your favorite browser with no issues. (Note: Square’s Dashboard app is currently only available for iPhones; an Android version is coming soon. We’ll take a more in-depth look into the mobile app’s capabilities later in this post.)

The Square Dashboard boasts a simple, easy-to-use interface, and its intuitive design allows you to find what you want quickly. You can play around with your Home screen until it displays the sections in the order you think makes the most sense. This dashboard is so user-friendly that data geeks and amateurs alike can find something to love. Let’s dig in a little deeper.

Manage Settings

The Settings area acts as a control center where you can manage all kinds of permissions and security settings, including setting up 2-step verification for sign-in for you and your employees. Here, you can also edit your business name as it appears on your receipts and statements and change your bank account if needed.

Settings is also the place to manage multiple business locations (if applicable) and get device codes set up for each of your devices rather than simply relying on your email and password.

Get Paid From Your Dashboard 

One of the most important functions of the dashboard is getting paid!

If you are using your Virtual Terminal, you can access it directly from your dashboard to accept payment. Payments here are 3.5% + 15¢ per keyed-in transaction — or, if you have your Square Reader for magstripe, you’ll pay 2.75% per transaction. (A quick note, you need to have a Chromebook or Mac computer to take advantage of this.)

Square’s Virtual Terminal

If you invoice your customers, you can send a one-off invoice or set up recurring invoices from your dashboard, too. Invoices are free to send out, and you will pay 2.9% + 30¢ per invoice when your customers pay with credit or debit online. Square has beefed up its features in this regard, with the option to let customers pay in installments as well as the ability to request a downpayment.

Transferring Funds To Your Account

The Settings area also allows you to play around with your deposit schedule. By default, your account is set to deposit funds accrued by 8:00 pm EST to your account the next business day.

Need them even sooner? If you are in need of your funds right away, you can opt to use instant deposit. Instant deposit transfers your sales balance to your linked debit card whether it’s a business day or a weekend (for an additional 1% of the balance). Check out How Does Square’s Instant Deposit Work? for a more detailed look at this feature.

 

Now that we have covered the basics of some of the features under Settings, let’s discover more about the reporting features, found in the Square Reports tab (under Sales).

Reporting

Within the Sales section of the Square Dashboard, you’ll discover important insights into how your business (and your employees) operate. For instance, in the Reports tab, you have multiple subsections that give you visual data about nearly every part of your business.

The Square Reports tab is broken down by sections:

  • Sales Summary: The summary shows all of your gross sales, net sales, discounts, and more. You can change the time period of the report to display an overview of the whole year or see what your sales are doing today, in real time.

  • Sales Trends: Trends gives you a visual representation of all of your sales in the form of a line graph to quickly see how your sales perform day to day, week to week, and year to year.
  • Payment Methods: The payment methods feature gives you a snapshot of how customers are paying, how many transactions they have with you, and the fees associated with each type. Whether your customers are paying with cash, card, or gift card —it is all right there.
  • Item Sales: This section breaks down sales totals by item. Get an exact count on what products and services are selling the best — and which are selling the least.
  • Category Sales: Not only can you see an itemized list of everything you’re selling in the item sales section, but Square’s reporting feature also breaks things down by category.
  • Mobile Staff Sales: Keep track of who your best mobile sellers are with a quick view that shows you when they sell through the day. Finding out when sales peak can help you schedule and better manage your entire remote staff — and help you spot your best sellers for the day.
  • Employee Sales: Similar to the mobile staff sales section, the employee sales section helps you keep track of who is selling what. This section shows you sales per hour, tips, hours worked, and when sales peaked for the day. To be able to use this, you’ll have to have an Employee Management subscription, which costs $5/employee per month.
  • Discounts: The discount sections shows a list for the amount and frequency of your discounts that are applied to anything your customers buy.
  • Taxes: This section breaks the sales tax information down for you by the type of tax, how much it is, and any non-taxable sales you have.
  • Gift Cards: Find out what you need to know about any gift cards you sell. This section overviews any gift cards you load, how much was put on them, how many were redeemed, and how many existing gift cards you have floating around at any time.
  • Comps: Comps keep track of changes to orders that may affect your bottom line. If a change will cause a loss to your business, or if you want to place a discount on an order and eat the cost, you will utilize the comp function.
  • Voids: For a change to an order that doesn’t affect inventory or costs (i.e., a customer changes an order before it’s made), you will use the void function.

Worried about keeping accurate books? You can also export your data from nearly any accounting software. The best part is that because the dashboard is so easy to navigate, you don’t have to wade through a lot of Excel sheets to get to your data. Keeping things in one central location can mean less hassle, as you have created a streamlined workflow from data to decisions. And that can make for smart business decisions at every level. 

Customer Care

Square has some excellent — and entirely free — built-in features that can help you understand and take control of customer satisfaction. The foundation of this is the Square Directory, a free tool you can use to build customer profiles, including their names, contact information, and purchase history. You can also keep notes on each customer! A detailed transaction and activity history can help you understand how your customers interact with you through time.

Square offers insights that show you how often your customers visit and how often they return to you. The insights can help you track retention patterns, and if you have multiple locations, help you understand which of your locations is doing better. You can create segments of your “regulars” or identify customers who have lapsed in visits and (if you opt to use Square’s Marketing suite) reach out to them with promotions.

The other tool worth mentioning is Square Feedback. Here, you can encourage any customers who have negative issues to leave you private feedback where you can offer resolution directly. Your customers can send private feedback from their receipt so you can keep track of any repeated issues or isolated issues quickly. It’s possible to respond to the feedback, issue refunds, or send coupons — all through the Square dashboard.

Square’s Customer Feedback Features

Inventory

While you can create items from within the Square Point of Sale app, the Square Dashboard offers much more comprehensive tools to manage your inventory. You can create items manually, one by one, or do a bulk upload with a CSV file. In the dashboard, you can also manage quantities of items and set low-stock alerts, so you know when it’s time to re-order something. Square’s inventory supports barcodes (though it can’t print labels), as well as variants and modifiers. You can even sort your inventory by category.

Square gives you access to reports that will break the sales data down into beautiful graphs for you to keep track of what inventory items are selling the best. By using the inventory tools, you can quickly see what inventory is moving the fastest and can make better decisions about what to do next.  This real-time data reporting feature means you always have the most up-to-date, accurate information when it comes to re-ordering, managing promotions, and distribution (if you have more than one location). 

How Square Dashboard Insights Lead To Smart Promotions

Sure, the capability to easily keep up with your inventory, sales, and customer management are all benefits, but the dashboard can also give you powerful insights when it comes to making decisions about marketing your business.

For example, you may have a great product that hasn’t quite caught on with customers yet. This app shows you who is buying that lesser-known service or item, allowing you to then run a referral campaign as an incentive for those people to tell their family and friends.

And when it’s time to run a promotion, or you have ongoing discounts to offer, you can track the success of those promotional pushes as well. You’ll find this handy feature in the reporting feature under the Discounts section.

Don’t forget: Square’s Loyalty Program (which starts at $25/month) can be managed from within the dashboard. It syncs with the Directory and allows you to customize your loyalty program perks, right down to the branding of the program. Square really does offer you a centralized way to manage your interactions with your customers and make smart decisions on how to drive sales.

The Square Dashboard App

The Square Dashboard App allows you to take some of the Dashboard’s analytic and real-time updating power with you on the go — if you have an iPhone with the latest version of iOS running. (For those of you with an Android phone, Square is working on developing a compatible app, so stay tuned.)

After you download the app, you can sign into your account. You’ll see right away that it is a bit more simplified than the full online Square Dashboard.

That said, the Square Dashboard App still gives you quite a bit of control on the go. You can view live sales data from more than one location, add customers to your directory, and take a peek at activity through the day. What you can’t do is send an invoice from your app; you will have to log in to your online Square Dashboard to update and submit invoices and send them from within Square Point of Sale.

Make Smarter Business Decisions For A Low Cost & High Value

Ready to get started and dig into the reporting and analytics features? You don’t have to do anything if you are already using Square. It’s all in your Dashboard. You will find every section we highlighted above — from sales summaries and trends to employee sales activity through the day — and it’s all accessible in real time, completely free with your account. 

For any business owner, the ability to quickly track pending invoices and handle customer feedback concerns privately can mean the difference between success and failure. And when it comes to comparing location performance, employee activities, and sales trends over the long term, the dashboard can help you make smarter, more informed decisions for your business.

With everything that Square offers in terms of free features and reporting options, the cost-to-value ratio is a no-brainer. You get a lot of benefit out of this robust product that keeps delivering real-time data to you all year.

Remember, though: While Square doesn’t cost anything to use, you will be responsible for paying credit card processing costs! But unless you opt for a monthly subscription product such as Loyalty, Marketing, or Employee Management, transaction fees will be your only consistent costs with Square.

With Square, fees for each type of transaction can vary, but you’ll pay the same for any type of card. Here is a quick break-down of the most common transaction costs:

  • Square Point of Sale with a mobile card reader: 2.75% per swiped, dipped, or tapped transaction.
  • Square Register: 2.5% + $0.10 per swiped, dipped, or tapped transaction
  • Square Terminal: 2.6% + $0.10 per swiped, dipped, or tapped transaction

For more on Square’s transaction pricing, check out How Much Does Square Charge?

If you are interested in learning more about all of Square’s hardware options, check out our Guide to Square Credit Card Readers And POS Bundles.

Try the Square Online Dashboard For Free

If you are already a Square user, the next step is simple: head over to your dashboard and start checking things out. If you haven’t gotten started with Square yet, you can sign up for a free account with Square and test it out for yourself. There are no credit checks for this, and a free mag-stripe reader comes to your mailbox after you sign up.

Best Overall Mobile POS


Review Visit Site

Highlights

  • No contract or monthly fee
  • Instant account setup
  • Retail upgrade available
  • Restaurant upgrade available
  • For iOS and Android mobile devices
  • 2.75% per in-person card swipe

Retail POS: Free trial ($60/mo value)

 

Restaurant POS: Free trial ($60/mo value)

 

Square POS: Always free

Get things set up, keep doing what you do best, and then watch Square build reports for your business in real time.

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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

The post Why We Like Square’s Online Dashboard and Analytics App appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

How to Accept Credit Cards For Your Taxi Business

 

credit card processing for taxi drivers

If you are a taxi driver, there is no shortage of options when it comes to accepting credit card payments from your customers. But the truth is, point of sale solutions don’t all offer the same type of features and benefits. And when you consider that most customers today whip out their credit card when it’s time to pay the bill, finding the best credit card processing company for your taxi business is really important.

If you’re a taxi or ride-share driver looking for a good payment processing app, we’ve created this post just for you — read on for an overview of some of the features you may want to look out for when you choose a processing company for your taxi business. At the end of the post, we’ll also tell you which company offers the best processing features (and value) for your money — and why.

What Makes A Good Mobile Payments Processor?

Mobile App & Card Reader

Of course, the most essential thing to have when accepting payment in your taxi is good, basic functionality in the mobile app and credit card reader you’re using. First things first: Look for a reader that is compatible with the mobile device on which your software is installed — whether that is your iPhone or Android phone, iPad, or another type of tablet.

You will also want to pay attention to any costs associated with the card reader itself. Are the reader and app free to use? If not, could you get a better deal elsewhere? Read our article on the best credit card readers for more information about choosing good hardware.

As a taxi driver, the ability to accept multiple types of payments is important for the convenience of both you and your customer, but you need to be able to count on it to work wherever you are. It’s critical to choose a company that has built up an excellent reputation through reliable and secure service.

Of course, it’s critical to consider things like rates, fees, usability, and other bells and whistles that might come along with your service, so keep reading to find out more about what makes a good credit card processing solution for your taxi company.

Offline Mode

Mobile credit card readers are built to go wherever you do, but that doesn’t mean they are always going to function if your internet service gets interrupted. Since you can’t always rely on the connectedness of your device, finding a credit card reader that also works offline is a must.

You may be asking, ‘So how does it work if you are offline?’ If a card reader has an “offline mode,” you can still swipe payments without worrying about a spotty connection (or just re-swiping and crossing your fingers). Connection problems don’t just affect taxi drivers and other mobile businesses — they can affect brick and mortar businesses as well. Having an offline mode takes some of the worry and the hassle out of accepting payments, so you never have to worry about a disconnection interfering with a sale.

Low Processing Rates

One of the first questions anyone should ask when it comes to credit card processing is, of course, how much does it cost? After all, it is your business and your bottom line, so understanding all of the fees that come along with your service is important. Taxi drivers understand better than many business owners what high processing fees can do to earnings.

Many processing companies charge exorbitant rates per transaction, leading some people to stick to cash transactions and avoid processing credit card payments altogether. Thankfully, not all processing companies are out to screw you over — we include our best recommendation at the end of the post, so keep reading if you are curious!

Look for a company that has easy-to-understand rates, with preferably no added monthly fees. Nowadays, you also should look for freedom when it comes to contracts. As a taxi driver, you shouldn’t be bullied into signing a long-term contract with any credit card processing company. In fact, a contract of that sort is often a red flag that there may be more hidden fees once they hook you, so avoid these high-pressure tactics if you can.

Educate yourself before you begin negotiations with any potential payment processor. Read our Complete Guide To Credit Card Processing Rates and Fees, check out our infographic on payment processing fees for a visual overview, or download our free eBook, the Beginner’s Guide To Payment Processing.

Intuitive Tipping Functionality

One of the great things about accepting payments through a mobile reader is that tipping is made easy for your customers. Tips can add up to a pretty big chunk of your take-home pay if you drive cabs for a living, so pay close attention to any app you are considering when it comes to the tipping experience. Look for an app that offers up some preset tip amounts first but also allows your riders to choose a different amount if they want. When an app suggests a pre-set percentage, it removes any mental math skills and makes it even easier to tip you at the end of the ride.

Customer Experience Feedback

Another perk to check out when you are shopping around for the best mobile app for your taxi company is the feedback function. Does the app allow your customers to rate the drive or give you any input? If there are any issues, resolving them directly with you through the app is preferable to a customer posting a public review or calling your company. These customer feedback functions can also show you how you or your staff are doing each day and over time— and allow you to communicate with your customers about their experience directly.

Backend Reporting

Nowadays, when it comes to finding the right mobile processing app, there is so much more available than just the swipe feature. Check out some of the other services that may come along with the app, like reporting and analytics. The ability to track sales history and amounts, see peak service times, store customer data, and create other insights can be powerful tools to help you make better decisions. 

The Best Mobile Payment App For Taxis & Ride Shares

With all of the potential benefits — and pitfalls — in mind listed above, there really is only one company that offers the whole package. When it comes to credit card readers that deliver more than just a swipe function, our favorite payment processor is Square.

Best Overall Mobile POS


Review Visit Site

Highlights

  • No contract or monthly fee
  • Instant account setup
  • Retail upgrade available
  • Restaurant upgrade available
  • For iOS and Android mobile devices
  • 2.75% per in-person card swipe

Retail POS: Free trial ($60/mo value)

 

Restaurant POS: Free trial ($60/mo value)

 

Square POS: Always free

Square has some of the lowest rates with no surprise monthly charges or hidden fees. Not only are costs low, but you can also get your funds deposited directly into your bank account in as little as one or two business days. Also, fees are the same no matter what card you take —  and yes you can start taking every major credit card, including American Express. With the free Square POS app, it is just 2.75% per swiped, dipped, or tapped transaction — and the card reader itself is free.

We like that when you take payment, the offline feature is backing you up in the event service is interrupted. Keep in mind that with Square, no data is saved to your device, so you can be confident you are offering a fully secure and PCI compliant solution.

We also like that with Square POS, you get access to analytics that you may not have had before. For instance, the Square dashboard feature makes it easy for you to see every time you or any other driver connected to your account to process a payment with Square. At the Square dashboard, you can see this activity happening in real time. The simple charts allow you to quickly determine peak times and sales activity for each driver (or yourself), so you can make better decisions when it comes to scheduling.

If you want to check out a little bit more about Square before making a decision, check out our other resources, including How Much Does Square Charge, and How Does Square’s Instant Deposit Work? By doing a little research and checking out the features most important to you, you can find the best solution that you are comfortable with — and that makes your life a lot easier.

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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

The post How to Accept Credit Cards For Your Taxi Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

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

The post Why Square Is A Great Free POS For Markets And Grocery Stores appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How Does Customer Financing With Square Installments Work?

Square is best known by online sellers and brick-and-mortar shops for its secure credit card processing solutions. With a free mobile point of sale app — and free credit card reader–, Square has made it easier for the everyday small business owner to start taking credit cards. Card readers like Square’s also make it more convenient for shoppers to buy without carrying cash. That can be a win-win for everyone involved with the sale.

Because a business owner no longer has to purchase an expensive POS system to process credit card payments, it’s no wonder that the use of Square has rapidly grown over the last few years. In fact, a surprising number of businesses still did not accept credit cards at the time Square was launched. For a solo entrepreneur or a smaller shop, it used to be a lot more expensive and time-consuming to get started (not to mention more than a little intimidating, given PCI compliance and other regulations). Nowadays, you can find these portable credit card readers everywhere — from your favorite ice cream place to high-end boutiques, salons, and even consulting agencies. If you’re buying at a local shop, there is a good chance that Square is the company processing your payment.

In typical Square fashion, Square Installments provides a more accessible option for businesses that want to offer financing to their clients. If your company sells higher ticket items — from $250 to $10,000 — and you’d like to offer on-the-spot approval and financing to your customers, read on to find out more about Square Installments. But first — a little primer on customer financing.

What Is Customer Financing?

Before we dig too deep into Square Installments, let’s cover the basics of customer financing. By financing a purchase, customers can take home a product or use a service right away without paying for it in full at the time of purchase.

A common example of customer financing would be heading to the dealership and leaving with a new-to-you car — and a payment plan for the next three years to pay it off. Getting the newest version of your phone and rolling payments into your mobile phone bill is also another (more painless) way to finance an upgrade for your phone with less sticker shock.

Financing makes things a little easier on your customer, but it shouldn’t require you to wait for the cash. When you offer to finance through a third-party like Square Installments, you sell your product or service and permit payment to be settled directly between the lender (in this case Square Capital) and your customer. Square pays you in full at the time of purchase.

Financing customers is all about convenience and accessibility. For your customers, financing can make large ticket items easier to purchase with predictable monthly payments spread out over time. Instead of shelling out the entire lump sum, they have more time to pay. This makes for an easier sell for your salesperson and a more comfortable decision for your customer.

When a purchaser thinks about what they are buying in terms of monthly vs. the total amount of dollars, financing can significantly lower the “sticker shock.” Giving purchasing flexibility to your customers will make buying from you a more attractive and accessible option — and of course, that’s good for your business, too.

Companies that invoice monthly payments for ongoing services are also offering a financing option to their clients, in a way. Yet anyone who has a business model based on retainers or monthly agreements knows that sometimes when the bill comes due, it doesn’t always get paid — possibly because the person you invoiced has bad credit or is in financial trouble. These issues can be virtually nonexistent when you let Square Installments pre-screen and approve your clients — and take on the financial risk.

Read on to find out how Square Installments works and how much it costs so you can decide if Square Installments services are right for you.

How Does Square Installments Work?

There are two ways you can use Square Installments for your business: at the point of sale or via Square Invoices. Once you sign up for Square Installments, your business will get a custom URL. This web address is just for your business and is the link you’ll send to every customer who wants to apply for financing.

The Square Installments Process For In-Store Sales

Once you share the link with your customer, they’ll follow the instructions from their smartphone and fill out a short online application. In almost all scenarios, customer approval happens in real time, right when they’re ready to purchase at your shop.

If approved, they can accept one of the financing options on offer and will receive a one-time-use number for a digital card they use to pay you for their purchase. The number is valid for seven days, and your customer can only redeem it at your business.

When your customer is ready to buy, they’ll present you with the digital card number given to them by Square Installments; you will key that number directly into your Square Point of Sale app, online through Square API, or through your virtual terminal.

Square pays you in full for the amount at the time you process the approved application.

Square Invoices From Square Installments

Square Invoices allows you to send your customers invoices through Square as well. After you are approved and set up, the option for installment payments will appear on your invoice automatically. Once your customers receive your invoice, the process is similar to the one above — they fill out an online application, can pick a plan, and once approved, you get paid upfront and in full.

To spread the word, Square will also send you some free marketing material — both in print and in the form of a banner for your website so your customers won’t miss this new option for buying with you.

You Don’t Need To Be A Financing Expert

Worried about the fine print and fielding financing questions? Don’t be. If your customers have questions about Square Installments, they’ll contact Square directly. In fact, because this is considered a “highly regulated financial product,” it’s essential to pass any questions or concerns off to Square’s own customer service folks. And of course, this arrangement means you’re not burdened with the nitty-gritty details of financing or payment collection.

How Much Does Square Installments Cost?

If you’re a business owner considering whether or not the cost is worth the convenience of the service, here are some figures to help you crunch the math.

Square Installments for Square Invoices costs 2.9% of the purchase price plus $0.30 per transaction. Square Installments at your Point of Sale costs 3.5% of the purchase price plus $0.15 per transaction. If a custom rate applies to your business for keyed-in Square Invoices transactions, this rate also applies to any Square Installments transactions.

The good news is that there are no recurring monthly usage fees or long-term commitments. You can cancel the service any you time want with no fees or contracts for your business to worry about.

For a customer who is considering using Square Installments to pay for a purchase, the annual percentage rate will vary depending on a few different factors. However, every customer will have more three options when it comes to repaying the loan. Square makes things upfront and easy to understand for the borrower, with ease of use in mind.

Should You Use Square Installments?

Small Business Owner Using Square Customer Service

The main benefit of Square Installments is that customers can pay over time — making them more likely to buy and making your business more likely to sell more inventory. Whether to break up payments for a big purchase that a customer normally couldn’t afford, or simply to offer a convenient option other than cash or checks, financing through Square Installments can be a valuable tool for your sales team to leverage.

When the average business owner thinks about customer financing, one of the biggest concerns is that the customer gets possession of the product or service without paying in full. While that may be a concern if you offer in-store financing and manage it yourself, in this case, Square takes on the financial risk entirely. You get paid right away and let Square manage the installments.

There are some important things to keep in mind when you consider whether Square Installments services are right for your business, however. As noted above, Square Installments isn’t free. Also, keep in mind that Square Installments is only applicable for purchases between $250 and $10,000 — so businesses that deal with higher ticket products or services will need to consider other options for financing.

When you make the final decision to use Square Installments, consider the benefits vs. the costs. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Would your target market and current customers likely make the purchase anyway? (In other words: How “warm” or “cold” are the people who come to your online sales page or place of business?)
  • Does opening up financing options also open up the possibility of a new target customer or a larger final sale?
  • If you send out invoices, will Square Installments give you a more convenient or secure option to take secure payments and prescreen users, despite the cost?

For any business owner, the benefits and conveniences should outweigh the cost of Square Installments per sale. Because you don’t need to sign any long-term contracts to use Square Installments, it might be worth it to try the service for a bit, see what you think, and compare sales over the next few sales cycles to be sure either way.

Learn More About Square

While you consider whether or not you want to jump in and offer Square Installments as an option for your customers, check out some of the other reviews for Square services. Find out how much Square charges for their primary services and get armed with more information about Square processing to see if these payment options are right for your business. If you want to see the service for yourself, sign up for a free Square account today and check it out!

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

The post How Does Customer Financing With Square Installments Work? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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A Guide To Square Credit Card Readers And POS Bundles

 

Square made its name offering a free mobile credit card swiper, but the company has expanded so much in the past few years that there is now a massive array of hardware options, catering to all types of businesses. You can still get mobile card readers from Square if you don’t need more than just a phone or tablet and a swiper, but you can also get a countertop POS system complete with a customer-facing display, or a slim, portable credit card terminal with a phone-sized high-resolution screen and built-in receipt printer. And if you’d like to print paper receipts and have an automated cash drawer, Square offers a wide range of compatible hardware. You can even save some money by opting for one of Square’s ready-made bundles of hardware.

Let’s take a look at Square’s hardware options, including its mobile readers, POS systems, and POS kits. We’ll start with simplest options and move on to the most comprehensive kits. We’ll also talk about what you can do to control your costs and manage your cash flow with Square’s financing.

If you’re still curious about Square’s offerings, we also recommend checking out our complete, in-depth review of Square, which covers hardware as well as the software.

Square Mobile Card Readers

Square’s mobile card readers are meant to work with smartphones and tablets — unlike with some of the company’s “all in one” hardware solutions, if you go with a card reader it’s a “bring your own device” situation. Square’s mobile readers are ideal for businesses that are always on the go — farmer’s market stalls, service businesses, food trucks, etc. These card readers work with any of Square’s POS apps as well. However, compatibility with specific tablets or smartphones will vary — and you should check before you buy that a card reader is compatible with your device. Square has a helpful compatibility checker tool on its website for this purpose.

Square Magstripe Readers

Square has been offering free basic magstripe readers for years. The boxy design hasn’t changed significantly over the years and it’s simple to use. Recently, the company added a Lightning connector variant in addition to the 3.5mm headphone jack connector. Square used to sell a 3.5mm adapter, but that’s no longer available (because it’s no longer necessary). However, I will say that adapters from other makers will work for the same purpose.

New Square merchants get 1 free card reader; additional card readers sell for a very reasonable $10. Unlike PayPal Here, Square doesn’t impose any limits or restrictions on transactions processed with a magstripe reader — there’s no limit to the number of swiped transactions you can process before you trigger a hold. That’s a nice touch. However, if you do process large transactions or do a significant volume of credit card payments you should definitely look at upgrading to a chip card-capable reader.

Magstripe Reader Quick Facts 

  • Free for new merchants
  • $10 retail price
  • 3.5mm headphone jack or lightning port connectors
  • Supports magstripe transactions

Square Chip Card Reader

 

Square’s first chip card reader wasn’t particularly fancy, or even all that different from its elder sibling: it was boxy, with a headphone jack connector. And it has since fallen out of favor — partly thanks to Apple and its removal of the headphone jack on its iPhones. However, this entry-level chip card reader is still available at a reasonable price — ideal for merchants who want to accept chip cards but also save some money.

Square doesn’t offer a lightning connector variant for the Chip Card Reader, but as I mentioned, a Lightning to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter would work for iPhone users. This reader also requires the occasional battery charge because of the addition of the chip reader.

Chip Card Reader Fast Facts 

  • $35
  • 3.5 mm headphone jack connector
  • Requires battery charging
  • Supports magstripe and chip card transactions

Square Contactless + Chip Reader

Square’s Contactless + Chip Reader is a departure from Square’s earlier mobile credit card readers. First, it connects via Bluetooth. Second, it doesn’t support magstripe transactions at all. Instead, Square includes one of its free magstripe reader in the box as well. (To be honest, this design kind of disappoints me, but I figure that the Contactless + Chip Reader was designed to add EMV support to the Square Stand, which already has an integrated magstripe reader. So building magstripe support into the Contactless + Chip Reader was a moot point. Still, for merchants who don’t have a Square Stand, this might prove to be a small annoyance if the chip reader can’t read a card properly.)

Square also sells a charging dock, which can be plugged into a wall, or into the Square Stand’s USB hub. It sells for $29 separately. You can use it in a countertop retail environment and let customers insert their payment cards themselves, or you can set the dock aside and grab the reader by itself whenever you need to make a transaction.

Contactless + Chip Reader Fast Facts 

  • $49
  • Charging dock sold separately ($29)
  • Bluetooth connection
  • Supports chip card and contactless transactions
  • Basic magstripe reader also included

Square Countertop POS Devices

If you’d like something a little bit more permanent and stationary in your POS setup, Square offer options tailored to different environments. The offerings here get a little more complex, so bear with me!

Square Stand

The Square Stand has been one of the company’s core offerings for a long time — it is a tablet stand with a built-in card reader, all for a reasonable price (at launch, it cost $99). It swivels, it has minimal cords, and it looks good. Square has improved it slightly with the bundling of the Contactless + Chip Reader. That brings the price to $169.

Square doesn’t include a receipt printer for the Stand, but a printer is available in hardware bundles. Likewise, Square doesn’t include an iPad with the Stand, but you can purchase one directly from Square for an additional $329. Keep in mind that the current edition of the Square Stand only works for the most recent iPad models. If you have an older iPad, you can order a legacy stand from Square for $99, but the Contactless + Chip Reader requires iOS 9.3.5 or higher, and that version of iOS isn’t supported on an iPad 2 or other earlier models.

Because the Square Stand runs an iPad, it can also support merchants using Square Point of Sale, Square for Retail, or Square for Restaurants. There are an assortment of recommended hardware bundles for the Square stand, but if you prefer to build your own setup, you will be happy to know that the Square Stand supports USB, Ethernet, WiFi and Bluetooth printers, as well as other devices.

Square Stand Fast Facts 

  • Accepts magstripe, chip card, and contactless transactions
  • $169 (iPad sold separately)
  • Includes Contactless + Chip Reader (integrated magstripe reader in stand)
  • Compatible with Square Point of Sale, Square for Restaurants, Square for Retail, Square Appointments

Square Terminal

Square Terminal (read our review), the newest addition to Square’s lineup of hardware, takes the concept of the Square Stand and the traditional credit card terminal and combines them into one portable machine. The display is large enough to be a fully functioning POS (it runs Square Point of Sale, the free app). It accepts magstripe, chip card, and contactless transactions. It even has a built-in thermal receipt printer.

While you can operate Terminal by keeping it plugged in, Square promises the battery will last all day if you prefer to go wireless. You also get a cleverly-designed power brick and USB hub to connect accessories, such as the USB barcode scanner and cash drawer. Bluetooth accessories aren’t supported, so the USB hub will be important for some merchants.

While Terminal runs Square Point of Sale, it also offers some compatibility with the iPad-based premium POS app, Square for Restaurants. Specifically, Terminal can be used for tableside ordering and payments. It doesn’t support all of Square for Restaurant’s features, though, so it’s important that you make sure Terminal will really fit your needs.

Square Terminal Fast Facts 

  • Accepts magstripe, chip card, and contactless transactions
  • $399
  • $300 processing credit for new merchants
  • 2.6% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Compatible with Square Point of Sale (limited compatibility with Square for Restaurants)

Square Register

 

Square Register (read our review) definitely targets a higher-end market, with a price tag of $999 — not counting a cash drawer, receipt printer, or barcode scanner. However, for that price, you get a 13.25-inch screen running Square Point of Sale, as well as a 7-inch consumer-facing screen with integrated support for magstripe, chip card, and contactless transactions.

Square Register runs an Android-based version of Square Point of Sale, which means it’s not compatible with Square for Retail. However, you can take advantage of the back-end features if you opt to subscribe to Square for Retail. Specifically, that means access to the reporting features, including cost of goods sold and profitability reports. Square Register also integrates perfectly with Square Loyalty and allows customers to see the status of their loyalty accounts.

All in all, Square Register is an absolutely gorgeous piece of hardware that would look great in a retail space. The addition of the customer-facing display, combined with all of the supported hardware, brings Register on par with more traditional countertop POS systems.

Square Register Fast Facts

  • Accepts magstripe, chip card, and contactless transactions
  • $999
  • 2.5% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Compatible with Square Point of Sale (back end features compatible with Square for Retail)

Square POS Bundles

Square’s POS Kits are available for the Square Stand and Square Register — but if you’d prefer to use a different tablet stand for an iPad, Square also offers some alternatives. It would be a bit redundant and very overwhelming to go through every single bundle that Square offers, so let’s focus on what they offer, broadly speaking.

Square will first ask you to pick a category for your business. The options are limited — just food and beverages, beauty and wellness, or retail. However, those three categories cover a lot of industries. And honestly, you shouldn’t worry too much about picking the right category because the offerings will be similar. Check the options in each category and see which bundle you like.

After you’ve chosen an industry category, Square will also ask you about your Internet setup, specifically whether your business has a router. If you are relying on cellular data, obviously, there’s no router involved. But this question primarily affects what kind of printer Square includes in its bundles.

The biggest advantage to choosing a Square POS kit is the cost savings. Buying individual accessories from Square will cost more than buying a bundle. Square lists the prices as “starting at” for most bundles, but that’s usually because you have the option of purchasing an iPad direct from Square. (Note that you can only get the most recent model of iPad. Square offers POS bundles that support the iPad 2, for example, but you’ll have to acquire the iPad separately.)

Let’s start by looking at what the Square Register and Square Stand bundles look like, versus the alternative tablet stands.

Square Stand POS Kit

 

Square Stand on its own is pretty affordable, but if you opt for the bundle with the stand over buying individual components, you’ll save a small amount. Square suggests running the Stand with a router setup, which includes a USB hub for accessories, rather than wireless options. Your Square Stand Kit includes the following:

  • Receipt printer paper (25 rolls)
  • USB Receipt Printer
  • 16 in. Printer-Driven Cash Drawer
  • Square Stand for Contactless and Chip

If you decide against the Square Stand Kit, keep in mind that you can use any piece of hardware that works with an iPad running Square Point of Sale, as well as USB-enabled devices. That includes barcode scanners and receipt and kitchen printers in addition to cash drawers.

Square Register POS Kit

The POS kit for Square Register will add $530 to the cost, but it will save you $67 over buying the parts individually. (Also take note: You can’t order just the hardware bundle separate from the Register.)

In addition to the Register itself, the kit includes:

  • 16 in. USB Cash Drawer
  • USB Receipt Printer
  • Receipt printer paper (25 rolls)
  • Square Register

Square only recommends the Register kit for businesses with routers, not mobile setups. That’s not too surprising because it’s clearly not a mobile setup. Register does support some USB and Ethernet printers (and one WiFi printer), but it does not support as many devices as the Square Stand or just a standalone iPad. Square also offers compatible kitchen printers, which aren’t included in the bundles for food and beverage businesses, surprisingly.

Other Square POS Kits

If you’d still like to use Square on a tablet — but without the Register or Square Stand — you can get a selection of Heckler brand tablet stands designed for iPads, as well as Galaxy Tab A devices. They contain the following:

  • A tablet stand
  • A printer (Ethernet or Bluetooth)
  • Cash drawer
  • Receipt printer paper
  • Card reader (Magstripe or Contactless + Chip)

Prices vary by the tablet stand model, as well as whether the kit includes an Ethernet or wireless printer. Which card reader Square includes depends on the model of iPad (remember, early models of iPad can’t upgrade to the iOS version required to support the Contactless + Chip Reader). And again, you can mix and match tablet stands and other devices to create a custom setup, though you will ultimately pay more than if you chose one of Square’s pre-made bundles.

Other Square Accessories

When you check out Square’s hardware shop, you can also browse standalone accessories for Square’s products. I like that the site has added the ability to filter compatible accessories by the POS device. The available accessories include kitchen printers, USB and Bluetooth barcode scanners, WiFi routers, and more. However, these are far from your only options. Square actually supports an extensive array of hardware in addition to the options available directly through its own shop. And it’s great about publishing that list of confirmed, supported devices.

Should You Finance Your Square Hardware Purchase?

There’s one last factor to consider when shopping for hardware from Square: the cost. If you are worried about the price of Square’s hardware, or the overall price of accessories, you’ll be glad to know that Square offers financing on purchases of $49 or more. Generally, the limit is $5,000, but you can apply for an increased limit. Depending on the total sum you’re financing, Square offers payback terms of 3, 6, 12 and 24 months.

Square will deduct your payments from your total processing volume before disbursing funds to your bank, so you don’t have to worry about making monthly payments. Eligibility depends on a credit check, and the financing program isn’t available in all U.S. states yet. However, if you are eligible, this could be a great option.

Square’s markup for financing is incredibly reasonable, and the program is managed by Square directly so you don’t have to worry about a shady third-party stepping in. If you can’t afford the upfront investment in hardware, Square’s financing can help you manage your cash flow better. And I like that it’s not a leasing program — when you’re done paying off the hardware, you own it.

Which Square Hardware Is Right For You?

If your business is primarily on the go, you can get a cheap, affordable mobile card reader. If you’d like a countertop setup, there’s Square Terminal with its very small profile, Square Stand for a good entry-level piece of hardware, and of course, Square Register. Plus, the bundled kits from Square allow you to easily add a cash drawer, receipt printer, and any other hardware you need. The number of options can seem overwhelming, but it really comes down to how portable you need your hardware to be and what you can afford.

One of my absolute favorite things about Square is that the company offers a huge array of very affordable hardware for all types of businesses. Some companies might only offer a few options, use expensive leases, or charge an arm and a leg just for a single terminal. You don’t have to worry about that with Square. The price is right and there are hardware options to suit every business that work with all of Square’s Point of Sale apps. That’s a very powerful reason to go with Square already. Throw in the affordable credit card processing and the great customer service, and it’s easy to see why Square is a favorite among small businesses.

If you’re still just learning about Square, be sure to read our complete Square Review! You can also check out our Square Point of Sale, Square for Retail, and Square for Restaurants reviews to learn more about the point of sale systems.

Thanks for reading! Leave us your thoughts and your questions in the comments below!

The post A Guide To Square Credit Card Readers And POS Bundles appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Retail Business Loans And Financing Options

Owning a retail business isn’t without its challenges. Whether you’re growing rapidly and need extra money for expansion or you’re in the middle of a slow season that’s impacted your cash flow, one thing is clear: you need money for your business to operate smoothly.

Sure, pulling the money you need from your own bank account is ideal, but this isn’t always possible. Maybe the money’s not there … or maybe you don’t want to put yourself in a bind by tying up your funds. In these situations, what do you do when you need a financial helping hand? Take a cue from other smart retailers and find a retail business loan that’s right for you.

There comes a time when most small businesses have to take out a loan, and retail businesses are no exception. The key is to understand your options to find the best, most affordable loan that you can use to take your store to the next level, cover an unexpected emergency, or even get your business off the ground. Read on to learn more about the retail business loan and financing options available for any situation.

The Best Loans For Retail Businesses

Financing Need Best Loan Type Recommended Lender
Business Expansion SBA Loan SmartBiz
Purchasing Equipment Equipment Financing Lendio
Emergency Funding Short-Term Loan LoanBuilder & IOU Financial
Cash Flow Shortages Business Credit Cards Ink Business Preferred from Chase
Purchasing Inventory Line of Credit OnDeck
Purchasing a Point of Sale System POS Financing CDGcommerce

1. Business Expansion

Business is booming, and you’re ready for an expansion. Maybe you’re an online retailer and you’ve decided it’s time to open your first brick-and-mortar store. Perhaps you want to open an additional location, or you want to do a complete overhaul of your facilities. No matter what the situation, your retail business is growing, which is exciting … but also very expensive.

Instead of hindering your growth by draining your checking account, consider applying for a loan that provides the funds you need, but spread out into affordable monthly payments.

Small Business Administration 7(a) Loans

The Small Business Administration is a government organization that provides resources to small business owners just like you. One of the most popular resources the SBA offers small business owners is low-cost loan options. Although there are several great programs to consider, the SBA 7(a) loan is one of the most popular among small business owners.

The SBA 7(a) loan is a loan that can be used for essentially any business purpose. This includes business expansion, the purchase of equipment, to use as working capital, or to even save money by paying off high-interest debt.

Through the 7(a) program, you can receive up to $5 million. Because up to 85% of the loan proceeds are backed by the government, SBA-approved lenders (known as intermediaries) are more willing to give these loans out. This is ideal if you’ve been unable to qualify for traditional loan options.

SBA 7(a) loans have low interest rates capped at a maximum of 4.75% — added to the prime rate — based on the loan amount and your repayment terms. Repayment terms are available up to 10 years for most uses, while loan proceeds being used for commercial real estate come with maximum terms of 25 years. SBA 7(a) loans are available to qualified borrowers with a credit score in the high 600s.

Recommended Option: SmartBiz

The SBA 7(a) loan sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? If you’re interested in this loan, you could visit an intermediary lender in your area, such as a bank or credit union. However, this process can often be a hassle for the busy retail business owner. Simplify the process of applying for an SBA 7(a) loan by working with SmartBiz.

With SmartBiz, you can fill out an easy online questionnaire to find out if you’re qualified for an SBA loan. Once you’re prequalified, the service will match you with a lender and assign a relationship manager to help you through the application process.

Getting approved and funded takes several weeks for most applicants. Other times, the process may drag out over several months if more information is needed by your lender. Even though the waiting time to receive this type of loan exceeds that of other financing options, the low overall cost and the flexibility that comes with the 7(a) loan is often worth the wait for many small business owners.

Review

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2. Purchasing Equipment

Your technology and equipment are seriously outdated. Or maybe your business is growing so fast that your problem is not replacing equipment, but adding more. Instead of spending thousands out of pocket, there’s a more affordable solution when you need to replace or purchase long-term equipment: equipment financing.

Equipment Financing

Equipment financing is a type of business financing used to purchase new equipment for your business. With equipment financing, you’ll be able to take possession of much-needed new equipment immediately without paying the entire cost up front.

With an equipment loan, you’ll pay a down payment that is usually 10% to 20% of the total cost of the equipment. The remaining amount, along with interest and fees charged by the lender, will be loaned to you and is paid back through scheduled payments over a longer period of time. At the end of your repayment period, you will own the equipment. This makes the purchase of new or replacement equipment much more affordable.

Equipment leases are another form of equipment financing. With equipment leasing, you’re essentially paying to use the equipment. At the end of your lease, you can return the equipment and take out another lease on the latest model. Unlike a loan, you will never own the equipment unless you pay a lump sum at the end of the lease. However, if you upgrade equipment frequently or want a lower down payment, a lease may be the right option for you.

Recommended Option: Lendio

If equipment financing sounds like the right loan option for your business, find a lender using Lendio. Lendio is a loan-matching service that connects you with the right lender that offers loans to best fit your needs.

Equipment financing through Lendio lenders is available in amounts from $5,000 up to $5 million. Terms of up to 5 years are available. Interest rates for the most qualified buyers start at 7.5%.

Column Heading Data

Credit limit:

$5,000 – $5,000,000

Term length:

1 – 5 years

Interest rate:

7.5%+

Origination fee:

By lender

Collateral:

Usually the equipment being financed

When using Lendio, you’ll fill out an application and within 72 hours, you’ll receive loan offers from multiple lenders. This allows you to review your options to find the most affordable loan with the best repayment terms.

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3. Emergency Funding

Even if you’re on top of your business and finances, there may come a time when an unexpected emergency arises. It happens to the best of us, usually when we are least prepared for it. If an emergency pops up and you need extra cash immediately, a short-term loan could offer just what you’re looking for.

Short-Term Loans

A short-term loan is exactly what the name suggests: a loan that comes with short terms of 1 year or less. These loans have their benefits for small business owners. Borrowers with low credit scores, a short time in business, or with low annual revenues often qualify. However, the biggest benefit is how quickly you can receive the money with a short-term loan. With some lenders, you can apply, be approved, and have the money in your bank account in just 24 hours.

However, short-term loans don’t come without their drawbacks. This fast form of financing comes at a cost. Short-term loans do not have interest rates, but instead, use something called a factor rate. This fee is paid back along with the principal balance over a short period of time. Often, this factor fee, along with other costs such as origination fees, can make these loans more expensive than long-term options. However, when you’re in a financial bind and need money quickly to keep your retail business running smoothly, a short-term loan may be your best option.

Recommended Options: PayPal LoanBuilder & IOU Financial

PayPal’s LoanBuilder provides short-term funding up to $500,000, which can be repaid over a period of 13 to 52 weeks based on the amount of the loan received. The LoanBuilder application takes just 10 minutes to complete. Once approved, you can receive your funds as soon as the next business day.

Qualified borrowers must be in business for 9 months and have at least $42,000 in annual revenue. All borrowers must have a minimum credit score of 550.

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Another short-term loan option is IOU Financial. This lender offers loans up to $300,000. Requirements include being in business for a minimum of one year, bringing in revenue of at least $100,000, and making at least 10 deposits per month into your business bank account.

Repayment terms are available from 6 to 18 months, and once your loan is 40% paid off, you can renew if additional funding is needed. Repayments are made through fixed daily or weekly payments.

4. Cash Flow Shortages

From time to time, a retail business may face cash flow shortages due to a slow season or other challenges. When this happens, daily operations may be affected. You have the same expenses, but your revenues are down, posing a financial challenge for your business. You don’t have to sit back and let these situations drag your business down. Instead, a business credit card can help you fill in these gaps.

Business Credit Cards

A business credit card provides you with a revolving line of credit that you can use to pay your suppliers, vendors, and other expenses. The issuer of the credit card will provide you with a credit limit. You can spend up to and including that limit, using the card as often as you need.

A business credit card allows you to make an instant purchase without having to wait for approval from the lender. You’ll only pay interest on the amount of the credit line that has been used. Payments are made monthly and are applied to the interest and the balance on your card.

One great feature about business credit cards is that many offer rewards programs. With qualifying business purchases, you can earn cash back or points that can be redeemed toward rewards.

Recommended Option: Ink Business Preferred from Chase

The Chase Ink Business Preferred credit card is a top choice among retailers and other business owners because of its great rewards program. If you spend $5,000 within three months of opening your account, you receive 80,000 bonus points. For every purchase, you’ll continue to rack up points.

This credit card also offers additional benefits not offered by other credit card issuers, such as cell phone protection. This card comes with a variable APR of 17.99% to 22.99% with a $95 annual fee.

This credit card is reserved for borrowers with good to excellent credit. Check out our other top picks in business credit cards.

Chase Ink Business Preferred



Apply Now 

Annual Fee:


$95

 

Purchase APR:


17.99% – 22.99%, Variable

5. Purchasing Inventory

You need inventory, and you need it now. If you need to purchase inventory to keep your business running and time is of the essence, a business line of credit may be just what you need out of a small business loan.

Line Of Credit

With a line of credit, a lender issues you a credit limit. You can make multiple draws up to and including this limit whenever you want. The funds will typically be in your account within a few business days, although some lenders offer immediate transfers.

Interest is only applied to the portion of the funds that have been withdrawn. Interest rates vary by creditworthiness, with the most qualified borrowers receiving rates around 6% while high-risk borrowers may see rates of 20% or more.

Payments are made on a scheduled basis and are applied toward the principal and interest. Repayment terms and schedules vary by lender.

Recommended Option: OnDeck

OnDeck is an alternative lender that provides lines of credit to business owners. Lines of credit up to $100,000 are available to eligible borrowers. Repayment terms up to 12 months are available. Rates are as low as 13.99%, and weekly payments are automatically deducted from your business bank account.

OnDeck is known for its fast application process and low borrower requirements. Borrowers of this loan must have a credit score of at least 600, have been in business for at least 1 year, and have a minimum revenue of $100,000 per year.

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6. Purchasing A Point Of Sale System

POS hardware

 

If you own a retail business, you already know the importance of a point of sale system. This centralized system allows you to keep track of inventory, receive payments, and provide receipts for purchases.

Whether you’ve opened a new store or you want to upgrade your outdated system, you can receive a new POS system without paying a lot of money up front with POS financing options.

POS Financing

POS financing allows you to purchase or lease a POS system without paying the full amount up front. Depending on the company you work with, full financing options for all hardware and software may be available.

In addition to POS financing, you may also consider a credit card processing app. These are usually more affordable, are less complicated, and don’t require lengthy contracts. This option is best for smaller retail businesses, while larger businesses should stick with a full POS system.

Recommended Option: CDGcommerce

CDGCommerce is a retail credit card processing company that offers affordable point of sale systems. The company offers the Harbortouch Echo featuring the CDG POS+ app that can be rented for just $49.00 per month. An annual equipment insurance fee is also required at a cost of $79.00, but compared to the costs of purchasing a system, these fees are quite affordable.

Ready to upgrade but unsure of which POS is right for you? Read on to learn more about choosing the right retail POS system for your business.

When You Want To Start A Retail Business

All of these options are great for established retail businesses, but what if you haven’t even gotten your business off the ground yet? For most aspiring business owners, financing is the barrier that is holding them back.

It may be difficult to qualify for a startup loan. After all, you don’t have the sales, revenues, and financial documents to back up your success. When you want to start a business, you have to get creative with your funding options.

If you want to apply for a business loan, you can look to options such as the SBA Microloan program, which provides up to $50,000 to small business owners. These low-cost loans aren’t easy to obtain, though. You’ll need to make sure that you’re prepared for the lengthy application process by preparing your personal financial documents, creating a detailed business plan, and outlining future projections. Your score must be in the high 600s to qualify.

SBA 504 Loans

Borrowing Amount

$500 – $50,000

Term Lengths

Up to 6 years

Interest Rates

6.5% – 13%

Borrowing Fees

Possible fees from the loan issuer

Personal Guarantee

Guarantee required from anybody who owns at least 20% of the business

Collateral

Collateral normally required, but depends on the lender

Down Payment

  • No down payment for most businesses
  • Possible 20% down payment for startups
  • Possible 10% down payment for business acquisition loan

Other startup loan options are available, such as online lenders like Fundwise Capital. For borrowers with a poor credit history, there are other alternative loan options but these often come at a much higher cost.

If you have a high personal credit score, you can also consider taking out a personal loan to fund your startup costs. With a personal loan, your income and personal credit score will be considered. This could potentially help you score a lower cost loan that can be used to start your retail business.

Lender Borrowing Amount Term Interest Rate Min. Credit Score Next Steps

$2K – $25K 2 – 4 years 15.49% to 30% 600 Apply Now

$1K – $50K 3 or 5 years 8.16% – 27.99% 620 Apply Now

$2K – $35K 3 or 5 years 6.95% – 35.99% APR 640 Apply Now

lending club logo

$1K – $40K 3 or 5 years 5.32% – 30.99% 640 Compare

Ways To Improve Your Chances Of A Successful Application

Improve Business Loan Application

Once you’re ready to apply for your business loan, you can do some prep work in advance to expedite the process. Before you even start filling out an application, the first step is to know your credit score and determine whether it is high enough to qualify for the loan you’re seeking.

You can receive your free credit score online to find out where you stand. Review your credit report carefully for any errors. If there are any negative items on your report, be prepared to explain those to your lender.

If your credit score is low and your funding need isn’t urgent, you may consider taking a few easy steps to raise your credit score. You’ll be rewarded with lower interest rates, better terms, and more financing options.

You can also prepare your paperwork and documentation in advance. Although requirements vary by lender and the type of loan you’ve selected, you’ll generally need a few items, including:

  • Bank Statements
  • Personal Financial Statements
  • Business Balance Sheet
  • Profit & Loss Statement
  • Income Statements
  • Business Licenses
  • Articles Of Incorporation

When the time comes to apply for your loan, you’ll need to know exactly how much you need and why you need the loan. It’s also important to remember that most loans require a blanket lien or personal guarantee. Most lenders require a personal guarantee to be signed by anyone with at least 20% ownership in the business, so be prepared to have all owners ready to sign the contract as needed.

Finally, when you do apply for your loan, be sure to make yourself available to the lender. Sometimes, lenders require additional documentation or have questions about your application. Taking the time to work with your lender will help you finish the process smoothly.

Final Thoughts

Getting a business loan can be tough, whether you’re an established retail business owner or just getting started. However, there are plenty of options available if you take the time to do your research, go into the application process prepared, and have a good reason for taking out the loan which will improve the return on investment for your business.

The post Retail Business Loans And Financing Options appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Square Loyalty Program Review

Square Loyalty Promotional Image

The concept of a punch card is nothing new; coffee shops the world over have been slinging their punched out business cards alongside foamy espresso beverages for decades. Likewise, the concept of companies offering rewards to returning companies goes way back into the annals of entrepreneurship. But as the business sector dives further into the capabilities of digital tools, loyalty programs have come along for the ride.

Square has been tinkering with loyalty features since 2012. About two years ago, they stopped offering a free add-on to the basic Square POS, creating a paid-for loyalty product instead. After some concerns about that initial re-launch, Square Loyalty is back again with a new pricing scheme and feature list.

Square has consistently expanded its business products and generally does a decent job at creating useful tools that people feel confident implementing in their businesses. How well does the new version of Square Loyalty measure up? Let’s find out!

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

Pricing

The price of Square Loyalty is determined by how many “loyalty visits” you get in a given month. A loyalty visit is exactly what it sounds like: whenever a customer signs up for or returns to your loyalty program, that counts as one visit. Square tracks your visits, then charges you based on the following pricing scheme:

Loyalty Visits Price Per Month
1-50 $25
50-100 $35
101-200 $50
201-500 $75
501-1,000 $125
1,001-2,500 $175
2,501-5,000 $250
5,001-10,000 $500

If you think you will require more than 10,000 loyalty visits in a single month, you will need to get in touch with Square for more information on exact pricing.

Ease Of Use

The team at Square has built their brand on the simplicity of their software; just about anyone can pick Square up and use it with little-to-no training. Not surprisingly, the loyalty rewards program operates with the same simplistic design. This is a system designed for intuitive use on both sides of the register for customers and employees alike. As long as you already use Square products for payment processing and point of sale, this will work just fine for you.

Setting up your rewards account is as simple as determining the economy of your rewards points (how many should customers get after a visit?) and creating the rewards themselves (how will customers spend their points once they have accumulated?). From there, you can refine your system as time goes on, making adjustments as needed–you will want to be clear with your customers about what is going on, though!

On the customer side, simply have new program members enter their phone numbers to sign up. From then on, your Square Register will remember the customer and apportion their points on subsequent views. Speaking as one who has encountered Square loyalty rewards in the wild, I can report that the system works well, and is even a little exciting!

Features

Square Loyalty comes with the following features:

  • Points System: You get to pick between three different loyalty schemes: by visit, by amount spent, or by item. Customers will get text message updates on the number of points they have built up. Basically, your decision for which system to use will come down to your industry and business model. Selling beverages or baked goods? Visit-based rewards might be best. Working retail? Amount-based might be best. Selling niche products? You might want to go by item.
  • Customer Rewards: You can select three different kinds of rewards that align vaguely with the three different loyalty schemes: free item, discount on the entire sale, or discount on a product category. Obviously, some business types will find one of these systems more useful than others; it’s up to you to determine which will be best for you.
  • Customer Data: Once your customers sign up for loyalty rewards, you can begin tracking information about them. In some industries — coffee shops, for example — you get to know repeat customers quickly as a matter of course. In others, it may be valuable indeed to know a bit more about your clientele, particularly things like their most purchased items and how often they visit your shop.
  • Analytics: Square gives you a bird’s eye view of how your loyalty program is helping your business, showing data on all your customers and how often they visit your shop. You can see how many people use your loyalty rewards, how many points they have, and more. This is the feature that will tell you how well your loyalty program is working, so I definitely recommend checking this out.

Final Thoughts

Square boasts that customers who enroll in their loyalty programs spend 37% more than non-enrolled customers. A cynical person might point out that the kind of person who signs up for a loyalty program would be automatically more likely to spend more at a particular store than other, but at the same time, 37% is difficult to argue with.

But is Square’s loyalty feature ultimately worth the price? I definitely found the monthly cost a bit prohibitive; $50 for just over 50 loyalty visits is a lot. It is possible that at higher subscription levels the price comes down and makes more economic sense, but in order for that to be true, you will need more customers to sign up.

On the other hand, from what I can tell, the feature set works reasonably well — especially when you consider how closely it plays with Square’s flagship POS product. That right there might make it worth it to stop and consider coughing up the cash, especially if you are using one of those snazzy new Square Registers. I suspect many Square Loyalty users hop on board the hype train for this very reason; they are already using some kind of Square product in the first place. In fact, one of the biggest caveats to Square Loyalty (apart from price) is the fact that in order to use it, you will have to already be using Square POS (at the very least); if you have a different system, this is not the loyalty program you have been looking for.

As usual, the final decision comes down to you. Are you using a Square product? Is the touted increase in customer engagement worth what might be an excessive price? Fortunately, you can give it a try before deciding for sure. Be warned though! Though Square provides a generous 30-day trial, your customers may feel less than generous if they discover that your rewards program has up and disappeared just as they were about to redeem one of their rewards. Tread carefully then, and make sure you are confident in your decisions before committing even to the free trial.

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

The post Square Loyalty Program Review appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

The 10 Best Restaurant Management Software Apps

It’s almost 2019, if you can believe it, and more than fall leaves or pumpkin spice lattes, tech fans like myself relish the smell of a freshly unboxed smartphone (thanks to Apple’s annual September unveiling). But it’s not just consumers who love mobile tech; businesses do too.  As mobile technology becomes more powerful, businesses — including restaurants — enjoy increasingly robust mobile hardware which can handle more powerful and nuanced software functions.

Indeed, restaurant managers, in particular, have an increasing number of mobile management applications at their disposal. From tablet-based POS systems that accept mobile payments to online reservation services that let customers reserve a table with an app, more restaurant management functions are being conducted online and on mobile devices. But with all the restaurant apps out there, how do you know which ones you should use? Think of it kind of like cooking: if you use too much or too little of an ingredient, it ruins the dish. Similarly, if you use too many management apps, there’s too much overlap in services (not to mention the fact that you’ll run out of bandwidth and money), and if you use just one or two services, you may miss out on critical features.

To help you out, I’ve put together this list of the top restaurant management apps in terms of both quality and popularity. From employee management to accounting to raw ingredient tracking, modern mobile restaurant software can help you with every restaurant management task you can imagine.

I’ve divided these top 10 best restaurant management apps into restaurant point of sale (POS) software apps—which are often complete restaurant management systems with few if any third-party add-ons required— and other restaurant management apps which offer more specific, targeted functionality.

Restaurant POS Systems

Toast TouchBistro Breadcrumb ShopKeep Lightspeed Restaurant

Toast

TouchBistro

Breadcrumb POS by Upserve

ShopKeep

Lightspeed Restaurant

ShopKeep alternatives for restaurants

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Review

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Compare 

Review

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Review

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Review

Monthly fee

$79+

$69+

$99+

Get a quote

$69+

Cloud-based or Locally Installed

Cloud-based

Locally installed

Cloud-based

Hybrid

Cloud-based

Compatible credit card processors

Toast only

TouchBistro Payments, Square, PayPal, Moneris, Cayan, Chase Paymentech & more

Upserve Payments only

Shopkeep Payments & some others; contact your processor to see if they are supported

Cayan or Mercury in US; iZettle in Europe

Business size

Small to large

Small to medium

Small to large

Small to medium

Small to medium

The awesome thing about today’s app-based restaurant point of sale systems is that they are often complete restaurant management systems. Or if they do not include essential restaurant management functions, they will typically have integrations that work together with other restaurant management apps (for accounting, staff scheduling, inventory management, etc.). As such, your restaurant POS system is a good basis on which to build any other add-ons to your restaurant application suite.

1. Toast

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Highlights

  • Android-based restaurant POS
  • All-in-one restaurant management system
  • Advanced inventory management
  • Add-ons for kitchen display system, kiosk POS, online ordering, delivery management, and more

Try it out: Schedule a Toast demo

Toast is a complete, Android-based restaurant point of sale system and restaurant management system for restaurants of any size. With strong front-end and back-end features, Toast not only takes payments with integrated payment processing, but also tracks your sales, labor, and inventory, organizing that information into useful, internet-accessible reports.

With mobile POS tablets, servers can send orders directly to the kitchen and even process payments right from the table. Kitchen display system and kiosk ordering are some other high-tech add-ons available for purchase from Toast.

Useful Features:

  • Customer data management system
  • Menu creation with comprehensive modifier system
  • Labor management including employee time tracking
  • Inventory management system that includes a recipe costing tool, food cost calculator, and menu engineering chart that shows you your best-selling and most profitable menu items
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Online ordering (extra monthly charge)
  • Delivery management system (extra monthly charge)
  • Customer loyalty program (extra monthly charge)
  • Gift cards (extra monthly charge)

Integrations With Other Restaurant Software:

  • Compeat
  • PeachWorks
  • CTUIT
  • CrunchTime
  • PayTronix
  • Bevager
  • GrubHub (online ordering and delivery)
  • Samsung Pay
  • Kitchensync

Toast also has an open API which lets you create your own applications, should you be so inclined.

The Quick & Dirty:

Pricing for this complete POS and restaurant management system starts at $79/month. Overall, Toast is a good option for restaurants that want a complete restaurant POS and management system and prefer a non-iPad POS.

2. TouchBistro

ShopKeep alternatives for restaurants

 

Review Visit Site

Highlights

  • iPad POS system for restaurants
  • Affordable
  • Locally installed
  • Compatible with multiple payment processors
  • Table management with reservations add-on

Get started with TouchBistro: Get a custom quote

TouchBistro is a bestselling iPad POS app for restaurants. While it isn’t an “all-in-one” restaurant management system like Toast, it’s cost-effective, easy to use, and very good at what it does. TouchBistro runs as an app on via one or more iPads, with multi-iPad setups keeping in sync via a local Apple server.

TouchBistro does have some online reports allowing you to view your restaurant metrics anywhere with an internet connection, but it does not require a WiFi connection to operate, other than to process credit card payments. TouchBistro integrates with multiple payment processors.

Useful Features:

  • Tableside ordering
  • Table management with visual layout
  • Menu management
  • Kiosk option
  • Employee management
  • Loyalty program (extra monthly charge)
  • Reservations function with TouchBistro Pro

Integrations With Other Restaurant Management Software:

  • 7Shifts
  • Xero
  • Shogo
  • Square
  • Quickbooks
  • JUST EAT (for online ordering)

The Quick & Dirty:

In summation, TouchBistro a very capable iPad POS for small-to-medium restaurants that are budget-conscious and may not have a powerful internet connection. Pricing starts at $69/month.

3. BreadCrumb POS By Upserve

Review

Highlights

  • All-in-one restaurant POS and restaurant management system
  • iPad-based
  • Fully cloud-based
  • Fully integrated online ordering
  • Must use Upserve for payment processing

Compare: Compare Breadcrumb with other top-rated iPad POS software

Breadcrumb is an all-in-one restaurant management and iPad POS system which could perhaps be considered the iPad-based answer to Toast. Comprehensive restaurant-centric management features that let you manage tables, employees, and menu items with a few finger taps make this restaurant software application suitable for any full-service or quick-service restaurant, no matter the size.

Breadcrumb is fully cloud-based and requires no on-premise server. In-house payment processing is provided exclusively by Breadcrumb’s parent company, Upserve.

Useful Features:

  • Customizable interface
  • “Offline” mode allows you to continue using POS and taking payments if internet goes down
  • Table management with color coding and meal progression graphic
  • Choice between “Server” mode with table view and “Quickserve” mode for bartenders and other quick orders
  • Fully-integrated online ordering system
  • Detailed online reporting suite
  • 24/7 support

Integrations With Other Restaurant Software:

  • Grubhub
  • Shogo
  • Restaurant 365
  • CTUIT
  • Peachworks
  • 7Shifts

The Quick & Dirty:

Breadcrumb pricing starts at $99/month. Again, it’s a solid all-in-one restaurant POS system for iPad with an array of restaurant features. When compared to Toast, however, Breadcrumb might come up slightly short in some respects, such as inventory management. However, Breadcrumb offers integrations with third-party restaurant apps to help fill in any functionality gaps.

4. ShopKeep

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Highlights

  • Powerful retail and restaurant tools
  • Available on iPad (Analytics app on iOS)
  • Multiple hardware options available
  • Pricing based on custom quotes 
  • Loyalty program only as add-on

Excellent all-around POS: Get your custom quote

While it can be used for either restaurant or retail environments, ShopKeep is a great all-around POS software system that’s reasonably priced and extremely easy to use. Aimed at small businesses in particular, this iPad POS software has a pleasant, Apple-centric interface with convenient register buttons for the most popular menu items. ShopKeep uses a “hybrid” data storage system in which data is stored locally on your restaurant’s iPads, and then syncs back to the cloud when there is an internet connection.

As with the other restaurant POS apps on this list, ShopKeep has integrations to make up for any restaurant management features it doesn’t have, such as advanced inventory management and online ordering.

Useful Features:

  • Integrated ShopKeep Payments payment processing
  • Comprehensive register functionality
  • Extensive back-office reporting suite
  • Raw ingredient inventory management
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Staff management tools
  • ShopKeep Pocket App to track restaurant metrics from iPhone or Android

Integrations With Other Restaurant Software:

  • MailChimp
  • ChowBot (online ordering and delivery)
  • Quickbooks
  • AppCard

The Quick & Dirty:

ShopKeep is an affordable and capable iPad POS that works well for small restaurants of any type. ShopKeep pricing is customized based on your individual business’s needs and is comparable to TouchBistro or Lightspeed Restaurant. Note that while Shopkeep does provide fairly priced in-house payment processing via Shopkeep Payments, you can also use an outside payment processor.

5. Lightspeed Restaurant 

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Highlights

  • Affordable iPad POS for restaurants
  • Fully cloud-based
  • Also works on iPhone and iPod touch
  • Best for small-to-medium restaurants

Try out Lightspeed Restaurant: Free trial offer

Lightspeed Restaurant is an app-based iPad POS system built specifically for—you guessed it—restaurants. Lightspeed is not the most complete restaurant POS out there, but it is highly mobile-friendly and certainly delivers a lot of bang for your buck.

The Lightspeed Restaurant app requires iOS 9.3 or later to operate and you can access the backend via any internet-connected web browser. In addition to iPads, Lightspeed can even be used on an iPhone or iPod touch, though using the app on those two devices is best for basic features such as clocking in and quick orders.

Useful Features:

  • Intricate employee management
  • Raw ingredient tracking
  • Tableside ordering lets servers show pictures of menu items to customers
  • Floor planner
  • 24/7 phone support excluding holidays
  • Ability to set up timed promotions
  • In-depth reports

Integrations With Other Restaurant Management Software:

  • Resengo
  • Orderlord
  • QuickBooks
  • Xero
  • MarketMan
  • AppCard
  • Multiple online ordering services

The Quick & Dirty:

Lightspeed Restaurant pricing starts at $69/month. This cloud-based iPad POS app is perfect for small-to-medium restaurants of any type.

Other Restaurant Management Apps

What follows are some more restaurant management apps. Rather than the complete restaurant management tool that POS systems provide, these apps have a limited, specific function — like reservations or email marketing — and may integrate with your POS system or be used separately.

opentable

6. OpenTable

OpenTable is an online reservation and waitlist system that’s convenient to use for both restaurateurs and customers. You can access the app on your smartphone or tablet to view or change reservations, and to see your waitlist in real time. OpenTable is a highly useful tool for restaurant managers and waitstaff alike.

Useful Features:

  • Guests can make online reservations from your website, the OpenTable app or website, or third-party
  • Monitor status of each table in your restaurant
  • Shift management tool

POS Integrations:

  • Aloha
  • Micros
  • POSitouch
  • Heartland Dinerware
  • Squirrel Systems
  • Toast (coming soon)

The Quick & Dirty:

OpenTable is online reservation software for restaurants of any type, especially favored by trendy, upscale bars and eateries. OpenTable’s “Connect” option has limited features but only costs between $0.25 and $2.50 for each booked guest. The “GuestCenter” option with more advanced restaurant management features and POS integration is $249/month + $1 per reservation.

7. Fivestars

fivestars logo

Fivestars is a mobile rewards program for local businesses such as restaurants. Customers sign up for Fivestars’ loyalty program either at your restaurant or via the Fivestars mobile app and start earning rewards and receiving promotional offers via text, email, or push notification. Your staff then redeems your customers’ rewards and offers from your POS or a mobile device.

Fivestars also has a lot of cool marketing features that vary depending on which plan you choose. Whether you want to encourage repeat business or gain a competitive edge on other restaurants in your area, Fivestars will help you do both.

Useful Features:

  • Automated rewards and promotions
  • Send one-time offer anytime your sales need a boost
  • Multiple options for setting up rewards system, e.g., customers could earn points per-dollar, per-visit, etc.
  • Social media integration
  • Customer data collection

POS Integrations:

  • Clover Station
  • Clover Mini
  • QuickBooks POS
  • Harbortouch
  • Aloha
  • Aldelo
  • Windows POS

The Quick & Dirty:

Fivestars online loyalty software is especially popular among cafes and coffee shops, but it’s also used by full-service restaurants, bars, bakeries, smoothie shops, and every other type of brick-and-mortar eatery. Fivestars’ starter plan—which includes two customer-facing tablets, POS integration, the Autopilot program, onboarding and three training sessions—is $279 per month.

Best Accounting Mobile Apps

8. QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks is essential accounting software for small businesses, and restaurants are no exception. In recent years, this quintessential business software has become has become more online and mobile-friendly, with the introduction of QuickBooks Online and excellent mobile apps for iOS and Android.

Besides making accounting tasks simple and affordable for independently owned restaurants, cloud-based Quickbooks Online also integrates with most modern restaurant POS systems.

Useful Features:

  • True double-entry accounting
  • Live bank feeds for easy bank reconciliation
  • Unlimited estimates and invoices
  • Accounts payable with ability to create purchase orders and convert them to bills
  • Easy-to-use payroll and other employee management features (for additional cost)

POS Integrations:

Quickbooks Online integrates with most restaurant POS systems. Usually, the question is not whether Quickbooks integrates with your POS, but rather, the quality of the Quickbooks/POS integration. A direct, seamless integration is ideal. Here you can read about 7 POS system that have direct integrations with Quickbooks.

The Quick & Dirty:

QuickBooks online is cloud-based accounting software for any internet connected device. Depending on which features you need, QuickBooks online will set you back between $15 and $50/month.

Xero logo

9. Xero

Xero is a QuickBooks alternative which many restauranteurs around the world use every day to manage their restaurant’s accounting tasks. Just like QB Online, Xero has both iOS and Android apps and can be accessed via any internet-connected device. Xero also integrates with many cloud-based restaurant point of sale systems.

Xero doesn’t have as many features as QuickBooks; for example, payroll support is limited to only 37 states and there is no job-costing feature. However, Xero also costs a lot less than QuickBooks.

Useful Features:

  • Accounts payable feature with recurring bills and purchase orders
  • Unlimited users with extensive user permissions controls
  • Double-entry accounting
  • Excellent customer service
  • Easier to use than QuickBooks (in most respects)
  • 500+ integrations

POS Integrations:

While Quickbooks is the most popular accounting software system, Xero is catching up and most major POS systems integrate with Xero as well as Quickbooks. Some of these systems include:

  • Square for Restaurants
  • Nobly POS
  • TouchBistro
  • Lightspeed
  • Vend
  • Shopify POS

The Quick & Dirty:

With pricing starting at just $9/month, online accounting app Xero is a more affordable QB alternative for restaurants that don’t need every advanced accounting feature.

10. MailChimp mailchimp logo

MailChimp is email marketing software you can use to boost the online marketing efforts of your restaurant. While most POS apps include some email features, they are usually somewhat lacking. With a fully featured email marketing program like MailChimp, you can set up automated email campaigns to build customer loyalty, advertise promotions, and grow your social media following.

MailChimp is entirely cloud-based; the company also offers a mobile app for iOS and Android devices.

Useful Features:

  • 23 basic templates and hundreds of theme templates
  • Easy list segmentation
  • Advanced email campaign reporting
  • Robust free plan includes up to 2,000 subscribers and sends up to 12,000 emails per month.

POS Integrations:

  • Revel Systems
  • Shopkeep
  • Lightspeed
  • Epos Now

The Quick & Dirty:

MailChimp has a very decent free plan and paid plans start at $25/month, scaling up depending on how large your list is (and how many features you want). This easy-to-use ESP supports both small start-ups and large corporations.

Final Thoughts

A successful restaurant business has the same basic ingredients it did 20 years ago or even 200 years ago: delicious food, happy customers, excellent service, and organized behind-the-scenes processes to keep everything running smoothly. However, the tools used to achieve restaurant success have changed with advances in technology. Everything from taking payments, to advertising, to bookkeeping, to employee management has been digitized.

One important job of restaurant management that can’t be replaced with automation is the restaurant manager herself. Being awesome at your job, I’m sure you will do a great job selecting the management apps that work for your unique restaurant business. Have fun with the selection process and make sure you utilize free trials of all of these apps so you can be sure the restaurant management software you choose works great for your needs before you commit.

The post The 10 Best Restaurant Management Software Apps appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Set Up Gift Cards With ShopKeep

Ahh, the gift card. That classic capitalistic invention that makes every recipient say “Thanks?” Why give cash when you can give something that works exactly like cash…but only at one business (if you remember to bring it at all)?

But, in all seriousness, gift cards are an extremely valuable and important aspect for small businesses. It’s estimated that more than $100 billion is spent annually on gift cards, making it a quick and painless way to increase your profits and improve customer engagement.

ShopKeep, one of our highest-rated point of sale systems, has a highly intuitive gift card integration — one you should seriously consider adding if you’ve chosen ShopKeep as your POS.

Read on for a quick and easy guide to setting up your gift card integration with ShopKeep.

Get Started With Shopkeep

Why Use Gift Cards?

There are any number of reasons why you might want to offer gift cards in your retail store or restaurant. Maybe you want to increase engagement with your brand or make your store stand out from the competition. Or maybe you just want to demonstrate that there are concrete benefits to shopping at your business.

Whatever your justification for offering them, gift cards just make sense for most business models. According to ShopKeep, gift cards provide an easy way to attract new customers by serving as marketing tools. They are “mini billboards,” in essence.

How To Set Up Gift Cards With ShopKeep

You can call ShopKeep to set up gift cards and have someone talk you through their customization options. Please note that ShopKeep only offers gift cards with select pricing plans and they are currently only available in the United States.

Step 1: Activate Gift Cards for your POS

The first thing you’ll want to do once you’re ready is to add gift cards to your tender. To do this, you’ll need to log into your Back Office and click on Options. Then, select the Tenders tab on the left-hand side of the screen.

This will bring up a new page. Scroll down and check the box that says Gift Cards.

Next, you will want to create an item for gift cards that you can easily access from your POS system. Click on the Items option in the top left-hand corner and scroll down to select Items List. In the top right-hand area of the screen, there will be an option for you to add a new item. Give this new item a name (I would suggest Gift Cards or Loyalty). On the same screen, click on the Priced tab and switch the checkmark from Back Office to In Store. Also on this screen, you can switch the taxable tab to No. You will also want to make sure to check the box at the bottom beside Liability.

Right below that box will be a tab labeled Tender. Select Gift Card (or Loyalty, or whatever you may have named it). Make sure that you click the Save button at the bottom once you are finished with this process.

Step 2: Using the Gift Card Function

You should now be able to see a Gift Card button on your front screen, giving you the ability to sell gift cards or accept them for purchases. To add a gift card to someone’s ticket, simply click the button and then type in the desired amount.

Select the Cash button on the right-hand side of the screen when the customer is ready and swipe the physical gift card.

To accept a gift card as a method of payment, the process is simple. After the customer’s ticket is complete select More on the right-hand side by payment options, then select Gift Card. You or the customer will then swipe the card to apply the balance to the purchase. If the customer still owes money on their purchase, you will be prompted to take another method of payment to pay off the balance. If there is still money left on the gift card, the receipt will inform the customer of his or her balance.

If a customer would like to simply check his or her balance, open the Control Panel and click Gift Cards. Then swipe the customer card and you will be able to view the amount on the card.

It may seem like a slightly convoluted process — admittedly, there is a lot of button pushing required to set up ShopKeep’s otherwise convenient and intuitive gift card functionality. However, gift card setup should only take a couple minutes at the most. For more information, ShopKeep has created a helpful introductory video, as well as an FAQ page on its website specifically for gift cards.

Get Started With Shopkeep

The post How To Set Up Gift Cards With ShopKeep appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Accept Credit Cards Online

So you’ve realized you want to start selling online. Good for you! The ecommerce market is certainly booming. But before you can start raking in the money, you probably have a few questions, like “how do I make a website?” and “how do I accept credit cards online?” Here’s the good news: There are plenty of software options and payment processors to choose from! The bad news? There are plenty of software options and payment processors to choose from. So how do you choose?

As always, there’s no one perfect solution for everyone. You need to know your business (and where you want to go with it) and have a rough idea of what you need. If you have no idea where to start, never fear! In this article, we’ll cover some of the basic considerations about accepting credit card payments online, as well as types of payment processors and how to accept credit card payments online with and without a website. We’ll also discuss some of our favorite solutions for ecommerce and provide resources to help you learn more.

5 Questions To Ask Before You Start

It’s really important, before you dive headlong into any kind of financial investment in your business, to sit down and make sure that you know what you want and what you need. I say that a lot, but with selling online it’s especially important to look before you leap because if you get any component of your setup wrong, redoing it will cost time and money.

So before anything, here are some questions to consider:

  1. How technologically savvy are you? Simply put, are you even able to build and maintain your website yourself? If you’re not exactly a technological wizard, your priority should be finding an easy-to-manage solution. You can also outsource tasks you can’t handle yourself, such as design or even data entry for the creation of products. Of course, if you have an ambitious idea and no ready-made solution exists, or you need a lot of customization, you might need a developer who can work with software APIs to create what you need. You can find freelance developers to help out as you go, but the more high-tech you go, obviously, the more you should consider having a full-time developer.
  2. Do you already have a website? If yes, do you like your website? Would you rather abandon it for a better site with more features? If you already have a site and don’t want to go through the effort of creating a new site to sell a handful of products, payment buttons or plug-ins are better options. If you don’t have a site or you don’t mind nixing your current site in favor of something better, shopping cart software might meet the brief nicely. But of course, you don’t need a website to accept payments online. We’ll talk about all of these options more below.
  3. What’s your budget? When it comes to numbers, you need to look at both upfront costs and monthly (or yearly) costs. How much can you spend at the outset, and how much do you expect to be able to afford on a monthly or annual basis? Keep in mind the more technically advanced your website, the more you can expect to pay to build and maintain it. Likewise, the busier your site — the more products you have and the more sales you make — the more you can expect to pay. Don’t forget the tangential costs, such as hiring a designer or a developer, or data entry, and of course, the costs of payment processing itself!
  4. What are you selling? Whether you’re offering digital goods, subscriptions/services, or retail products, look for service providers that cater to your industry so you don’t have to find creative workarounds. Many solutions are generalized for a broad array of merchants, but with add-ons and integrations to make them more tailored. You can also find payment processors and software that offer ready-made specialized solutions and service plans, such as micropayments for merchants who sell low-priced digital goods.
  5. How comfortable are you with handling security features? If you want to sell online, you have to make sure your website is secure. That means ensuring your site is PCI compliant. The more involved you are in the payments process and the more sensitive information your website handles, the more of a burden you are taking upon yourself. Fortunately, many payment processors and other software providers offer solutions to keep your customers’ information secure and reduce your PCI burden — in some cases, you may not need to do anything at all.

Once you’ve got the answers to these questions and a list of the features you need and want, it’s time to actually start looking at your options. One of your primary considerations should be finding a payment processor. However, depending on your business model, you might want to first look at what kind of ecommerce options work for you and then select a payment processor from the available options.

We’ll begin by talking about payment processors and go on to look at what other software or platforms you should explore.

Types Of Payment Processors

No matter how you go about finding a payment processor — choosing a standalone, going with the default processor included with your shopping cart, or choosing a recommended partner from a software provider — you need to consider what kind of business model the processor uses. If you’ve been here before and read any of my other articles, you know that I am talking about the difference between third-party payment processors versus traditional merchant accounts.

Traditional merchant accounts are very stable. It would take a clear violation of either your contract or card network rules in order to trigger an account termination, and you’re unlikely to encounter a hold on funds unless you’ve had a series of issues with chargebacks or fraudulent transactions. However, most merchant account providers expect you to have an established business and a monthly volume of $10,000 in credit card transactions. Plus, setting up a merchant account will typically take a few days. It could take longer depending on how many processors are on your short list and how much negotiation is required.

Third-party processors are not quite as stable as merchant accounts. That’s because instead of issuing separate accounts for each of their merchants, everything is lumped together in one giant, communal merchant account. It takes very little effort to apply for an account with one of these processors, and you can often get approved and set up to accept credit cards online within a day. Factor in no monthly minimum volume requirements and third-party processors provide a great way for new businesses to take payments. However, the trade-off is that you’ll face greater scrutiny and a higher risk for account holds or terminations, often with no warning. Check out our article on how to prevent merchant account hold and freezes to learn how to reduce your risk.

While third-party processors are riskier than merchant accounts, they are a great option for new businesses who don’t know what sort of volume they can expect and don’t have an established history. Even for established businesses, there are some advantages: namely, third-party processors offer predictable, flat-rate pricing, so you know exactly how much you’ll pay. The best merchant account providers typically offer interchange-plus pricing, which, while clear and transparent, doesn’t make it easy to accurately estimate processing because interchange rates vary.

It’s up to you to decide which type of processor is right for your business. I do want to point out that some software companies (ecommerce shopping carts, point of sale solutions, invoice platforms, and more) often build white-label payments into their solutions. These solutions can take the form of third-party processors or merchant accounts, so make sure you investigate before just going with the default processor. In addition to their native payment processing services, most ecommerce software providers support integrations with an assortment of merchant accounts and third-party payment processors.

Square is our top-pick for third-party payment processor. In addition to predictable, flat-rate pricing with no monthly fees or contracts, Square offers a whole suite of seamlessly integrated apps to address in-person and online sales at no charge at all. eCommerce transactions process at 2.9% + $0.30 each.

For merchant accounts, we recommend CDGcommerce, which offers flat-rate pricing and an interchange-plus option depending on the merchant’s payment volume. There are no monthly minimums and no contracts, just a $10 monthly fee. Low-volume merchants will pay 1.95% + $0.30 for most transactions, or 2.95% + $0.30 for premium, corporate, or international cards. Merchants who process more than $10,000/month are eligible for interchange-plus pricing with a 0.30% + $0.10 markup.

Does Your Payment Processor Include a Gateway?

If you want to accept credit card payments online, it’s not enough to find a credit card processor. You also need a gateway. As the name suggests, a gateway is an intermediary software program that transfers the payment data from your website to the customer’s bank to be approved or declined (and then routes the money to your merchant account).

Many payment processors offer gateways as part of their services. For example, PayPal, Square, and Stripe all offer gateways bundled with the rest of their services at no additional cost. CDGcommerce offers its Quantum gateway as part of its services for online merchants.

However, some processors will charge you a setup fee and/or a monthly fee for use of the gateway. While it’s fair and legitimate to charge for this service (especially if you’re being offered other discounts or freebies in exchange), there’s no reason for you to overpay, either. Make sure you know how much a gateway service will cost if it’s not offered for free.

While it’s rare to find a processor that doesn’t include some sort of gateway access, they do exist. In the event that you find yourself leaning toward one of these processors, you can find your own gateway. Authorize.net is nearly universally compatible and reasonably priced, which makes it a good option for most merchants. (Worth noting: CDGcommerce’s gateway, Quantum, also includes an Authorize.net emulation mode to maximize compatibility.)

Want to know more about how payment gateways figure into your ecommerce setup? Check out our article, The Complete Guide to Online Credit Card Processing With a Payment Gateway, for more information.

How To Accept Online Payments With A Website

A website is a pretty integral part of selling online (but it’s not 100% necessary — we’ll look at some alternatives in the next section). As mentioned above, the first question to consider is: Do I already have a website? Then ask yourself: Do I like that website, or would I rather start over completely? Fortunately, there are solutions for both of these scenarios. For existing sites, you can implement payment buttons or seek out a plug-in or extension that supports ecommerce.

Adding Payments To An Existing Site

best templates

If you’ve used a site builder such as WordPress, Weebly, Wix, or Squarespace, it’s fairly simple to implement online payments. Simply check out the sitebuilder’s available third-party apps, extensions, and plugins. If you already know which payment processor you want to use, you can search directly for an available add-on. Otherwise, you can browse and see what options are ready-made for you. These add-ons will allow you to securely collect payment information from your customers as well as manage the order fulfillment process. Do your research and go with solutions from your site builder rather than third parties, if possible. Check reviews of any plugins or extensions you add and make sure they are well supported and any glitches are fixed in a timely manner.

If you run a WordPress site, WooCommerce or Ecwid could be good starter options. WooCommerce is actually a free plug-in to add to your site, with a basic theme and your choice of payment processors. It’s a very modular setup, so you can choose from a mix of free and paid extensions that allow you to customize WooCommerce to your needs. That includes payment processors, subscription tools, the ability to create add-ons (such as gift wrap for products), and more. Most WooCommerce add-ons are charged on an annual basis, which could require more of an up-front investment than a monthly subscription, so be aware of this fact.

Ecwid is another plug-in designed for WordPress. However, it also works on an assortment of other website-building platforms, including Wix and Weebly, Ecwid does offer a free plan for businesses with 10 or fewer products, but for higher-tiered plans you’ll pay a monthly subscription fee. Ecwid supports a wide assortment of integrations, including payment gateways. With higher plan tiers, you also get access to expanded sales channels.

Wix and Weebly’s website builders can be used for blogging, personal portfolios, and any other purposes. They both offer online store modules. Online stores from Wix start at $20/month with no transaction fees and your choice of processors. Upgrading to an eCommerce plan is fairly simple from within the Wix dashboard and won’t require any substantial reworking. Simply add the “My Store” module to your dashboard, make the upgrade, and start creating products.

Finally, there’s Weebly. Square actually bought Weebly in the spring of 2018, so it’s possible we could see Weebly start to favor Square pretty heavily in the future. For now, though, Weebly’s online store plans start at $8/month (on a yearly plan), with a 3% transaction fee on top of your processing costs. The transaction fee drops off with higher-tier plans, leaving just the monthly fee.

The other way to add payments to an existing site is to look for a payment processor that supports customizable payment buttons. A good payment button creator will give you power over the appearance of the buttons as well as the settings for transactions. The obvious, go-to solution for many is PayPal, which offers a pretty powerful array of tools. PayPal’s buttons are a good option whether you are selling a single product or multiple ones. You can set up payment buttons to allow products to be added to a cart or to go directly to checkout. PayPal even allows nonprofits to create a “Donate” button for their site, which can be configured for one-time and recurring donations.

An alternative to PayPal is Shopify Lite, an entry-level solution. For $9/month plus transaction costs (2.9% + $0.30), you can accept payments on your website by adding payment buttons. The plan also includes access to Shopify’s mPOS app and the ability to sell on Facebook (we’ll talk about that option in the next section, too.) And it’s worth mentioning that Ecwid also supports the creation of custom buy buttons.

While adding payments to an existing site is incredibly convenient and often requires little work, you won’t get quite as many tools as you would with a hosted ecommerce software solution. Which brings us to the best solution if you would rather build a new site or have no website to start with:

Building A New Site With Shopping Cart Software

eCommerce software apps, sometimes also called shopping carts or shopping cart software, are hosted, all-in-one solutions to online sales. Adding an ecommerce feature to an existing website requires you to choose a platform, buy the domain, and pay for hosting, but with shopping carts, you’ll get everything in a single package: online sales and product management, hosting, and sometimes even the ability to buy a domain name directly. Typically, shopping carts will also help you centralize control of sales across multiple channels, so that if you sell on social media, on eBay, or through another channel, you can handle order fulfillment through a single platform. That even includes buying postage (at a discounted rate) and printing the shipping labels. Some shopping carts will offer marketing tools or integrations with marketing platforms, as well as integrations with point of sale systems.

As far as payment processing goes, some shopping carts have opted to include their own white-label payments as a default part of their services. One such cart is Shopify, which offers its own Shopify Payments service (read our review). However, this is just a white-label version of Stripe. Be aware that choosing a payment processor other than the default can incur additional fees.

Generally speaking, even if a shopping cart doesn’t offer all of the features you want, you can search the app market for available extensions and integrations to get what you need. It’s worth researching the available add-ons as well as the native software features.

There’s a lot to consider and compare with a shopping cart. Obviously, you can use a sitebuilder such as Weebly or Wix, which both offer eCommerce modules. Then there are ecommerce-exclusive platforms, including Shopify and BigCommerce, which make it easy to build your site and customize the design (and even offer blogging so you can centralize control of your website).

If you want a whole lot of freedom and have coding knowledge, an open-source platform such as Magento might be more to your liking. Open-source platforms tend to be chock-full of specialized features (particularly if they have attracted active user communities) and you have almost limitless control of your site. A closed-source, SaaS platform is certainly a lot easier and more convenient for business owners who are just starting out and want to go the DIY route.

If you aren’t sure what you want, we recommend you start by checking out Shopify and BigCommerce, both of which are affordably priced for new businesses and offer extensive customer support resources. They also both offer multi-channel sales manage so you can sell through your own site and through other platforms but manage all of your orders from a single portal.

If you’re still curious about what makes a great ecommerce platform, check out some of our other resources!

  • The Beginner’s Guide to Starting an Online Store (eBook)
  • Shopping Cart Flowchart: Choose the Right eCommerce Software for Your Business (Infographic)
  • Shopping Carts 101: How to Choose a Shopping Cart for Your Business (Article)
  • Questions to Ask Before You Commit to a Shopping Cart (Article)

Managing Services, Subscriptions & Other Recurring Charges

A lot of merchants, from accountants and other professional service provideres to lawn care and cleaning services, could benefit from being able to automate recurring charges. And of course, the ability to automate charges is essential for SaaS providers and subscription-box sellers.

Generally speaking, the ability to accept recurring payments — for monthly services or subscriptions — isn’t a default option for payment processors or shopping carts, which tend to be retail-focused. However, you can find plenty of solutions that will work with your existing eCommerce setup. For example, Stripe and Braintree both offer extensive subscription management tools along with their payment gateway and processing services. Add-on services such as Chargify, Recurly, and ChargeBee work with a variety of processors. Zoho Subscriptions and Freshbooks also offer recurring billing tools. PayPal offers recurring billing tools for its merchants; Square offers “recurring invoices” but not a lot of advanced customization for subscription billing.

Proper research will be very important when selecting a provider that offers all of the features you need, whether you require metered billing for usage-based online services, the ability for customers to upgrade to a higher tiered plan mid-billing cycle, the ability to offer free trial periods and extend them, or a way to calculate taxes. Tools that automatically update expired cards can also help reduce failed charges and therefore improve revenues and reduce customer loss.

Accepting Online Payments Without A Website

Most people equate taking payments online with having a website. That is the most common option, but you don’t actually need your own website. Let’s talk about a few of the alternatives for how to accept credit cards online.

Creating Online Invoices

You could create your own invoices in Microsoft Office and send them out via email, but then you’ve got to keep track of which invoices have been sent and which have been paid — and you’ve still got to deal with waiting for the check in the mail. Online invoicing solutions can eliminate every single one of these hassles.

Generally speaking, invoicing software is cloud-based, so you can access it anywhere. You can customize invoices and send them via email (or generate a shareable link to the invoice). But unlike old-fashioned invoicing, these invoices include a link to pay directly in the invoice. Your customers follow the link, enter their payment details, and bam! You get paid much quicker.

Depending on which invoicing software you choose, you can get some powerful features. For example, PayPal allows you to enable partial payments on an invoice if you are willing to accept installment payments. Square’s invoicing links up with the platform’s customer database, allowing you to send recurring invoices and even store customer cards on file to make getting paid even easier. Zoho Invoice, which starts at $0/month, also allows for a customer database, as well as project management (so you can generate an invoice based on the number of hours worked). Shopify offers invoice creation within its platform at no additional charge as well — and this feature is even available on the Lite plan.

For most merchants, Square Invoices may be the most appealing, as it’s available with a Square account at no additional charge. However, Shopify’s built-in invoicing will work for merchants who want to sell with or without a website. Merchants who need project management as part of their invoicing should look at Zoho Invoice.

Using Online Form Builders

So you don’t have a website, but you still need to collect user information and accept payment. Online form builders offer an easy way to do both. Plus, you can post links to forms on social media or send them out via email.

Off the top of your head, you might think of Google Forms, which is free to use and quite advanced for a freemium software. However, it doesn’t integrate seamlessly with payment processors. Your best option, in this case, would be to use PayPal’s embeddable buy buttons and include the button in the form’s submission confirmation page as a second step. However, you’ll have to manually reconcile the payment records versus form submissions.

Subscription-based form builders will cost you money but offer far more capabilities than Google Forms, including direct integrations with payment processors/gateways such as PayPal, Stripe, Square, and Authorize.net. Subscriptions generally work on annual or monthly plans, but one option, Cognito Forms, offers an entry-level plan that charges 1% of the transaction amount instead. (Note, that’s in addition to any processing fees.) Other form solutions worth looking into are Zoho Forms and Jotform. Zoho Forms starts at $10/month and includes unlimited forms and up to 10,000 submissions. It integrates with both PayPal and Stripe. Jotform’s paid plans start at $19/month and are limited to 1,000 submissions, but include integrations for quite a few payment processors, including PayPal, Stripe, Square, and even Dwolla. Cognito Forms’ paid plans start at $10/month plus 1% of the transactions and include up to 2,000 form submissions. Integrations include PayPal and Stripe.

And we haven’t even talked about event registration sites. There are a lot of them, but the one many people are likely familiar with is EventBrite. EventBrite allows you to put all the details of your event online and sell tickets — including setting multiple tiers of admission and promotion cards, automatically setting price changes for registration deadlines, and so on. You can even collect marketing data about your patrons, from their zip codes to how they heard about the event. Your event is searchable from within the EventBrite platform, allowing people searching for something to do to discover your event as well. EventBrite does charge fees on top of processing costs, but these can actually be passed onto event registrees, saving you some money at least.

Selling On Social Media

It wasn’t all that long ago that the idea of being able to buy products directly through social media channels was novel and experimental, but nowadays you can create your own online shop through Facebook, or sell on Instagram or even Pinterest.

With Facebook, you just need a Facebook business page to get started. You can choose your payment processor (PayPal or Stripe) and start manually uploading products, all of which have to be reviewed by Facebook before they can go live. An easier option is to link your Facebook shop to an online store builder such as BigCommerce, Ecwid, or Shopify.

Shopify is actually an interesting solution because, while its core offering is an online shopping cart, it offers a “Lite” plan for $9/month that includes access to its mPOS app, buy buttons for a website, and a Facebook store with automated tools to make the process easier. You wouldn’t necessarily have to go through the hassle of building a website with Shopify just to sell on Facebook, but you still get more tools than you would by going through Facebook directly. Check out our Shopify Lite review for an in-depth look at the plan and all its features.

Selling on Instagram requires you to have a Facebook shop (because Facebook owns Instagram) to create what it calls “Shoppable posts.” That shop can be managed directly via Facebook itself, or via Shopify or BigCommerce as one of multiple sales channels. I’d like to point out that Instagram isn’t available as a sales channel with the Lite plan; you’ll need to upgrade to Shopify Basic at $29/month to be able to manage sales via Instagram.

Lastly, Pinterest allows merchants with a business account to create “Buyable pins,” so you can sell from your Pinterest page. Unlike Facebook, where you can manage the buyable pins from the platform, to sell through Pinterest you will need to go through either Shopify or BigCommerce and actually apply for approval before you can start selling.

Shopify Lite is an ideal option if you want to start with Facebook and maybe add buy buttons to a website. You can upgrade to Shopify Basic ($29/month) to get your own site, plus access to Instagram and Pinterest if that appeals to you.

Selling In Marketplaces

Online marketplaces are a good alternative to having your own website if you’re selling retail goods. You don’t have to pay for hosting or invest anything in web design. You simply create your product listings using the tools provided and publish them. Marketplaces allow you to get your products in front of a large audience without you having to build a stream of traffic yourself. However, the trade-offs are that you generally pay more in fees (listing fees, seller’s fees, and payment processing) than you would with your own website, and you have zero control over the design of the site or even how your products are displayed. Generally speaking, you are limited to using whatever payment processing the marketplace offers as well.

A few popular marketplaces include:

  • eBay
  • Etsy
  • Amazon
  • Jet (owned by Walmart)
  • Ruby Lane

Accepting Payments Through Virtual Terminals 

The final alternative is a bit of a stretch, I’ll admit, but it can be a powerful tool for some merchants. A virtual terminal is a web portal where you can manually enter credit card information to process a transaction. (There’s the stretch: VTs require an internet connection, so they’re technically online payments.)  Virtual terminals are a necessity for merchants who want to accept payments over the phone (or even by mail).

Some payment processors offer a virtual terminal as part of their software package, others as an add-on. These providers include PayPal, Payline Mobile, Square, and Fattmerchant. However, if you want the best value for a virtual terminal, we recommend Square. You pay only the payment processing costs (3.5% + $0.15) and it is interoperable with the rest of Square’s platform.

Beyond Credit Cards: Alternative Online Payment Methods

Credit cards are the go-to for accepting payments online, but they aren’t the only options. For starters, there are ACH bank transfers, which are generally less expensive for merchants to process. They’re often preferred in B2B environments, but some consumers favor them too.

Offering ACH processing as an additional option, especially if you’re in the B2B space, could win you more customers. According to a 2017 Payment Benchmarks Survey by the Credit Research Foundation and the National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA), ACH transfers currently account for 32 percent of B2B transactions, lagging behind checks, which took the no. 1 spot at 50 percent. Credit cards account for just 11 percent of B2B transactions. By 2020, the survey estimates that ACH will take the top spot and account for 45 percent of B2B transactions.

Despite this, most merchant accounts or even third-party processors don’t offer ACH by default. Some offer it as an add-on plan, others may require you to look for a supplemental option for ACH acceptance.

ACH is far from the only option as far as “alternative” payment processing now, too. Mobile wallets are bridging the gap between in-person and online payments, and card networks have implemented their own online checkout options for cardholders. The major advantage to accepting these options is that they offer an extra layer of security for consumers. For example, Apple Pay on the web still requires biometric authentication before approval.

Some of these alternative payment methods include:

  • Apple Pay on the Web
  • Google Pay
  • Microsoft Pay
  • Chase Pay
  • MasterPass
  • Visa Checkout
  • Amex Express checkout

Apple Pay and Google Pay are fairly widely supported, but you may not see the other options on this list everywhere.

Two noteworthy providers that offer ACH, as well as other alternative payment options, are Stripe and Braintree. However, both are developer-focused platforms, so you’ll need someone with the technical know-how to implement them. Merchant accounts that specialize in eCommerce and provide a solid gateway might offer these options too.

We recommend Stripe because of its extensive developer tools, customizable checkout, and resources for recurring billing. The company also offers round-the-clock customer support (an admittedly recent addition to its feature set). Plus, Stripe is great for international merchants who want to be able to accept localized currencies in Europe and Asia.

Begin Accepting Payments Online

Starting an online store and learning how to accept credit cards online can seem like a daunting task! There are so many factors to consider, but I hope I’ve been able to shed some light on the process and point you in the direction of some good options. A merchant account can give you security and stability, but it may not be the most cost-effective option for low-volume merchants. A third-party processor can get you set up quickly with predictable pricing that often favors low-volume merchants, but the trade-off is account stability. And of course there’s the matter of compatibility: You need to make sure that whatever payment processor you choose offers a gateway compatible with the software (and sales channels) you want to use.

But you also need to have a good idea of what you can afford to spend up front and on a monthly basis and understand your limitations when it comes to technology and software. If you want to go the DIY route, you’ll need to be fairly tech-savvy. Otherwise, be prepared to outsource tasks to designers, developers, and even admin assistants. Some software solutions make it incredibly easy to do everything yourself, others will require lots of hands-on effort to make them work.

If you’re still not sure where to go from here, we recommend you check out our article: The Best Online Credit Card Payment Processing Companies. You can also view our merchant account comparison chart for a quick look at our favorite providers.

Have questions? We’re always happy to hear from our readers, so please leave us a comment!

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