We’ve spent some serious time examining all the options for Point of Sale (POS) systems for small businesses recently and while we’ve found a couple of sub-categories in which we’ve found some serious performers – our pick for the best POS system for small businesses overall is Vend.
Why Did We Choose Vend?
We chose Vend for a variety of factors and these include:
Vend was launched in 2010 and has been well-backed by capital including through a partnership deal with PayPal. That means there’s a good chance that Vend will be around in years to come and that’s important because you don’t want to have to go through the set up process for a POS system on a regular basis.
Value for Money
Vend, unusually for POS providers, actually offers a free-to-use plan for businesses with fewer than 10,000 customers that’s a big win in our books because it means that startup businesses can benefit from a fully featured POS without worrying about how they will pay for it until they become profitable. It’s also great for small and niche businesses that may need a POS but have little budget to manage one with. It is, however, worth noting that this free plan does have limits including no customer support and you may only have 10 active products in the database at any one time.
Vend’s paid plans are about the ballpark average for POS vendors and begin at $59 a month and may run higher depending on what you need from the system. It’s worth noting that a business looking to change POS systems may save a small fortune if they switch to Vend because it supports existing POS hardware and doesn’t require that you purchase Vend specific hardware.
Ease of Use and Functionality
Vend is very simple to use and you won’t need to spend hours in training to get it up and running. That’s a useful thing because one of the biggest costs of any software implementation project is training the people who will use it.
The software will run on any platform too and that’s a big advantage over many of Vend’s competitors which are often solely focused on iOS and the iPad. We also like, as we mentioned before, Vend’s reverse compatibility with existing hardware – so there’s no need to learn a bunch of new hardware when you switch to Vend.
You can also import your existing data (as CVS files) from your old POS system or from your Excel lists of information. That’s a big time saver when it comes to set up as it reduces the manual operation to a few clicks rather than hours (or days) of data entry. If you use Shopify – you can also import data from Shopify in a single step.
Some of the features that we liked in Vend include:
- Credit Card Support – Vend is great for credit card use and supports both physical card readers as well as mobile credit card processing. You’ll have to check but we found that they support the vast majority of merchant account providers and other vendors (including Shopify).
- Inventory Management – not only does Vend act as a stock database but you can configure each stock keeping unit (SKU) to have automated thresholds for reordering or to warn you when stock is critically low. That’s a very handy time saving feature for the business owner.
- Product Management – you can import all your SKUs straight into Vend and then manage them from the software itself. You can create custom variations of a product easily and one nice feature is the ability to auto-apply discounts and promotions based on a range of criteria.
- Marketing Management – Vend has an inbuilt customer relationship management (CRM) function which lets you track your customers (based on details they provide). That means you can then reach out to those customers via e-mail with offers that are tailored to them. You can also track specific trends in purchasing behavior and adjust your stock and in-store approaches to cater to them.
- Reporting Management – we found Vend’s analytics package to be very strong and it comes with both preset and fully customizable reports to monitor any aspect of your business that you think needs to be monitored. You can report on anything from in store churn to the best sales people. One nice touch is that it also allows your sales agents to access a report on their own performance and see how they’re doing in terms of their sales targets.
- Third-Party Application Management – Vend supports integration with a myriad of top-selling business applications and that’s incredibly valuable to business owners. For example, if you use QuickBooks as an accounting package you can draw and send data to Vend easily and quickly without any programming skills or additional work.
Vend’s customer support is a big selling point. They have 24-7 e-mail, chat and phone support available to all paying customers (it’s worth noting that free users do not get access to this support though).
They also offer a range of other facilities to help users get acquainted with the product including a knowledgebase, FAQs, video tutorials, Vend University (blog, training, community, etc.), one-on-one coaching (which costs extra) and even on-site support (at a cost).
Drawbacks of Using Vend
Vend is, perhaps, the most capable general business POS solution on the market and our only complaints are minor.
The e-commerce solution which works with online stores is great but we do think that the additional charge for this functionality is a little steep and we’d like to see this as part of their standard package rather than at a premium. It’s also worth noting that their own customer feedback shows that some people struggle to get this functionality operating well with their website.
There is also an enhanced support service which cost an extra $19 a month which is Vend+. We like the one-on-one coaching and setup elements of this package but we do think a month’s free trial might be a nice way to see if this works out as value for money.