Thursday, July 10, 2014

Affordable Tablet POS Systems That Support Open Checks and Tips from Groovv and ShopKeep POS

Android and iOS based POS Systems perfect for small and mid-size restaurants, coffee shops, bars or any business that accepts tips or open tabs.

Most mobile credit card processing solutions are not able to handle tips or open checks (tabs) at all, acting strictly as the equivalent of a counter-top terminal for swiping or key-entering a single transaction. This works well enough for most people, who rarely will need modifiers of any sort. However, business owners wishing to move away from or avoid altogether the high-priced POS systems now are seeing viable options appear in the affordable tablet-based solutions entering the market.

While affordable solutions such as Harbortouch have begun presenting themselves in the market for full POS systems required for high-inventory merchants who need extensive employee tracking and reporting for the accountant, the mobile marketplace has seen an explosion recently with excellent retail solutions like
PayAnywhere jumping to the forefront with its pared-down quasi-POS functionality on top of its basic processing software and industry-leading pricing structures. The middle ground, however, has been dominated by a few small players with limited functionality that generally did not make much sense: they were either too expensive for their limited function (for a comparable price, merchants could upgrade to non-mobile soluitions that could do much more) or they were not mobile enough (locked into countertop setups no different from their PC-based counterparts). The lines have now been significantly blurred with the release of new software upgrades on a couple of tablet solutions, offering better POS functionality to both iOS and Android tablet options, making them better competitors against existing, much bulkier and more expensive POS systems and also offering cost advantages of  their own. At the top of this category are two products, the more established ShopKeep and the relatively new Groovv (which used to be Registroid Pro).

There are pros and cons with both ShopKeep and Groovv, but both of them offer the ability to process credit cards simply and effectively. Their software is intuitive and easy to use. But they are slightly different beasts in how they integrate with the processing company and the way that their cost structure works.

Cost Comparison Between ShopKeep and Groovv Tablet POS Systems

Virtually all POS systems come with some sort of monthly fees that are strictly associated with the use and maintenance of the POS service, including software updates and increasingly the cloud storage that these systems rely upon. The cost of processing is separate from the cost of the POS system itself.

Built into all the Groovv systems, processing is only offered through Total MerchantServices (TMS), which is fine considering that TMS offers exceptionally competitive rates when set up through a reliable agent. It should be noted that TMS offers both tiered pricing and Interchange-based pricing for their merchants, with one of the lowest-cost PCI fees on the market and no long contracts.

Merchants opting for ShopKeep have a choice of bringing their own processor into the mix, which could include TMS or any number of other options. This is especially useful for merchants who are in existing contracts or have relationships with sales agents whom they trust to provide them the best processing rates and fees for their business.

Pricing for the ShopKeep POS is very straight forward. While it is typical that POS systems generally cost a few thousand dollars and up, with many systems running a total well over ten or fifteen thousand dollars for a single terminal setup, the hardware for ShopKeep begins with package prices under $700 per register but, depending on the required components, could be much higher.  And while many POS vendors lock in long contracts with cancellation fees, ShopKeep maintains a month to month policy and simple pricing of $49 per terminal each month for the POS service and customer support. This may seem like a lot, but prices often range much higher for POS service, including additional fees for support or software upgrades.  This $49 per register fee covers the cloud storage, customer support and software updates. The merchant is responsible for purchasing all the equipment and doing the set up at the merchant’s location.

Groovv pricing is not quite so straightforward. It is important to understand, however, that the pricing may include the equipment placement and therefore there is no upfront cost in that area. If the merchant already has a tablet or Android Phone and Internet connection, there is an option that only requires a card reader and has comparable pricing to the ShopKeep option, with a monthly service cost of up to $49, but the pricing could be lower depending on the deal that the sales agent is able (or willing) to make.

Groovv Storefront is a hardware package that includes an Android Tablet in a swivel stand (which allows for easy signature capture), a wireless router and wireless printer, a cash drawer and a card swiper. Groovv Restaurant is the same hardware setup but with customized software. Currently, the restaurant software does not have additional tablets or a kitchen printer, but these options will be added in the future. At this point, Groovv Restaurant is best suited toward single-register, small restaurants or hospitality venues. There are also options that have only a tablet, card reader and swivel stand or an all-in-one unit called the Groovv One, which has the touch screen interface built into a cash drawer with integrated printer and swiper. Lastly, the Groovv One Plus features the all-in-one unit and an additional Android Tablet with swiper.  Each of these package options comes with different monthly pricing structures and agents may bundle several together at discounted rates. Because it has the potential to be complicated, I cannot provide an absolute price comparison, but I can give a few broad details.

First, there is a setup fee for most of the package offerings, with the exception of just the Groovv Swiper (where the merchant provides his or her own hardware). The other product options include setup fees ranging from $200 to $500, but these will have a lot to do with both the agent relationship and the complexity of the set up. Be aware that this setup fee does not cover the cost of the equipment, which in most cases is worth much more than this fee. There may also be exceptions to the setup fee on the horizon, so any merchant capable of self-setup should be sure to work with the agent on this possibility. Lastly, while monthly fees for the various package options could range up to $99.95 per terminal (or $129.95 for the Groovv One Plus option with the register unit and the additional tablet), most agents will not charge that full book rate in order to remain more competitive. By letting the agent know that ShopKeep is a consideration, it is almost certain that the agent will do whatever is necessary to beat that $49 per station monthly charge.

Merchants should be wary, however, of agents who lower the monthly cost of the POS system but then jack up the processing fees. This is a long-standing practice for unethical agents in this business, but it is not the policy of TMS or any of the other processing companies with which I work. For the most part, the pricing specifics are left up to the agent to determine following certain cost requirements or company guidelines (no one wants to lose money on a transaction). My advice is to always get the processing costs worked out first and maintain an open, honest dialogue about costs between agent and merchant. Everyone wants to save money and everyone needs to earn a living. The trick is finding a fair, competitive pricing combination that benefits everyone. For merchants, that means getting the lowest combination of rates and fees including the POS system and the processing costs. For the agent, that means still being able to earn a profit over the minimum costs, which may be quite low compared to the book rates.

Feature Comparison Between ShopKeep and Groovv Tablet POS Systems

The software and hardware on both ShopKeep and Groovv are quite comparable, but with some distinct differences. The first thing that a prospective user is likely to notice is that ShopKeep only works on an iPad—and that iPad must be supplied by the client or purchased through ShopKeep as part of a bundle. Groovv, on the other hand, requires an Android tablet and can run on a variety of Android devices, though the flagship Groovv products include a register with a built in terminal or a packaged Android tablet that is placed at no additional cost with the merchant. This means that merchants opting for Groovv have the option of using their own Android tablets or borrowing one from Total Merchant Services, the supplier of the Groovv software and exclusive processor for the platform.

On the surface, then, the biggest difference is the contrast between the iOS and Android user experiences. For some people, what they are familiar with already is a huge selling point and should be considered. Under the hood, however, there is little difference in POS functionality.

This video shows some of the functionality of ShopKeep:

Groovv is a robust platform that integrates with a clever Social Media marketing tool called Groovv Offers and works on a wide range of mobile devices, including a basic payment-acceptance app for Android phones. Focusing on the Restaurant and Hospitality functionality of Groovv Register , however, it is easy to see where the strengths of this platform lie. The software can be used to track tables, split tickets, modify items, pre-authorize credit cards for open tickets or tip modifications and has a function for naming tickets or using consecutive numbers for pick-up or drive-through situations.

General features available in the Groovv Register POS system include:

  • Unlimited inventory items
  • Email receipts
  • 4 tax rates
  • User-definable tender keys
  • Discount options by dollar amount or percentage, including percentage of either individual items or subtotals
  • Optional receipt printer connected through Wi-Fi or ethernet
  • Automatic cash drawer operation through optional printer
  • Back office data sync for single device
  • Full back office that includes maintenance, reporting and various chart options
  • Item lookup, including costs and quantity on hand
  • Reports include sales by department; item sales by date, hour, employee or device; item data; transaction detail and journal; customer sales;  “cash register” X/Z reporting

Video of Groovv Register’s back office features: 

Comparitively, ShopKeep offers these general features:

  • Setting employee access levels
  • Store customer information for marketing purposes
  • Ability to view transactions from a smartphone
  • Back office that includes reporting and various chart options
  • Reports include inventory supply levels, item sales volume, inventory usage by time and date
  • Works with a barcode scanner
  • Software specific to bars, restaurants, and many other types of retailers or services

In practice, the two POS systems are very comparable. Each has small advantages over the other, but in general they cover a very similar feature set and both are well suited toward small to mid-sized hospitality businesses. While the “unlimited” inventory function might be nice, in practice a tablet has relatively small screen real-estate and a large number of inventory requirements might be in and of itself a reason to consider a PC-based system, but these tablets are growing increasingly robust.

In the end, a more comprehensive evaluation is necessary for any potential merchant, and a consultation with a knowledgeable agent or consultant should be the first step toward any change. This way, the agent could get to know the way the business operates as well as what the real-world processing needs are (as opposed to what a marketing department wants to sell the business on). One size rarely fits everyone, at least not comfortably, and so finding the solution best tailored to any given merchant is the most important task when it is time to make the move into a new POS system.


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