October 19, 2018
A big name with the features and price to justify it's popularity.
Used by 2 million businesses worldwide, Square and its little white card reader are a common sight in stores everywhere. As one of the largest POS vendors, Square delivers a well-constructed, well-tested service. Its raft of features and data analytics options should be more than enough for most businesses in need of a POS. It also comes with a unique price plan. Once you're over the learning curve, the features and usability of this system are tough to beat.
Serves all business sizes
Square's ubiquitous card readers are popular for a reason: They come with a smart, sleek POS software and no monthly fee, since users are charged a percentage of each sale instead. Square's hardware offerings include inexpensive iPad-compatible card readers (both swipeable and contactless/chip versions) as well as stands and full registers. Package deals are also popular: For $49 a month, or a one-time fee of $999, businesses can use a register, customer display, accessory hub with a mounting plate, and a power adapter and cable.
As with any massive software company, “feature bloat” can be a concern with Square, as the service continues expanding with features that might overwhelm users more than is justified by the value they provide. Their software alone offers variations for 18 different industries, including Apparel, Groceries, Leisure & Entertainment, and Spas. Still, too many features is a good problem to have, and the system's interface and abilities remain some of the best in the POS industry.
As previously mentioned, Square's robust features and smart interface come packaged into a unique payment system. The software costs a percentage per transaction, rather than a monthly fee, though some features will cost extra. This means that tiny businesses get access to a high-quality POS for a cost-effective price (and helps explain why you see their hardware everywhere). Larger businesses may not find it quite as cost-effective, though they may qualify for custom rates.
Our review covers the main features that make Square POS useful, before discussing the technical support options available and breaking down the impact of Square's pricing.
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Square POS: Core Features
With Square POS you can accept credit and debit, contactless and chip payments, all within seconds. It sends a digital receipt and prompts customers to add an optional tip. If you're on the go, Square's card reader can plug into an iPhone, iPad, and Android phone or tablet.
You can create and send custom invoices through Square POS as well. Managers can track the status of each invoice online, knowing when they have been read, and sending reminders for those that remain unpaid.
Analytics and Reporting
Square POS tracks sales, breaking them down per-item so managers can tell at a glance which products are out-performing expectations. Customer purchase histories are also monitored. Managers can track new customers against returning ones, or see the average spend per visit and average visits per month.
Sales performances can be easily compared to performance over the past week, month or six-month period. In addition, summary reports can be auto-delivered to managers' emails on a daily basis.
Square POS' customer feedback system lets customers give their thoughts on their experiences, by asking them on their digital receipt. Managers can see the feedback paired with that customer's transaction history, letting them know how highly to prioritize the information. They can also look at data visualizations showing which elements of their experience were the most or least satisfying. Plus, managers can respond to the feedback if they'd like, starting a private message chat with the customer in question.
Additional software add-ons cost a little more than the core features listed above, which are all free with the basic POS software download.
Some of these features (such as employee management) are essential to running a mid-size business, though a small operation likely won't need them.
- Employee Management — For $5/employee/month, you can define roles, allow clock in/out ability, set employee-specific access restrictions, and generate timecard reports.
- Square Marketing — Starting at $15/month, you can craft and track email marketing campaigns through the Square POS system.
- Square Loyalty — Starting at $25/month, you can create a loyalty program. Customer can enroll at checkout to receive digital punch cards and/or tiered reward levels. Customers spend 37% more after enrollment, according to Square.
- Gift Cards — Create gift cards, tracking activations, redemptions, and refunds through your POS. Physical custom cards cost 80 cents each, while digital ones come at a 2.9% + 30 cents transaction processing rate.
- Square Payroll — For $29/month plus $5/employee, you can run an IRS-compliant payroll system that automatically tracks and records your employees' timecards.
Several of these features are packaged directly into other leading POS vendors' main services, so depending on how essential these features are, you may want to weigh other POS software options more highly. However, if you're only interested in one or two of these add-ons, Square POS likely remains the more cost-effective option.
Hardware Highlight: Square POS Card Readers
Square's highly recognizable little white square of a card reader can be plugged into an iPad or iPhone headset jack for a quick and easy way to accept a credit or debit card. But customers are increasingly opting for chip cards or even their phone. Here's the Square hardware that can help businesses keep up: The Contactless and Chip reader.
Set Up and Customer Support
Square's support is largely online. A database of explainers, FAQs and user guides is available for free. Available to users: A community forum filled with real business users asking and answering questions surrounding the daily use of a Square POS system. Categories within the forum include subforums such as “New to Square,” “Hardware,” and “Product Updates.”
Phone support is available, though only to “active Square sellers,” who can provide their 12-digit customer code in order to talk to a specialist. Specialist availability may vary, and users are encouraged to look up their issues through the support center or forum first.
Support & Training
Square POS Plans and Pricing
Anyone can download Square's POS software and begin selling immediately, though they'll likely need to grab a card reader as well (a single dongle comes as cheap as ten dollars). However, the main cost of the POS system kicks in when its users make a sale: Square charges 2.75% of each card-based sale. If card payments are manually keyed in rather than processed via card reader, the charge is a little more: 3.5% of the transaction's cost plus another 15 cents per transaction. Some software add-ons also cost an additional percentage or a small monthly fee, but the core features we've listed above are available with the basic Square POS system for free.
As a result, using Square POS will mean that most businesses will see 2.75% of their total monthly revenue go to paying their POS costs, but that's it. For a small operation such as farmer's markets, food trucks and small coffee shops, it's a great deal, and the secret to Square's market dominance. Most POS vendors bill for their service annually, which can be tough for a business on a budget.
For a huge operation or a business with many sales, the costs for using Square POS will scale up at a rate faster than most other POS services, which typically charge a set monthly fee in order to process unlimited sales. Large businesses aren't out of options, however: Square offers custom rates to businesses with enough sales volume to qualify. If your business processes over $250,000 in card sales and sees an average ticket size over $15, it may be eligible.
You'll still want to compare Square's quotes against the industry average. Check out TechCo's quotes form at the bottom of the page for more information.
Square is a recommended POS system. The software's robust features, it's ease of use, and a pricing plan designed to cut down on upfront costs, all combine to make it an attractive option to small businesses everywhere. Square POS support options and hardware offerings are decent as well, which doesn't hurt. There's a reason everyone uses this service.
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