If you want to run a successful vape shop, there’s no way around it — you need a POS system. When someone comes in and buys a mod, rebuildable atomizer, wire and e-liquid, it’s going to be a large purchase. Your customer will expect to pay with a credit or debit card. The good news is that for small businesses, accepting credit cards is easier today than ever before. You can buy a vape shop POS system that works with hardware you already own — and you can even accept credit card payments without going through the complicated process of setting up a merchant account.
In this article, we’ll compare and contrast six popular vape shop POS solutions. Although these are far from the only POS systems on the market, they are arguably the six most popular solutions available. They vary greatly in price and in the features they offer. By gaining an understanding of what you can expect in a given price range, you can simplify the process of choosing the best POS system and select the one that meets your vape shop’s needs.
What Is the ShopKeep POS?
ShopKeep is a full-featured POS solution that uses your iPad to provide the processing power — something that can save you a great deal of money compared to a traditional POS system that costs upwards of $2,000. You can choose the accessories — such as a printer, cash drawer, card reader and bar code scanner — that will work best for your business. ShopKeep sells accessories to members at discounted prices — and overnights replacements for any components that no longer work.
ShopKeep POS Features
So, what makes ShopKeep special? ShopKeep is much more than a way to accept credit card payments. You can actually use it to handle everything from staff hours to inventory management and email marketing.
- Offline transactions: If your vape shop loses its Internet connection, ShopKeep will save transaction data until connectivity is restored.
- Customer database: By offering receipts by email, you can capture customers’ email addresses and build a mailing list. ShopKeep integrates with MailChimp for easy email promotions. You can also link to your vape shop’s social media profiles from your email receipts. Using the ShopKeep back office application, you can see who your most important customers are and find out who is engaging with your social media profiles and email campaigns.
- Gift cards: ShopKeep can create and manage gift card accounts for you. Gift cards are the greatest little billboards that a company could ever ask for. Many gift cards are pure profit because they end up unused — and 65 percent of people who do use their gift cards and up spending more than the value on those cards. Every time your vape shop sells a gift card, you win.
- Bookkeeping: ShopKeep integrates with QuickBooks to make managing your finances as easy as possible.
- Easy reporting: You can print a report detailing your vape shop’s transactions and cash flow directly from your ShopKeep register. If you aren’t in the store, log in to ShopKeep Pocket on your phone to view reports.
- Inventory management: ShopKeep automatically tracks your inventory, tells you what your most popular products are and warns you when it’s time to reorder based on low stock alerts that you set.
- Employee tracking: Cashiers can use ShopKeep to log in and out of their shifts, which makes payroll incredibly easy. With its built-in reporting, you can even find out who your best employees are by creating reports that show each cashier’s total sales, average transaction value and number of items sold.
ShopKeep POS Drawbacks
The only real drawback of the ShopKeep POS system is the cost of the equipment. While using the iPad that you already have can save you a great deal of money, you’ll still need to purchase other accessories. That’s true of any POS, though.
What Is Revel POS?
Revel POS is the second iPad POS system on our list. Like ShopKeep, Revel uses the iPad as the “brains” of the system and handles the POS functionality via an app. Most of the pictures feature the iPad in a unique vertical stand, although you can use the stand of your choice as well. Revel has an integrated e-commerce system, so you can use it for both online and offline sales.
Revel POS Features
- Flexible integration: Can integrate with a barcode scanner, cash drawer, coin dispenser, caller ID device, digital menu board, keyboard, car reader, printer, scale and more.
- Accessibility: Has an app available to improve usability for the visually impaired.
- White label app: Gives you the ability to create a mobile app for your vape shop, put your logo on the app and allow customers to place orders from their mobile devices. The mobile app can also manage a loyalty program for you and notify you when customers are nearby.
- Employee management: Tracks hours and manages payroll, employee performance and scheduling.
- Inventory management: Tracks remaining stock and generates purchase orders automatically when inventory runs low.
- Offline mode: Continues to queue transactions when no Internet connection is available. Submits the transactions as soon as the Internet connection begins working again.
- Loyalty programs: Revel POS can manage a loyalty program in which you reward your customers for making repeat purchases.
- Gift cards: As we mentioned above, a gift card sale is one of the best sales that any vape shop could possibly make.
- Customer database: Revel POS manages your vape shop’s customer relationships by keeping track of what people buy to give you a deeper understanding of your customers’ preferences.
- Social media integration: Check customer engagement on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Send tweets to your customers directly from your POS, or see which customers have used social media to “check in” to your business.
Revel POS Drawbacks
The only serious drawback of Revel is the fact that there isn’t any pricing information online. The website wants you to “get a quote,” which means you’ll need to talk to a salesperson before you can get started with the Revel POS. What we’ve read online suggests that every business requires a custom solution because no two businesses are the same. Nevertheless, we’d prefer a more up-front pricing model.
What Is Vend POS?
Vend POS began life as an iPad POS. Today, though, it runs on any device with a web browser. You can run Vend on a laptop if you like — so if you don’t own an iPad, you don’t have to buy one to use Vend. Vend allows you to use the payment processor of your choice, or you can choose your own payment processor if another company offers you a better rate. The monthly fee for using Vend starts at $69 per month.
Vend POS Features
- Platform agnostic: Vend is one of a very few POS platforms that will run on any device. Not everyone owns an iPad — and if you don’t want to buy one so you can accept credit card payments at your vape shop, you’ll be happy that you can use the device of your choice.
- E-commerce support: Vend can accept payments for both online and offline sales.
- Loyalty program: Create a loyalty program that rewards your customers for coming back.
- Gift cards: Create and manage custom gift cards.
- Inventory management: Vend’s robust inventory management can handle thousands of unique products and multiple store locations.
- Reporting features: Powerful reporting system allows you to see your sales statistics at a glance — even if you have a vape shop chain with multiple locations.
- CRM database: Vend tracks the purchase histories of individual customers to help you identify your most valuable clients. You can even target VIP customers with promotional emails directly from Vend.
- Employee management: Vend tracks employee hours and sales to simplify payroll and let you know which of your employees are most valuable.
Vend POS Drawbacks
If more than three employees will use your vape shop’s POS system, you may consider the price a bit of a drawback. You’ll need to spend $99 per month — or $79 per month billed annually — if you want to use features such as loyalty programs and gift cards. Also, Vend’s basic $69/month service level only allows you to use a maximum of three cashiers. On the other hand, Vend works on any device with a Web browser and includes e-commerce for online sales — so you’ll have to decide which features are most important to you.
What Is the Square POS?
While ShopKeep can save you quite a bit of money by utilizing hardware you already own, Square is potentially a less expensive solution for vape shops that are still new and process only a few transactions per month. Square’s card readers are inexpensive — a basic magnetic reader costs nothing — and Square charges no membership fees. You’ll pay 2.75 percent for standard transactions or 3.5 percent plus 15 cents for transactions you enter manually. There are no other fees. You’ll use your Square card reader with your mobile phone or iPad.
Square’s solution for mobile payments revolutionized the payment processing industry by making it possible for very small businesses to accept credit cards with no hassle and without paying a lot of money to get started.
Square POS Features
- Low cost of entry: Square has no membership fees, and it works with your mobile phone or tablet. You’ll receive a basic magnetic card reader free just for signing up. A reader that supports chip cards and mobile payments is only $49. Note, though, that you’ll still need to buy an iPad stand, printer and cash drawer if you want a more traditional POS setup.
- Easy to use: Square only uses its own internal payment processing system. While that does limit flexibility — and may mean that you’ll pay higher transaction fees that you would with some payment processors — it also means that setup is extremely easy.
- Accepts online payments: If you want to sell products online as well as in your vape shop, you can use Square for both.
- App marketplace: Square has an API that allows developers to create third-party applications. You can find apps that add features for inventory management, invoicing, bookkeeping, tax collecting and more.
Square POS Drawbacks
Square does have a few drawbacks. First, you can’t use Square’s POS application or card reader with another payment processor — you need to use Square to process payments.
Square also isn’t as feature-rich as some other POS systems. Square doesn’t have the same level of robust inventory management and financial reporting. Features such as employee management, invoice creation, payroll, online marketing and gift cards all incur additional fees. With a solution such as ShopKeep, all of those functions are included with your membership fee.
There have been some complaints about Square freezing accounts suddenly due to unusual transaction activity. Since Square offers a very no-frills payment processing service, anyone can get in. In fact, Square has millions of users. and Square has to be very careful about fraud. Unfortunately, this seems to mean that “false positives” happen from time to time.
Because Square has a massive user base, getting support isn’t always easy. Square recently added telephone support, although the line is only open from 6AM-6PM Pacific Monday-Friday. Email support is also available, although there have been some reports suggesting that responses can take a while. ShopKeep’s support, on the other hand, is open 24/7.
What Is the Clover POS?
The Clover POS is a touch screen point of sale system with a very appealing design and a few different form factors to fit the needs of different types of businesses. Clover uses its own hardware — not your mobile device — so the initial setup can be a little expensive. In addition, most sellers expect you to sign a merchant services contract when you buy the hardware. Nevertheless, Clover’s website claims that this POS system’s user base is 500,000 registers strong and growing.
Clover POS Features
- Eye-catching design: The Clover POS looks extremely nice. Even in this age of sleek mobile POS systems, Clover stands out.
- Multiple form factors: You can buy a Clover system that looks like a standard cash register, one that fits on a countertop or one that you can hold in your hand.
- E-commerce support: Clover includes the ability to process payments for online sales.
- Gift cards: Create and sell your own gift cards.
- Loyalty programs: Create a loyalty program that encourages repeat business.
- Employee management: Track employees’ hours for easy payroll calculations, and create reports showing who your top employees are.
- Insights: Clover distributes an app that helps you understand how your business stacks up against the competition.
- Funding: You can apply for capital through your Clover POS system. You’ll automatically repay the loan out of your future credit card sales.
- Marketing tools: Clover has apps available that can help you manage your social media and email campaigns.
- App market: Download third-party apps that extend the functionality of your Clover system.
Clover POS Drawbacks
Like Revel, Clover is a POS system that isn’t fully transparent about its pricing. To get one directly from First Data — Clover’s creator — you’ll need to fill out a form, and speak with a salesperson. You can also buy Clover from a third-party distributor, but you should be very careful. There have been some complaints — read here, here and here — from people who felt pressured or misled by salespeople who may not have been completely open about contract details. It seems that the Clover POS is always sold with a merchant services contract. If you don’t like the contract, you’ll pay a hefty termination fee to get out of it — and you’ll need to buy another POS system. If you buy a used unit without a contract, you may have trouble getting a merchant services company to activate it for you.
What Is PayPal Here?
PayPal Here is a mobile POS system that connects to your iOS, Android or Windows device via Bluetooth or the device’s headphone jack. There’s a low cost of entry to get started with PayPal Here. A basic magnetic card reader costs $14.99, or a reader that accepts chip cards and mobile payments costs $149.00. You’ll need to provide your own printer, cash drawer and barcode scanner.
PayPal Here competes directly with Square. It has no membership fees, but you may pay slightly more for transactions than you would with other payment processors. For basic swiped card transactions, PayPal Here charges 2.7 percent.
PayPal Here Features
- Low cost of entry: PayPal Here’s equipment is inexpensive, and there’s no monthly charge to use it. It’s an inexpensive POS solution for very small vape shops that are just getting started.
- Inventory management: PayPal Here allows you to manage your inventory through the PayPal website.
- Employee management and reporting: PayPal here allows you to create up to 1,000 cashier accounts and generate reports detailing each cashier’s performance.
- Funds availability: Payments are available in your PayPal account almost instantly. Get a PayPal debit card, and you can spend your funds as soon as you receive them.
PayPal Here Drawbacks
PayPal Here is a very basic POS system that allows your vape shop to begin accepting credit cards very quickly. The fee structure is straightforward, and the equipment is inexpensive. What PayPal Here doesn’t give you, though, is a lot of room to grow. So, if your vape shop becomes successful, you may outgrow PayPal Here very quickly. PayPal Here won’t manage gift cards or loyalty programs for you, won’t manage your social media campaigns and won’t generate purchase orders when your inventory runs low.
In other words, PayPal Here won’t be the central hub that helps you run your business. It will provide an easy way to accept payments, and it will give you access to those payments quickly.
PayPal Here also doesn’t have an offline mode. You’ll need a reliable Internet connection to use it.
PayPal Here is similar to Square in that almost anyone can sign up and begin using it immediately. This does mean that it could potentially be easier to commit fraud with PayPal Here than with some other POS systems. There have been some reports of PayPal holding funds due to unusual activity.