Today’s customers have more payment options than ever before, and today’s businesses have more ways to sell to or connect with customers than previously. For that reason, using paper records and ledgers to keep track of sales and payments has pretty much gone the way of the dinosaur. Savvy business owners these days turn to cloud-based or on-premise systems to process payments, keep track of inventory and even manage employees.

As technology has evolved, so have the options for point-of-sale (POS) systems. Several systems are available that focus on the needs of the small business owner. Clover and Square are two such systems. If your business is in the market for a new POS system and is weighing Clover POS vs. Square, how can you decide which one to choose for credit card processing? Learn more about how using a POS system will help your company and what both Clover and Square can offer you.

How POS Systems Benefit Your Business

Traditionally, the point of sale was the place where transactions occurred, where customers bought their items. In an old-time general store, the POS was the cash register or the ledger where the shopkeeper recorded the sale. Today’s POS systems also refer to the place where a customer makes their purchase, but tablets and monitor screens have replaced the old-style paper ledger. In some cases, the POS isn’t a physical location, but instead a virtual shopping cart or online checkout. Today’s POS systems let merchants accept cash and checks, like back in the day, as well as credit and debit cards. Increasingly, POS systems can accept mobile and contactless payments as well.

Allowing a merchant to accept multiple forms of payment is a benefit for the business and its customers. When you accept swipe cards, chip cards and contactless cards, you can take payments from a broader range of customers. You don’t have to worry about turning away people because you are “cash only,” nor do you have to worry you’ll have to turn people away because they only have a swipe or chip card.

POS systems can help protect your business from liability. While magnetic swipe cards were the norm in the U.S. well past the time the rest of the world was using EMV® chip cards, things changed on Oct. 1, 2015. Starting then, businesses that accepted credit cards and that hadn’t adopted a POS system that had chip-reading technology were on the hook for any fraud that took place.

From the customer’s point of view, the POS system a business uses can mean more security and a smoother purchase experience. Several years after the liability shift took place, customers who wanted to pay with a chip-enabled credit or debit card might raise an eyebrow or feel a little nervous about giving their business to a company that still uses magnetic swipe readers. Additionally, modern POS systems take advantage of new technology to process transactions a lot more quickly than older systems, meaning customers are in and out in less time.

Beyond improving the purchase experience for customers and merchants, POS systems can also make it easier to run your business. If you have a customer loyalty program or participate in any customer relationship management, a smart POS system can manage and keep track of the program for you. Today’s POS systems also often offer inventory management features as well as employee tracking features, such as time clocks, shift scheduling and payroll.

Now that you know a bit more about the benefits of using a POS system, let’s take a closer look at two options. Two popular systems used in retail settings are the Clover Station and the Square Stand. Clover and Square have some things in common, but are also different in meaningful ways. Once you know what features each one offers, you can compare their benefits as well as any potential disadvantages to using one or the other.

Everything You Need to Know About Clover Station

Clover is a customizable POS system. It offers a variety of hardware and software options. Of the hardware options available from Clover, the Clover Station is the biggest and the fastest. It’s a comprehensive, cloud-based countertop POS system for small or medium-sized businesses. Clover Station is an all-in-one unit that includes the tablet, station, receipt printer and cash drawer. It’s designed for retail, restaurant and service industries as a stand-alone system that replaces the traditional cash register and terminal POS systems. The Clover System is both EMV® smart chip card and PIN capable.

Clover Station is compatible with other hardware components available from Clover. You can purchase the Clover Go mobile card reader to accept payments from any mobile device. Clover Go syncs with Clover Station, so you can easily keep track of sales and inventory from your business’ home base. You can also purchase the Clover Mini to connect to the Clover Station. The Clover Mini can provide customers with a screen for managing purchases and making payments.

If needed, you can purchase a variety of accessories to go with your Clover Station. Available accessories or add-ons include barcode scanners, a weight scale, kitchen printers and a PIN pad for EMV® and NFC.

What Can Clover Station Do?

Clover Station combines hardware and software to provide you with a complete POS system. The equipment included with Clover Station allows you to accept customers’ signatures and PINs, print receipts, read credit and debit cards and input orders. The software capabilities of the Clover Station include the following.

  • Order creation: You can create orders and make sales with all Clover products, including Clover Station. You can either key in items or use the barcode scanner to input items into the system.
  • Payment processing: Clover’s card readers let you accept a variety of payment methods, from credit and debit cards to mobile payment options such as ApplePay or Google Wallet.
  • Inventory management: Never wonder whether you’re out of a particular product or ingredient again. Clover’s software also includes inventory management options. The software that comes with the system lets you keep track of your stock levels. If you need a more robust program, there’s also the option of adding the Stock app, which is available from the Clover app marketplace.
  • Sales reporting and analytics: What’s selling, and when are people buying it? Clover Station’s software program gives you the chance to keep track of sales and see how items are performing.
  • Employee tracking: With Clover’s software, you can create IDs for each of your employees, allowing them to log in and perform sales and other functions. You can assign permissions based on each employee’s status or employment type for example, you can allow only managers to accept returns or run inventory checks. Additional apps allow you to add features such as payroll or time clocks.
  • Customer relationship management (CRM): You can get a better sense of who your customers are and what they want from your business with the CRM programming included with Clover Station. You can set up a loyalty program, maintain a mailing list and get a sense of who is buying when as well as what they are buying.

In addition to the built-in features that come with Clover’s software, the system also offers an app marketplace. Through the app marketplace, you can connect to apps explicitly designed for the Clover system. You also have the option of integrating your Clover system with stand-alone apps and programs such as QuickBooks, Shopify and MailChimp.

Pros of Clover Station

Clover Station has a lot of benefits to offer businesses that decide to use it, including the following.

  • It allows your business to accept a variety of payment options: The Clover Station comes with a cash drawer, so you can still take cash from customers. It also includes a card reader that will accept a range of payment types, including chip cards and contactless card payments. You can also use the POS system to accept gift cards and checks.
  • It’s fast: Customers get nervous when the credit card reader takes its time. They might worry that their card will get declined or that there’s another issue. The Clover Station works quickly, eliminating any worry on the part of the customer. Its speed also means you can help people more quickly, reducing the time they have to spend waiting in line.
  • It is fully customizable: Need a barcode scanner? What about a scale to weigh items? You can add either to your Clover Station. You can also fully customize the software based on your business’ specific needs. You’ll no longer have to “make do” or find workarounds. If you don’t like a particular feature that comes with the system, you’ll likely find an app in the marketplace that better meets your needs.
  • It lets you partner with a merchant services provider: You can purchase the Clover System on its own, then partner with a separate merchant services provider to handle the credit and debit card processing. When you can choose your merchant services provider, you can shop around until you find the company that offers you the best terms and rates. If you partner with one company, but find you don’t like their customer service or prices, you can try a different company when your contract ends.

Cons of Clover Station

No POS system is perfect, and Clover Station does have some potential issues you should know about.

  • Not all providers are equal: Where you purchase your Clover matters greatly. Some people feel comfortable purchasing from their local bank but should be aware they will not be able to go down to their local branch for support. Reports have shown Clover Support to be difficult at times so try to find a provider who handles all support in house.
  • Not all Clover apps are equal: Just as you can find some duds in the App Store or on Google Play, it’s possible you’re going to discover some lame apps in the Clover App Marketplace. Apps for the Clover system can vary widely in quality and usability. Check the reviews and test any apps you install before deciding to make them part of your business operations.

Cost of Clover Station

The costs of the Clover Station fall into two categories. The first category is the cost of the hardware itself, which varies by providers. Most providers offer varying buyout prices or no money down leases. You might pay more if you decide to add accessories or another Clover device, such as the Clover Mini or Clover Go, to your system.

The second category is the cost of payment processing. How much you pay for payment processing depends on the merchant services provider you decide to work with. Your merchant services provider might charge you a flat rate for each payment, or might charge a different rate based on the value of the transaction. It helps to get quotes from a variety of merchant services providers to get a better understanding of what you get for the price.

Everything You Need to Know About Square Stand

Square Stand is a POS system designed with the needs of small businesses in mind. Merchants can buy individual parts of the system, rather than a set cost for the whole thing. There’s a separate charge for each piece the stand, cash drawer, receipt printer and iPad. While the stand, cash drawer and receipt printer have set pricing, the iPad may vary, so the final price tag will depend on the iPad you purchase. You can also use an iPad you already own.

What Does Square Stand Do?

Square Stand offers many of the same features as Clover Station, including the option of adding hardware to customize the system. The base model Square Stand includes a swivel stand for a separately sold iPad and a card reader that accepts chip cards and contactless payments. The swivel stand has a mag-stripe reader for cards that aren’t contactless or chip-enabled.

Optional hardware includes a receipt printer, barcode scanner and cash drawer.

You can set up Square Stand to work with the Square point-of-sale app, which includes the following features.

  • Sales reporting and analytics: Sales analytics let you see what is selling and where it is selling.
  • Inventory management: Inventory management lets you keep track of your stock and make sure you order more before you run out.
  • CRM: CRM tools allow you to store customer information, including payment methods and cards, and email receipts to customers after each transaction.

Pros of Square Stand

Like the Clover Station, the Square Stand isn’t perfect. But it does have some advantages.

  • It’s customizable: You can get whatever you want with Square Stand. If you already have a barcode scanner, receipt printer or cash drawer, you don’t have to buy a new one to use Square Stand. You can also add on accessories and software features as needed.
  • It saves money: The price of Square Stand is less than Clover Station. But you do need to purchase an iPad separately, which can add to the cost if you don’t have one already.

Cons of Square Stand

Square Stand might be the right choice for some businesses, but it isn’t perfect for every business. Here are some potential drawbacks to be aware of.

  • Payment processing options are limited: Unlike Clover, you can’t shop around to get the best payment processing rates with Square. Payment processing is available from the company itself. You’ll pay 2.75% of the purchase price of each transaction.
  • Software options are more limited: While Square’s software has many features, it’s not nearly as robust as Clover’s. It also doesn’t have a separate app marketplace or the ability to integrate with external programs.

Cost of Square Stand

Like the Clover Station, the cost of the Square Stand falls into two categories. There’s the cost of the stand itself, which is $199 or $18 spread out over 12 months. If you add on accessories, you’ll pay for each a la carte.

If you don’t already have an iPad, you’ll need to purchase one to use the Square Stand. The stand is compatible with fifth- and sixth-generation iPads, as well as iPad Air and iPad Pro. Prices start at $329.

You also have to pay for payment processing. For Square payments, payment processing is 2.75% of the purchase total for every swipe, tap or dip of a payment card.

Which One Is Best for Your Business?

Clover vs. Square: Which one should you choose? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, as one might be right for one company and the other might be a better fit for another. If you’re looking for the option to shop around for payment processing, Clover Station might be the better pick for you. Clover also gives you the option of adding on by adding new apps as your business grows. If your company is fairly new or is on a tight budget, Square Stand might be a better bet for you.

Contact VMS to Learn More About Clover Station Today

Velocity Merchant Services is proud to offer the full suite of Clover POS systems. If you’re interested in accepting card payments and are looking to streamline your customer relationship management, your employee management and your inventory management, Clover might be right for you. One of our Clover specialists will be happy to walk you through the hardware options available and to help you put together the Clover system that works best for your business. Contact us today to learn more.

Have questions?  Talk to one of our Small Business Specialists.

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