Magazine Article | March 31, 2014

Retail Tablet POS Comparison


By Mike Monocello, editor-in-chief, Business Solutions magazine
Follow Me On Twitter @monocello

A retail POS VAR’s guide to the current tablet offerings available both direct and through the channel.

Retail Tablet POS ComparisonDespite not knowing why they want it, retailers have been quick to show interest in tablet POS solutions. Start-up software developers have been equally as quick to respond by flooding the market with a variety of tablet POS apps. Retail resellers have had a hard time making sense of what’s happening. For years, resellers could confidently sell POS software they were very familiar with. Now, fueled by pressure from customers who want to harness the power of tablets and mobile POS, resellers have had to make sense of all the new options, while begging their existing software providers to come out with a tablet version.

With so many options and so much misinformation out there (often the website of one solution will include inaccurate comparison charts of its competition), it’s no wonder VARs and end users are lost. Making matters worse, oftentimes rollouts are done using this inaccurate information, resulting in subpar systems that don’t work well for retailers.

For all these reasons, we wanted to create a resource to compare software choices. After reaching out to a bunch of tablet POS software providers for retail applications, we compiled a field of software packages you can see in the chart below.

As with our previous restaurant tablet POS software comparison, just because a company is on this list doesn’t mean it is long-established. It doesn’t mean it sells through the channel. It doesn’t mean it has a significant install base. Rather than make our own judgments as to which companies are worthy to be on this list, we allowed any and all companies to participate.

Why? If I were a VAR, I’d want to know as much as possible about every competitor in the marketplace, no matter how new, cheap, feature-rich or -poor, or if it’s sold online or through resellers. Your customers will still do their own Internet research and find these companies, so why not arm yourself with as much information as you can so you can speak intelligently with your customers?

Also, we tried to reach out to every company we could think of. I’m sure there are some missing from this list. We don’t claim this is the only, best, or most complete list. The online version of this article is intended to grow and be updated on a regular basis. Therefore, if you don’t see your vendor of choice, let us know and we’ll work to get them added. Keep in mind that there were some companies we reached out to that never got back to us or turned us down.

Retail Tablet POS Software iOS Android Windows Running Time With No Internet/LAN?
CAP Retail SellWise Pro     Indefinitely
Hummingbird Point-Of-Sale   Indefinitely
MicroBiz Cloud 48 hours
NCR Silver     Offline mode indefinitely
PAR PixelPoint V12     Indefinitely
pcAmerica Cash Register Express     Indefinitely
Retail Pro Unlimited, using local database option
Revel Systems iPad Point of Sale     Months
Square Register     n/a
Vend POS     Multiple days

As far as comparing these retail tablet POS solutions, we had a long list of features and functions to consider. The problem we encountered was that, inevitably, we didn’t have time or space to include every retail-related feature. Additionally, despite some protests from established POS developers who have spent years building and refining thousands of features into their software, all those features aren’t necessary, and many business owners are willing to sacrifice unused features for lower-cost mobile offerings.

Therefore, with the help of some of our retail IT reseller readers and a few retail veterans, we came up with a “must-have” list of retail features (see the table to the right).

Must-Have Retail POS Features

When we did our hospitality tablet POS software comparison a few months ago, I learned a lesson. Back then, I fully expected the new guys to come up short when compared with the incumbents. They didn’t. The same held true with the retail software we looked at in this comparison. Apart from a couple of software packages, all the basic “must-have” functionality is covered. This shows how far many of the start-ups have come so quickly. So, who’s lacking and where?

“Must-Have” Retail-Specific Feature
Inventory tracking
Ability to create & receive purchase orders
Layaway functionality
Ability to print gift receipts
Ability to group items in a kit
Ability to track commissions for sales reps
Apparel/clothing matrix functionality
Ability to print bar code labels/tags
Integrated e-commerce for online purchases
Sales pricing based on date
Mix and match pricing
Ability for case breakouts

Square Register was missing quite a few retail features we would have liked to have seen. In fact, take another look at the list of must-have features. The only one Square supports is integrated e-commerce for online purchases.

NCR Silver is similar, but has a few more features such as inventory tracking, an apparel/clothing matrix, and the ability to do case breakouts.

In both Square and Silver’s case, depending on the customer, missing such functionality might not matter. Remember, both of these software packages are aimed at small retailers and start-ups.

Vend POS lacks the ability to print gift receipts and handle shipping. Hummingbird also lacks shipping, the ability to set sales based on date and time, and the ability to perform case breakouts. MicroBiz Cloud is lacking mix-and-match pricing, but expects to add the functionality shortly after this article arrives in your mailbox. Finally, Revel Systems iPad Point of Sale doesn’t offer layaway functionality or include the ability to track commissions for sales reps. If a software package wasn’t mentioned here, assume it fully supports all the features in the list.

General POS Features We’ve Come To Expect

In addition to must-have retail features, we also asked about a host of general features such as:

  • The ability to print graphic logos on receipts
  • Audit controls
  • Integrated time clock
  • Interface to third-party payroll
  • The ability to track cashier shifts with drawer counts
  • Interface to QuickBooks
  • Ability to split tender
  • Support for more than one tax rate
  • Support for flat taxes

Just as with the restaurant-specific features, the majority of software options could meet our requirements. Hummingbird Point-of-Sale, again, requires a closer inspection since many of its responses were “can be integrated.”  MicroBiz Cloud lacks an integrated time clock, interface to third-party payroll, and support for flat taxes.

Square included logos on receipts, audit controls, QuickBooks integration, and support for more than one tax rate, but lacks the other features we were looking for.

Finally, Vend lacks an interface to third-party payroll, the ability to track cashier shifts with drawer counts, and an interface to QuickBooks.

Mobile Wallet, Loyalty Support

While we can’t begrudge a software platform that’s lacking mobile wallet support — it’s tough to know which mobile wallets to back at this point — we definitely want to celebrate those who have it. NCR Silver, pcAmerica Cash Register Express (who supports Paydiant, LevelUp, Google Wallet, and ISIS), Retail Pro, Revel Systems (via PayPal mobile app), Square, and Vend all support mobile wallets, while MicroBiz plans to have support this year.

When it comes to loyalty program support, nearly all the software choices offer it. Hummingbird says loyalty can be integrated, and MicroBiz plans to have such functionality this year, while NCR Silver supports non-integrated loyalty functionality. pcAmerica has its own built-in loyalty functionality and also supports third-party programs.

Pricing & Margin: Let’s Talk Money!

Here’s how each company responded to the costs of its software, and how much money, if any, dealers can make as resellers.

CAP Retail SellWise Pro — Support is $495/year. Customer pricing is $1,100 for SellWise Pro, with dealers typically earning up to 40 percent margins on the initial sale. Additionally, CAP offers a monthly program starting at an MSRP of $22.50/month for the software only.

Hummingbird Point-Of-Sale — Support is $50/month unlimited per site. Customer pricing is $300/year per site license. VARs can earn $50/setup and $10/month recurring.

MicroBiz Cloud — Email support and online knowledge base access is free. Premium phone support is available for $35/month for the first store and $20/month for each additional store. Customer pricing depends on the number of registers and concurrent users, falling between $35/month and $179/month. Resellers earn 20 to 25 percent as recurring monthly revenue for the life of the customer.

NCR Silver — $79/month for first device, max $29/month for additional devices. Additional cost for merchant processing. Dealer margin is undisclosed.
pcAmerica Cash Register Express — Support option one is sold annually inclusive of technical support and software upgrades ($250/terminal/year MSRP). Option two is to purchase software and support, or just support, monthly in a SaaS model. Customer pricing depends on version: $649 to $849/terminal MSRP. Dealer margin is approximately 50 percent.

Retail Pro — Undisclosed. Retail Pro does report that monthly recurring revenue options are available.

Revel Systems iPad Point of Sale — Undisclosed.

Square Register — Customer pricing is 2.75 percent per swipe. No dealer margin.

Vend POS — Basic support is free. Premium support is $39/month. Vend offers a “very small” retailer package (one store, 100 products, one user) for free. Other packages for more lanes, products, and customers range from $39/month to $199/month. If the customer is willing to pay for a full year, those prices drop from $35/month to $169/month.

Additional Considerations

Despite the respectable “must-have” feature sets of all the products on the list and the financial costs associated with each, there are a ton of small differences among the products. It’s these differences that might matter more than anything we’ve covered here.

For example, a common concern from VARs and end users is how a tablet solution will respond when the Internet cuts out or the wireless LAN disappears.

We also asked about existing payment processing integrations, PCI compliance, and PIN/debit support. In addition, we took a look at peripheral support, which includes receipt printers, pole displays, surveillance systems, cash drawers, bar code scanners, and integrated scales.