Merchant Maverick's Rating: (5 out of 5)
Last Updated: June 22, 2013.
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ShopKeep is a cloud based point of sale system that runs exclusively on the iPad and iPad mini. It’s a turnkey solution, which means that the software offers a suite of tools for managing not only the point of sale but also reports, customer relationship management, and inventory. As a cloud based software, small business owners no longer require a computer or large hardware system—just an iPad, an internet connection, and a few basic hardware peripherals. What I love about ShopKeep POS software is it doesn't pretend to be something it's not: it was developed by a small business retailer specifically for small business retailers.
Jason Richelson, owner of 3 food and wine stores in Brooklyn, NY, founded ShopKeep with fellow Greene Grape co-owner Amy Bennett in January of 2010. The software development grew out of increasing frustration with a traditional Windows-based legacy POS system. Richelson recounts how the servers crashed while he was on vacation, which led to all of his stores closing indefinitely. Clearly an alternative solution was needed. After unsuccessfully searching for a cloud based POS that would meet all his needs, Richelson decided to take things into his own hands by starting ShopKeep.
After working with a developer Richelson came up with ShopKeep in about 2 months and released the PC version in May of 2010. An iPad compatible version followed soon after and was released in January 2011. Since then the company has won an RSPA/VSR Innovative Solution award for 2011, and just raised nearly $3 million in Series A financing from New York's Tribeca Venture Partners, Contour Venture Partners, and Atlanta’s TTV Capital. More recently ShopKeep won the Red Herring Top 100 North America award and Technology Innovation of the Year Award from Electronic Transactions Association. ShopKeep also racked up a 2013 Stevie Award for Best Customer Service.
The company is currently estimated to be valued at more than$10 million, with 45 employees, and nearly 5,000 customers. ShopKeep can even claim the famous New York coffee shop Joe the Art of Coffee as a client. The well-known destination is using ShopKeep at 3 of its current locations, including one in the heart of Grand Central Terminal. If ShopKeep can handle busy on-the-go New Yorkers, then you know it must be efficient.
The company is currently one of the leading cloud-based (also known as web-based) POS software available on the market. Cloud-based refers to the fact that the software is hosted on the web, so there is no need for pesky backups or servers. The technology of web-based POS software has not taken off as projected, due to the fact that business owners are wary of losing the ability to continue sales transactions during periods where internet connection is lost (let's face it, ISP's are not always reliable). ShopKeep has found an ingenious way around this by operating as more of a hybrid system rather than a true web-based POS. The register portion of the software is hard-installed on the shop's iPad, which means it works even when your WiFi doesn’t.
Just as it claims, ShopKeep truly does simplify POS - but for small businesses only. The system is likely too simple to handle the advanced needs of large businesses. For tech support reasons ShopKeep is currently only offered in the U.S. and Canada.
You can try a free trial of the ShopKeep software for 30 days at no charge. No credit card required. ShopKeep is a no-contract, pay-as-you-go, monthly subscription service. There are no extra fees for maintenance and service and all tech support is included in the monthly charge. Currently there are three pricing tiers offered:
- 1 Register - $49 a month.
- 2 Registers - $98 a month.
- 3+ Registers - Contact ShopKeep for pricing.
Web-Based or Locally-Installed:
Hybrid (see "Product Basics" for more info).
ShopKeep is ideal for small, quick-serve, single-product vendors such as: wine shops, specialty food, gift shops, toy stores, concession stands, bakeries, cafeterias, mall kiosks, ice cream shops, coffee shops, food trucks, and service businesses. While the iPad can only host up to 270 item buttons, ShopKeep allows for unlimited searchable items and 30 open items where the price is set at register (see "Product Basics" for more info.). Retailers with over five thousand unique SKUs may not be an ideal fit for ShopKeep.
The current version of ShopKeep does not possess the capability for maintaining open tickets until the end of meal, meaning it cannot manage tabs. ShopKeep is not designed for a full restaurant or bar location.
Specific Size of Business:
ShopKeep is ideal for small businesses with up to 5,000 items. The software can handle multiple locations, although you’ll have to open an account for each location.
Ease of Use/User Friendly:
The ShopKeep interface is pretty darn easy to use. The POS is divided into two parts: the back end management dashboard, which is web based and can be accessed on any computer with a standard browser and internet connection. The POS itself runs on an app that can be downloaded onto either an iPad or an iPad mini. I’m a fan of the back end and the app. They both look clean, modern and have excellent design schemes. The different back end departments (transactions, inventory, reports, customers, etc.) are easy to locate and navigate. I had no issue setting up some test products and I liked how the software let me add new categories, suppliers and departments right as I was creating a new product. This saves a lot of time. You also have the option to import your entire inventory via CSV files.
The front end was equally well designed and I can see why ShopKeep users rave about the simplicity and ease of use of its interface. It's easy to teach new hires, clean, organized, and efficient. Changes I made in the back end immediately showed up on the app on my iPad mini by pressing the “Get Updates” button. I love the ShopKeep sound effects too. Sometimes it’s the little details that make things fun.
Hardware/Operating System Required:
ShopKeep runs on the iPad or iPad mini. Both iPads require iOS 5.0 or later. Aside from the iPads you’ll need an internet connection, and if you want to run receipt or kitchen printers you’ll also need a wireless router. ShopKeep has an online shop with all the hardware peripherals that accompany the software. You’ll need to be a bit careful here because ShopKeep is only compatible with certain peripherals. If you choose to buy accessories outside of the ShopKeep store, you’ll want to confirm that they are indeed compatible with the software system. If you don’t want to mess with picking out all the individual pieces, you might take a look at the ShopKeep hardware bundle that includes most of what you need to get started. The Shopkeep store covers basics like cash drawers, barcode scanners, iPad stands, credit card swipes and printers. The prices are pretty reasonable too. If you need extras like weighing scales or wireless routers, ShopKeep has you covered there too. You can even buy the actual Apple iPad products.
As stated earlier, ShopKeep is a two-part system based both on the web as well as your local computer hardware (iPad). These two parts consists of the register and the back office:
- Register - The patented register application is locally installed allowing you to ring up transactions without utilizing the internet. This means that if your network connection crashes, your business doesn't have to miss a sale. Not only does this provide some assurance from other totally web-based POS systems (worry about servers crashing somewhere), but it also keeps transactions speedy, not having to rely on the bandwidth/speed of an internet connection. Additionally this keeps the cashiering function separate from management functions, keeping the interface clean and simple for cashiers with only a few buttons to operate.
- Back Office - The back office is the web-hosted portion of ShopKeep solely for the management. This is where all the sales transactions, inventory management, and other relevant data are stored. If internet connection is lost, your transaction data will sync from the register to the back office once reconnected. You’ll then be able to view totals, edit items, and generate reports. Since the back office is supported on the internet, you can view your store's daily sales, inventory, customers, and employees from any web-connected off-site location. Furthermore, this leaves the hassle of having to worry about in-house backups and servers crashing. On the web, all your data is secure.
Here’s an overview of what ShopKeep can do:
- Accept Cash Payments - Simply entering in the dollar amount received in the register application opens the till to receive change.
- Calculate Sales Tax - This is automatically done based on the tax rate fixed in the back office. Tax totals are also tracked.
- Process Credit Card Payments - ShopKeep processes credit cards only with the MagTek iDynamo 4 or uDynamo card reader. Of course you must also have a credit card processing account, but most providers are compatible. Click here to compare providers.
- Stores Credit Card Data Securely – Yes, ShopKeep follows PCI DSS compliance. ShopKeep uses Magtek iDynamo hardware encryption, so sensitive card data is encrypted at the point of swipe, leaving ShopKeep unable to touch it.
- Creates and Prints Paper Receipts - ShopKeep works with is the Star Micronics TSP 143 LAN printer and the StarRemote Kitchen printer. No other receipt printers from Star, or any other manufacturer, will work. These are network printers and ShopKeep only prints using a WiFi network, so you must also possess a wireless router in your store as well. Receipts will still print if the internet crashes since data is transferred over a local network and not the internet.
- Stores Customer Data/Tracks Purchases - ShopKeep can keep customer information like name, phone, billing address, email, and also tracks purchases made by customers, allowing retailers to provide suggestions specific to each customer based on their purchase history.
- Real-Time Sales Tracking - Just logging on to ShopKeep’s back office from any computer with internet access allows you to track sales totals as they are occurring. Plus with ShopKeep’s free Dashboard app, you can track daily sales totals and transactions totals for the day on your iPhone or Android!
- Manages & Tracks Inventory - ShopKeep keeps track of all your inventory items, quantities, and prices. Inventory management is done in the back office, under the “edit stock items” tab. The iPad register allows you to fit up to 30 items per page using ShopKeep’s quick code system, for easy item organization. The first digit decides the page number while the last two decide its position on that page. So for example if you wanted page 1 to be beverages, you could set large coffee as quick code 101, small coffee as quick code 102, soda as 103...and those items would appear in that order on page 1. For page two…maybe desserts… cookies 201, pie 202...you get the picture. ShopKeep also keeps track of which inventory items are selling, so you know what items are hot and what could maybe be removed from the menu. Additionally ShopKeep automatically updates inventory numbers when new shipments are received or items are sold.
- Scans Barcodes - ShopKeep is compatible with most Bluetooth barcode scanners.
- Unlimited Number of Cashiers - On ShopKeep you can have as many employees as you wish, each with their own unique password to unlock the register.
- Allows for Gratuities - The tip features allows customers to select from 3 suggested tips, create a tip amount of their own, or choose no tip at all.
- Allows for Remote Printing - This year ShopKeep came out with remote kitchen printing capabilities for the iPad register. This remote printing allows employees to take orders from customers waiting in line (think the In-n-Out Burger drive-thru at noon), with orders relayed to the kitchen or baristas instantly. Remote printing works only with Star Micronics SP700 LAN impact printer. This new feature even includes Smart Memo modifiers for special orders (e.g. no onions, sub soy milk, etc.). This technology also uses predicative text for common modifiers, maintaining speed in taking orders.
- Creates Labels - ShopKeep works in conjunction only with LabelKeep, a free Mac app, and the Dymo LabelWriter 450 for printing barcode labels.
- Multiple Locations - ShopKeep supports businesses with multiple locations, but each store must pay for its own ShopKeep account. To link stores together for inventory and pricing management you’ll need to open an additional account for a headquarters store. In summation, each location must pay for a plan as a single account. For example, Icecreamhq.ShopKeeper.com would be the headquarters store, and that store as well as each of the 3 ice cream stores in this business would need an account (on the iPad plan that’s $49 each, total of $196. For more info see Pricing).
- Multiple Registers Per Store - If your store has more than one register, you only require one ShopKeep account, but adding each additional register costs an additional $49 a month. So if your store has 3 or more registers, the Premium Plan is recommended (see Pricing).
- Able to Import Items and Customer Data - ShopKeep allows you to import your data from your current POS to ShopKeep using an online tutorial, or by having ShopKeep do it for you for a one time flat fee of $200.00.
- Unlimited Live Tech Support and Immediate Upgrades - ShopKeep’s monthly fee comes with unlimited live tech support (web chat, email, and phone) as well as free immediate upgrades when available.
ShopKeep integrates with two third party providers:
- LevelUp - LevelUp is a payment processing app that also offers customers rewards whenever they shop with a LevelUp affiliate. The app is designed to encourage customer retention and repeat visits.
- PayPal - ShopKeep also integrates with PayPal. If your business uses the PayPal integration option, anybody that has the PayPal app on their phone will be able to use it to pay for purchases in your store using their smart phone.
Compatible Credit Card Processors:
ShopKeep is compatible with almost all credit card processors. Get in touch with them to make sure that your provider is compatible.
If you need help selecting the best credit card processor for your business, then let us know. It’s what we’re good at.
Customer Service/Technical Support:
As stated earlier, a subscription to ShopKeep's POS services comes with unlimited free tech support via email, web chat, or telephone. In the reviews I gathered, most people stated that customer service was exceptionally responsive, with answers received in virtually no time. One user called after midnight and got a call back within a couple minutes. The only support that comes with a fee is the initial hardware setup; telephone consultations for setup of hardware not purchased through ShopKeep cost $100 and must be prescheduled online. Here are the ways you can take advantage of ShopKeep’s resources:
- Telephone – You can reach ShopKeep by phone at 800-820-9814.
- Email – The ShopKeep support email is email@example.com.
- Live Chat – ShopKeep offers a Live Chat option Monday-Friday from 10AM-6PM EST.
- Help Site – The Help section of the ShopKeep website is full of instructional videos and articles. A great resource.
- Youtube – Check out ShopKeep’s excellent Youtube channel. It’s got instructional videos, success stories, and informational pieces.
- Facebook – ShopKeep also has a well-maintained Facebook page, which is worth taking a look at.
- Twitter – Here’s the ShopKeep Twitter feed.
The primary complaint lodged against ShopKeep is that there are several key missing features that have been missing for a long time. Despite these drawbacks, many people have chosen to keep using ShopKeep for its simplicity. Below are some missing features:
- No End-of-day Summary - Unable to print an end of day summary report through the receipt printer.
- NoOpen Orders – ShopKeep can’t manage open orders or tabs, which is a necessary feature for restaurants that are bigger than quick-serve or coffee shop size.
- Not Customizable - No images are allowed for buttons, as well as no changing any colors or fonts on the interface. Some have said the font is rather small as well.
- Button Management Difficult - Rearranging the buttons has proven to be a bit taxing. Since you can only see each individual item in the back office’s "edit stock items" tab, you must maintain your own list to know which spaces are already taken up and which are available for new items.
- No Multiple Remote Printers - The remote printing function cannot go to two separate printers (for example one for hot items and one for cold items).
- Gift Card Processing Troublesome - ShopKeep does not currently have a way of integrating magnetic strip gift cards. Users have worked around this by ringing gift cards as miscellaneous items, then redeeming them by using the discount button, and lessening the total by whatever amount of gift cards are being cashed in. However many claim there should be a separate tender button for gift cards (and Groupons) since if you discount the full amount, there's nothing left to tax (and with Groupon you must collect sales tax). Additionally, some have used the "other tender" button for redeeming gift cards (a button usually used for non-cash, non-credit transactions, like a check), however as one user pointed out, this option could throw off your sales, since it is including the gift card as additional money coming in, when really it is simply a prior sale.
- No General Ledger System - ShopKeep does not have its own general ledger capabilities (i.e. accounts payable, receivable, etc.). However it does have the ability to generate a Quickbooks export file. Reports can also easily be dropped into Numbers, Excel, or Bento.
Even people that find fault with ShopKeep are quick to point out how happy they are with the overall product—especially when it comes to customer service. The software is currently being used my many satisfied small businesses across the U.S. You can check out some testimonials on the ShopKeep website or visit the Apple App store to see what other users have said (the app has a 4 out 5 rating based on 298 ratings).
- Positive Highlights - Most positive reviews highlight the worry-free offsite data storage, easy-to-use interface, great tech support, and easy tracking of sales.
ShopKeep has a few downsides: it’s limited in its hardware compatibility and there are a couple significant missing features. The upside is that it’s a solid software system backed up by a great team of people, which can make all the difference in your experience as a merchant. ShopKeep is worth the price too. Since ShopKeep is so easy to use and its downtime is so minimal, several customers have reported saving thousands of dollars in time and expense in POS maintenance.
If you're starting completely from scratch, a cash drawer, receipt printer, and iPad will add up to a little over $1000. Add in ShopKeep's monthly price and that's still lower than many full POS systems out there. Although after 3 years this may add up to be more costly than purchasing locally-installed software, let's face it, that software will need to be replaced by that time anyways. Plus many merchants have found ShopKeep's simplicity and security to be worth the little extra cost in the future.
ShopKeep also continually listens to its customers for improvements on the system for future upgrades. I like that new features are continually being developed and added in future upgrades, which are included in your monthly subscription. And the fact that they actually listen to retailer suggestions is a big plus.
In my opinion, if you're a small business that's looking for a quick and easy way to operate your POS, ShopKeep is a no-brainer. You can sign up for free trial here.