Looking for a free POS with a free card reader?
- Date Established
- New Zealand
- Cost efficient
- Strong loyalty program
- Wealth of integrations
- Additional cost for priority support
- Less robust than some systems
In 2010, Vend was revolutionary; it was a powerful POS system operating completely in the cloud, making it possible for your business to still function through an internet outage. Since then, Vend has stayed on top of current trends and remains one of the most user-friendly systems on the market. Vend is constantly updating its product and has very few flaws. The POS’s front end is remarkably intuitive even to the greenest retail employee and its back-end features come with virtually everything you would expect from a top-end system—and at a reasonable price.
Since its launch, the company has developed an impressive inventory management system, an omnichannel sales approach with both in-store and online capabilities, an extensive list of integrations with third-party software, and an altogether well-rounded retail management solution. Naturally, as with any system, there are a few areas where Vend needs some work. There is an extra monthly charge for priority phone support, for example. However, the general response to Vend since its inception shows that Roswell & Co. have absolutely filled a need. With a customer base spread out in more than 140 countries (and now more than 20,000 installations strong), Vend remains one of the leaders in the POS market.
Read on to learn more.
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Table of Contents
- Cloud-Based Or Locally-Installed
- Specific Industry
- Specific Size Of Business
- Hardware & Operating System Requirements
- Ease Of Use
- Product Features
- Integrations & Add-Ons
- Compatible Credit Card Processors
- Customer Service & Technical Support
- Negative Reviews & Complaints
- Positive Reviews & Testimonials
- Final Verdict
All subscription levels come with a free 30-day trial (limited to 200 products and weekly erasure of sales data). As with other web-based POS services, there is no contract and your subscription is paid monthly via credit card. If you prepay for one year, you’ll receive a discount on the monthly price for all but the starter plan. Here are Vend’s plans:
Lite $99/mo annually or $119 billed monthly
- 1 outlet
- 1 register (additional $59/mo per additional registers or $49 annually)
- Unlimited products
- Unlimited customers
- $20,000 monthly turnover in USD
- 24/7 email support
- Inventory Management
- Small Business Reporting
- Xero Accounting Add-On
Pro $129/mo ($159/mo billed annually)
- 1+ outlets
- 1 register (additional registers $59/mo ea. or $49/mo ea. billed annually)
- Unlimited products
- Unlimited user accounts
- 24/7 email support
- All features from Lite plus:
- Gift cards and Loyalty
- Advanced Reporting
- API Access
Multi-Outlet (Call Vend for Pricing)
- 6+ outlets
- 1+ register (additional registers $49/mo ea. or $39/mo ea. billed annually)
- Unlimited products
- Unlimited user accounts
- 24/7 email and priority phone support
- All features from Advanced plus:
- Dedicated Account Manager
- Customized Onboarding
Premium Support comes standard with the Multi-Outlet plan and is available with the Advanced plan for an additional fee of $19/month. This level of support includes personal set-up assistance, ongoing training, and phone support. Vend also offers an Enterprise plan if you are in need of a more personalized plan. For more information about Enterprise, you will need to get in contact with Vend directly.
Cloud-Based Or Locally-Installed
Vend has its head in the cloud, so to speak. All aspects of operation occur within your HTML5 compatible web browser (or HTML5 iPad app). If you have a network outage, the cache takes over and runs things locally, automatically re-syncing sales when you come back online.
Vend is a versatile solution for virtually any retail establishment, small or large. It offers convenient packages to accommodate nearly every type of business, with the possible exception of food service. Service and hospitality businesses will find it lacking—there are no item modifiers or features for table management and tipping, but Vend has added features making it functional for cafes and other simple food distributors. Vend does what it does very well, and I always like it when a software company doesn’t try to be all things to everyone.
Specific Size Of Business
With Vend there are no limits to the number of stores a business can have, so it is appropriate for small stores, large chains, and everything in between. The fact that it also offers a free version of its product for very small businesses (ie food truck vendors or farmer’s market retailers) is a nice addition. That doesn’t mean it won’t scale up; Vend does boast some customers with a few hundred stores each.
Hardware & Operating System Requirements
The strictest requirement for running Vend is the web browser you use: it has to be Google Chrome. But as long as your hardware can run at least Windows 7 or Mac OS X 10.5, you’re good to go.
Along with standalone equipment, Vend offers three all-in-one POS bundles:
- The Mac Bundle
- The PC Bundle
- The iPad Bundle
You can also use Star’s all-in-one mobile point of purchase (mPOP) receipt printer and cash drawer. For more information regarding the peripheral equipment that works with Vend, you can check out their website.
Ease Of Use
Once signed up for the free trial, you’ll have the opportunity to take a self-guided tour. Each category is linked to the appropriate page in the dashboard for configuration, and you’ll be walked through the processes of adding products and customers, setting up taxes, and customizing the register quick keys, among other things. It’s a great way to get oriented to the system, though it’s all pretty self-explanatory given how intuitive the software is.
Even as you get into some of the more peripheral functions of the POS—the loyalty program, inventory management, that sort of thing—Vend is ridiculously simple to use. If you poke around Vend’s Pinterest account, there are plenty of pictures of young, attractive people having the time of their lives whilst eating donuts and playing with their dogs. My guess is these are all members of the support team who have little to do each day because none of their customers have a problem using the software.
Vend’s eCommerce feature continues to be a work in progress but has improved dramatically in just a few years. Setting up an online store presence can be done in a matter of minutes and, for those with any eye for web design, Vend does very well. If you are a complete Luddite when it comes to web design, the eCommerce platform can be a bit unwieldy and intimidating, but there are plenty of nice features, including the ability to directly edit HTML and CSS. Once your store is up and running to your liking, Vend’s functionality returns. Managing products and customers even across multiple locations is simple and intuitive, though it does require a few more taps or clicks than some other POS systems offer.
You can check out a full list of Vend’s features by taking a “tour” on the website. Here, I just want to touch on a couple of Vend’s most notable features.
- eCommerce Functionality – eCommerce is only available in the Advanced and Multi-Outlet plans, but it’s included for no additional charge at these subscription levels. Vend offers hosting, an integrated website builder, design help through a selection of Responsive Themes, live sync with your in-store inventory, and the ability to tie in your own domain name. One of the most notable elements of this eCommerce tool is its Responsive Design—the ability to automatically display correctly on any sized screen: phone, tablet, or desktop. Purchase orders made through the online store are automatically emailed to the admin, so order fulfillment is in real time.
- Loyalty Program – It’s becoming commonplace for a POS to include some kind of Loyalty engine, and for good reason. Anytime you can create an incentive for customers to keep shopping at your store, you’ve got a leg up on the competition. Vend’s approach to Loyalty, as usual, is to keep things simple. They’ve used a model where money spent earns rewards, but rather than adding a layer of complexity with a confusing point system, it’s simply a dollars to dollars scenario. You specify how much a customer has to spend before they earn a dollar in Loyalty rewards—the default setting is a dollar earned for every $50 spent, but it can be set to whatever you want. The great thing about this is that those earned dollars are available to use on the next purchase; there’s no need to reach a minimum amount of points before your customers start saving. The balance is viewable from the payment screen at the time of checkout (assuming you’ve attached this person to the sale). You’ll see clearly how much the sale will earn the customer, how much they have available, and how much is owed on the current transaction. The Loyalty program also makes its way into other areas of Vend, and with some creativity can be used to really drive sales.
- Customer Management – Vend maintains a contact list of all your customers. You can create the list by mass importing from a CSV file or adding each name one by one via the web console (or even in the POS interface at the time of sale). You can customize the fields you want for your customer list with things like address, phone number, email address, website, customer group, Facebook account, and Twitter ID. Vend uses the Loyalty program to entice shyer customers into giving up their info. When you enable the Loyalty program, there’s an option to create and send an automatic email to new enrollees. This email contains a personalized link to a Customer Portal where people can give you their full contact info in exchange for bonus loyalty dollars. This makes adding customers at the time of sale quicker and less invasive—you only need to ask for their email address and then tell them to wait until they get the email so they can earn more rewards. The link they receive is tied directly to the account you just created, and can only be used to redeem rewards once (meaning if they fill out their info and get their bonus, the link will then expire to prevent double dipping).
- Inventory Management – With Vend you can easily add, remove, and edit inventory items. You can also include images of products, as well as keep track of stock levels and any special taxes, costs, or prices for certain products. Prices can be set differently based on location or customer type, or by creating special promotional discounts. Additionally, inventory can be imported/exported from/to a CSV file. The system has the ability to import, create, and print barcode labels for easier inventory management. And any product can have an individualized Loyalty earning that overrides the default spend-to-earning ratio, which is especially helpful if there’s a particular product you want to push. Vend also offers a purchase order management feature.
- Price Books – Vend can maintain multiple price books, which you can use in a number of ways. You can maintain separate price books based on store location or a specific group of customers (say, your Loyalty customers), or you can make them time sensitive. For example, if you want to have a weekend sale, all you need to do is create a copy of your default price book, apply discounts across the board (or individualized discounts for different products), and set the timeframe during which the new prices will be active. The new parameters will override your default price book (beginning at the time you’ve specified), and regular pricing will be restored when the sale is over.
- Gift Cards – This feature, recently added, allows you to create your own branded gift cards (redeemable on Vend eCommerce as well), increase your payment options, and avoid issuing refunds by offering store credit instead.
- Employee Tracking – Tired of employee errors, discrepancies, and theft? Vend enables you to reduce these issues by tracking employees and their cash management. You can also track employee performance and switch users between transactions. Vend offers the ability to receive closure reports each day to double-check your totals.
- iPad App – Known as Vend Register, this app is optimized for use on an iPad. It comes with the ability to quickly streamline and process sales; has easily customizable quick keys; and includes features such as payment integration, layaways, on-account sales, and loyalty programs.
- Flexible Interface – Vend has a lot of nice elements on the front end, featuring things like quick keys which can be saved as templates and can speed up checkouts. It’s also easy to add quick sale notes with instructions or discounts directly to a transaction. Divvying up discounts to an entire sale or just an individual product takes just seconds and receipts can be customized with your own logo.
- Transaction Options – Vend offers layaway options and it’s very easy to look up customer information to track payment history and balances. Other slightly complicated transactions, like parking sales and adding store credit to an account, are simple to process along with more basic functions like returns and split payments.
Integrations & Add-Ons
Vend offers a ton of integrations with third-party software programs. You can view the full list here, but some highlights are listed below:
- Xero – This is an online accounting system which imports daily sales automatically for easy bank reconciliation, creates customized invoices and statement balances to send to customers, and imports stock orders as accounts payable invoices to keep track of/reconcile purchases. Additionally, you can import your Xero customer list easily into Vend, or vice versa.
- Shopify – This web store application syncs in-store and online inventory (i.e. same products, pricing, and stock levels). That way, inventory is automatically updated in both systems whether a purchase is done in-store or online. Product changes you make in Vend (to item description or price) automatically update to Shopify.
- Perkville – By signing up with Perkville, merchants can create an online rewards program for their customers or create special coupons for referrals to their friends and family. Integrating with Vend allows customer lists to be transferred and synced between the two systems.
- Stitch Labs – Vend offers some basic inventory management functions that are well suited for smaller operations. If you’re running multiple stores, juggling several vendors, or in any way finding that your inventory control is getting the best of you, Stitch Labs can integrate with the POS to extend your ability to manage stock.
- Deputy – Vend doesn’t give you the ability to schedule your employees and manage payroll, but it does integrate with the cloud-based employee management platform, Deputy. Take care of your scheduling, time and attendance, task delegation, employee communication, and more with this service.
- Timely – This is a service scheduling application that will allow you to set up appointments with customers for the various services you offer. Sync your products, services, and customers with Timely, then pull appointments back into Vend to be rung up as sales.
Compatible Credit Card Processors
In the United States, Vantiv, PayPal, and Square are your options for in-store credit card processing. Vend also includes Stripe, PayPal, Authorize.Net, and Payment Express as eCommerce gateway options, which basically means you can integrate with any processor you want on your web store. The POS is EMV-enabled and set up to accept NFC payments like Apple Pay.
Additionally, since Vend is a multi-national company, they offer different processing options for different countries. Canadian merchants can use Moneris Solutions. Australians have got Tyro and PayPal. Those in the United Kingdom can choose from iZettle, PayPal, and Payment Express. Other Europeans can choose between iZettle and Payment Express. Smartpay is reserved for New Zealand. And all other regions can use iZettle.
And, of course, the system can also be used without integrated payments simply by completing the sale manually within Vend after a successful credit card swipe.
Customer Service & Technical Support
Vend offers yearly contracts for Premium support on the paid plans, with technical help just a phone call away, 24/7. In addition to phone, email, and live chat support, there is a thorough and searchable database of answers to common questions. This database is compiled of frequently asked questions, video tutorials, and the option to submit support tickets or suggest new features. Even more impressive, though, is Vend University, a site hosting a whole swath of training tools and business resources (everything from retail guides and trend reports to webinars and articles filled with helpful tips). And if you’re looking for a little extra help, Vend offers professional services such as one-on-one training, launch services, and eCommerce setup assistance.
Vend has a YouTube channel with videos including promotional bits (like the one at the beginning of this review), tutorials, quick tips, and long-form webinars. They also maintain active Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts, along with a blog. Finally, Vend has created its own website called “We Love POS” as a place for people to share their POS horror stories on the web, as well as to insert funny anecdotes, pictures, and videos related to POS. Anybody interested in sharing their POS story on the We Love POS site, whether they’re a current Vend customer or not, receives a free month of Vend.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
It’s pretty impressive for a system with Vend’s reach to have as few blisteringly negative reviews as it does. That said, there are a few common themes that recur in negative reviews:
- Technical Support Costs – I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. It irks me when a POS company charges users for support. Maybe it’s the principle of the thing. Maybe I’m just high-maintenance. Most customers actually seem completely satisfied with the support offerings, and I’ll admit the email help is fast and reliable (and free), but almost all of the top POS systems offer free 24/7 support with their plans, and if Vend wishes to stay competitive, they’ll probably have to follow suit. The internet is also full of comments made by those who are unhappy with the level of support they receive, even when they do pay extra for the advanced coverage. Some customers cite long wait times and unhelpful or even rude customer service representatives.
- Glitches and Missing Features – After scouring the Internet I found several complaints regarding slow servers and minor glitches in the system. Some customers have also expressed a desire for a more robust feature set. For example, one customer wants to see a customer display option for that is not just limited to the iPad app.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
Several customer testimonials can be found on the Vend site itself, as well as on the Vend blog under the tag “customer experience.” But there are satisfied customers all over the web. Here is what most of them are talking about:
- Simplicity and Usability – “Simple,” “smooth,” and “intuitive” are all words you’ll repeatedly see people using to describe this system. And I can’t argue with them. It’s virtually impossible to get lost in this system since every function is self-explanatory. Even start-up hiccups appear to be minimal.
- eCommerce – Especially for the price, people don’t seem to mind that Vend’s web store platform isn’t all that advanced or customizable. It looks like Vend is popular among do-it-yourself merchants who just want a simple way to sell online without the hassle of integrating with third party software like Shopify or Magento. To each his own, I guess.
- Customer Support – Based on the reviews I’ve read, while not everyone is thrilled with Vend’s customer service, enough people are happy with it to justify putting it in the “pros” category. But if you’re more inclined to trust real numbers than people’s opinions (which may or may not be tainted by the general negativity of the Internet), Vend has a real-time feedback tool that displays the current customer satisfaction rating based on the last 100 ratings. Needless to say, you’ve got to be pretty confident in your customer service ratings if you’ve got them out there for the whole world to see.
- Affordability – Another notable thing about Vend is its affordability. It is on the low end of the pricing spectrum as far as cloud-based POS software goes, but this doesn’t necessarily reflect on the quality of the product. I’d say it is pretty comparable with most software within the same price range, and could even compete fairly well with more expensive POS systems.
Vend is one of the rare POS systems that allows you to open it up and feel immediately at ease. What’s more, you get all the benefits of the cloud with Vend, and the fact that the software is also easy to learn and implement makes it a must-try for any retailer looking for a new POS.
Vend isn’t quite as robust as a handful of other retail systems out there but, for mid-sized businesses which may not necessarily need to utilize extremely in-depth reports and inventory analysis, it would seem to be a perfect solution. Vend’s cost will likely make it an appealing option to any retailer who is researching POS systems, especially considering the number of integrations that are also available. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, none of Vend’s competitors show the same commitment to making unironic facial hair acceptable in the workplace again. An important issue.
Vend is one of our rare 5-star products and is more than worth the minimal investment required to get it up and running in your store.
If you’re truly just starting out, and even Vend has more features than you think you’ll need, you might also want to read our Vend vs Square comparison article.