Despite what you may have heard, it’s not always hip to be square. We’re talking about payments of course.

We’re often asked to explain what makes our solution better than the one offered by Square. It’s also a frequent question on Q&A forums like Quora. A lot of companies shy away from addressing these questions directly, but we believe in transparency and honesty here at ShopKeep, so we’re going to try and give as clear an answer as possible. The short answer is that each business has set out to solve a different problem, for a different audience, in a different way – and that origin informs everything the companies do. There’s more to say, but before we get into the details, we want to give you a little background:

What is Mobile POS?

Mobile POS can be confusing to the newcomer. Even the term itself is a little misleading, covering a huge range of mobile payments services and business models, (see the notoriously headache-inducing mPOS Tracker).

Mobile POS can be used to describe everything from smartphone dongles that accept payments (at farmers markets, yard sales, etc.) to an integrated point of sale system that runs on ‘mobile’ devices but supports more mature, brick and mortar businesses.

It’s no wonder therefore, that when people type ‘Mobile POS’ into Google, they’re left a little bewildered by the range of possible services offered. You’re left looking at results for ShopKeep and for Square, but also Amazon Payments, Magtek, Verifone, and for some bizarre reason, even Verizon. The services offered by these various providers are wildly different – and the new merchant can very easily end up trying to compare oranges and apples.

So, What’s the Answer?

The answer for most small business owners is to be clear about their business needs; about what each company provides; and crucially, about what each company stands for. It’s with that in mind that we put together a short ShopKeep vs. Square Q&A.

ShopKeep vs. Square Q&A.

Why Do The Companies Exist?

You can learn a lot about a startup company by examining the problem they originally set out to solve. Square is primarily a mobile payment processor and offers a great solution for the micro-merchant customer base they originally set out to serve. They had a goal of disrupting the world of credit card processing and to allow as many people as possible to accept credit cards – and they’ve done that well.

ShopKeep was established with a different goal in mind. Our Founder was running a few grocery and wine stores in New York City and seriously falling out of love with his Windows-based POS System. It was ugly, expensive, and unreliable, but he kept using it because it provided him with the tools he needed to run a mature business, including inventory management, employee management, CRM tools, and an accounting software integration

In essence, our Founder didn’t start ShopKeep to ‘solve payments’, he did so to provide merchants with the reliable tools and support they need to make smarter business decisions, save time, be more profitable and keep their passion alive. Whatever we offer in the future, wherever this business grows, we intend to stay laser focused on helping independent business owners succeed.

What’s the Approach to Customer Care?

Square built their initial business around the idea that if they made taking payments simple enough, they wouldn’t require any meaningful onboarding support or customer care. And for a while this worked for them. However, as they have begun to make the shift from serving micro-merchants at farmers markets, the complexity and nuance of more mature businesses has exposed this lack of service. A short search on Google or a look through Square’s App Store reviews will highlight customer concerns about fund withholding and their inability to get the level of customer care they require.

Setting up Square or ShopKeep is easy, but once you get started, you shouldn’t have to fend for yourself. ShopKeep offers 1-on-1 training for those who require it. After all, our goal is and always will be, ensuring that our customers have the resources they need to grow their businesses. At ShopKeep, we pride ourselves on providing an intuitive product, but we recognize and respect the complexity of the business community we serve. Our very first hire at ShopKeep was a Customer Care representative, and we continue to prioritize quality support in this area.

Isn’t Square’s Point of Sale System Free?

In short, no. The first step here is to dispel the myth of free point of sale. Businesses, as a rule of thumb, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Most people are now aware that Facebook and Google don’t provide ‘free’ products to consumers. They have turned the consumers themselves into the product and now profit from serving them up on a plate to advertisers. Equally, if you’re being offered ‘free point of sale’, it’s probably because the company is monetizing the product or your data in some other way.

In Square’s case, they do this in a couple of ways. The first of course is by being locking you into a flat processing rate of 2.75%. At first glance, this may not seem like much but by locking into this standard rate, businesses with average ticket sizes greater than $12, these processing fees can result in a loss of profits. Perhaps the less obvious issue is Square’s approach to customer email collection at the point of sale. Our Founder built his grocery store largely on the back of an effective email marketing strategy. The fact that Square doesn’t provide business owners with the email addresses they collect at their business locations is a big problem for any modern business owner. Square is effectively leveraging your business email receipts to build its own consumer network, instead of yours. Doesn’t seem very fair, does it?

At ShopKeep, we take a different approach. We provide reliable hardware at a reasonable cost; we charge a flat monthly fee for our product, which is always improving to adapt to our customers’ needs; and provide you with the flexibility to choose your preferred credit card processor or receive a competitive customized rate with ShopKeep Payments – which means you always get the best rate possible for your specific business. And crucially, our CRM tools respect that your customers are, well, your customers.

why ShopKeep POS vs Square

Isn’t Square cooler than ShopKeep?

So, I guess there’s a view out there that Square is the cool brand. And that’s kind of cool with us. Square’s marketing tends to show perfectly coiffed hipsters, carefully cleaning the wheel of an organic unicycle, before serving their smiley customers, in their artisanal cycling store. Our Founder used to run local businesses and, y’know what? They’re peddling a myth. Sure, many of our customers have SWAG for days but real independent business owners are as diverse as the businesses they run, with a hundred different problems a day solve – the entrepreneurs has to balance the demands of marketing, inventory and supplier management, employee tracking, faulty equipment, and more.

We serve real businesses in all their glory and all their demands – and we’re on a very cool mission rescue independent business owners from the nightmare of archaic POS (a.k.a. Pieces Of S**t), and replace it with something beautiful, simple and affordable that gives fellow merchants a fighting chance against the big guys. 

When it comes down to it, Square is building a myriad of products to serve a lot of different audiences, including consumers. At ShopKeep we’re building a specific product for a very specific audience: YOU!  You can learn more about our iPad POS System here.

Yamarie Grullon

Yamarie Grullon has years of experience creating helpful & engaging content for small business owners. As Director of Content Strategy at ShopKeep, the #1-rated iPad Point of Sale System, Yamarie provides merchants with practical advice on all things related to business or point of sale.