When it comes to portable point-of-sale (POS) and hardware systems, there is one company that has risen through the ranks over the past few years: Clover POS. At first glance, the system is straight out of every budding small business owner’s dreams.
Clover is a combination of a cloud-based POS system and cutting edge payments hardware. For merchants who want to get processing right away, Clover is an option that will allow you to start processing with minimal time and effort invested.
When it comes to purchasing Clover, there isn’t one central place to buy it. Instead, Clover can be purchased through a slew of resellers who can all, unfortunately, advertise slightly different rates, prices, and service options. Most merchants who pursue Clover POS do so through their banking partner, but if you’re interested in the system, it’s not a bad idea to look around to see if a better price isn’t available elsewhere.
Regardless of where you buy it from, Clover POS users are automatically onboarded for payments with First Data, a major player in the payment processing industry. Clover offers no alternative options for payments, so once you sign on, you’re stuck with First Data indefinitely. You’ll have access to cutting edge payments technology, but unfortunately, you’ll also have little leverage in rate negotiations and zero flexibility.
There are quite a few options here, which makes Clover suitable for a wide range of businesses and industries. Let’s take a look:
Clover Payments offers four different hardware options: Clover Go, Clover Flex, Clover Mini, and Clover Station. All of the options offer slightly different sizing and feature options, but each one requires an initial purchase of the actual hardware device. The Clover Go ($59) is simply an attachment for your mobile device that can accept card and contactless transactions and the Clover Station ($1,149) is the large, full-feature countertop POS system the company offers. Those options are pretty straight-forward—representing both ends of the Clover spectrum—but the ever-popular Flex and the Mini require a little more detail.
The Clover Flex is described as a self-sufficient handheld system that can process card and contactless payments as well as print receipts from its compact design. The Flex offers its own handheld display where you can scan barcodes and print receipts and customers can sign for their purchases with complete mobility. It is the smallest screened option that Clover offers. However, all that convenient mobility comes at a price, $449 to be exact. The Clover Flex also doesn’t support as many apps as some of the other options, so it is worth looking into the specific apps you’re interested in before making your decision.
The Clover Mini has a deceptive name because it is actually quite a bit larger than the Flex. The Mini is a smaller version of the Clover Station, so it is a fully countertop option that will do everything the Flex can but with more app and feature capabilities. The Mini will also run a little faster than its mobile counterparts, but you’ll pay for that speed. Though still much cheaper than the full Station option, the Mini will cost you $599.
As far as software packages, Clover offers two options: Register Lite and Register. Unsurprisingly, the biggest difference between the two options is the price you’ll pay to run them making Register Lite better for businesses with card sales of less than $50,000/year and the Register better suited for larger businesses.
The more basic Register Lite plan costs $14/month plus around 2.7% + $0.10 per transaction for in-person transactions, and 3.5% + $0.10 for keyed-in transactions depending on who you buy it from. For that price, you’ll manage all your card and contactless transactions as well as tracking cash payments, processing payments offline, email and text receipt capabilities, capturing signatures, accepting tips, processing refunds, managing employee permission and shifts, $100,000 liability protection, and accessing the Clover App Market.
The full Register plan costs $29/month plus around $0.10 and 2.3% per in-person transaction, and $0.10 and 3.5% for keyed-in transactions. For a little more cha-ching, you can do everything the Register Lite plan does plus managing inventory, setting up customer loyalty programs, adding gratuity to checks, reading customer feedback, and building a mailing list plus additional industry specific upgrades for quick-service restaurants and retail businesses.
Before you can decide if Clover is the best option for you, it’s best to know exactly what kind of setup you’ll require to run your business day-to-day. It’s certainly possible that none of the hardware or software options listed above fit what you’ll need, in which case, finding a more tailored solution may be the way to go. If Clover’s options seem to offer you a good fit, consider the following pros and cons to see if there are any deal makers or breakers:
If Clover has gotten one thing right—and better than most of the competition—it’s their extremely fast and user-friendly set-up. Everything works together and the interface runs like butter. You’ll be able to accept purchases almost immediately after getting the hardware, and since everything about the system is intuitive it should only take about 15-20 minutes to train your employees.
The portable and mobile options Clover offers make it very appealing for small restaurant and retail businesses because you can really accept payments from anywhere. Additionally, Clover runs on the Cloud—which means you’ll never lose track of purchases because of a power or server outage—so you can keep track of all of your transactions from anywhere there is internet access. Definitely a plus if your business is ever on the go.
With a crisp and sleek white and metal design, Clover does fit the aesthetic bill for many small businesses. Many small business, specifically quick-service restaurants and retail shops, have turned to the portable POS look making it an industry norm.
For an all-in-one system, Clover is fairly customizable. From piecing together which hardware and software options work best for your specific business, to choosing from a huge pool of apps to cater to your every needs, each business’ Clover is a little different.
Because Clover is so customizable, it also makes it rather versatile across a number of industries. Specifically, there are a number of quick-service and full-service restaurant as well as retail specific apps and advanced features. Keep in mind though that Clover still only works best for small to mid-sized businesses.
Clover is not cheap—which is part of why it is best suited for smaller businesses who don’t have a large volume of sales per month—and to top it off they don’t offer any free hardware options. That means that you’ll have to shell out a lot of money right away to invest in the hardware that is required by Clover. Other POS systems often offer free or pay-as-you-go hardware that will make the initial investment much easier to stomach.
If you’re confused by how multiple resellers can be offering Clover for a variety of prices, you’re not alone. Without a central market, business owners are left to their own devices to assess whether the pricing and rates offered are appropriate.
As we mentioned above, First Data is a major player in the payments industry. As such, they have an insane number of clients. Unfortunately, First Data has a bit of a reputation for treating customers poorly. Many Clover customers have reviewed the system saying that customer service was almost non-existent, so keep that in mind before you sign a contract.
Of all the cons of Clover, this should be the most concerning to any small business owner. With Clover, you’ll be locked in to First Data merchant services. This means that you have no control over your processing rates and no power to negotiate them either. You’ll be left at the mercy of First Data, and in all likelihood, will overpay to accept cards.
Additionally, you’ll be locked into the hardware as well. If you choose to leave Clover, your hardware cannot be reprogrammed to integrate with a new processor. You’ll have no choice but to purchase all new equipment with your new provider.
Now that you know what Clover has to offer, the decision is yours. Clover is convenient, customizable, and sleek, but it can also be extremely costly and restrictive. Our best advice is to do some independent research into exactly what your business needs to run. If Clover fits those needs and you can swallow the cost, it’s not a bad option. However, most small businesses can find more tailored and less costly options with just a little bit of research.
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